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Who are veterinary specialists?

A veterinary specialist is just like a specialist in medicine for humans.  A veterinarian who completes an internship, residency (usually 3-7 years), and passes examination certification by the governing specialty board in their area of expertise can then put themselves forth to the public as “specialists.”  The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizes Specialty Boards.

How Do I Find a Veterinary Specialist?

Veterinary specialists almost always work through your regular veterinarian, by referral only.  The exceptions are the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, who work directly with the public.  Ophthalmologists and dentists often will see your pet, especially if you are new in town ,and then refer you to a general practitioner for other care.  An emergency critical care specialist may be a first-line care provider if your pet visits a pet emergency room, especially in a major metropolitan area.  However, the vast majority of specialists, especially ones who work with the public, follow a code of professional ethics which precludes them from seeing your pet instead of a general practitioner.  They will not provide preventative care, health certificates, and routine follow-ups.  They will provide follow-ups for chronic conditions, after consultation with your personal veterinarian.

Links to Specialty Boards in Veterinary Medicine

These links are provided generally for research purposes, especially if you are moving to a new town with a pet, and would like to see what veterinary specialists are in the area.

Who is NOT a Veterinary Specialist?

Board Eligible

Furthermore, there are veterinarians who are not specialists, but they may have enhanced experience and insight to offer.  They put themselves before the public as “board eligible.”  These are veterinarians who are completing their residencies, case reports and perhaps have only the certification examination remaining.  They are not specialists.

Practice Limited To

There is also the potentially misleading moniker of “Practice limited to.”  Certain veterinarians have a talent and a passion for a selected component of medicine, such as dermatology, or surgery, or behavior.  And perhaps for personal reasons, they have not completed, or may not even have started, a residency, or case reports or any of the rest of the formal certification process.  Yet they may have talent and knowledge valuable to your pet.  These are not specialists.

Clubs, Associations, and Organizations

There are official clubs, associations, and organizations that are not specialty boards.  For example, a veterinarian can be a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners by paying annual dues.  While these members love cats and may be excellent practitioners, they should not be confused with specialists.

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