If you’ve been sick or injured recently, you have probably noticed how specialized human medicine has become. Patient care is a group effort between doctors specifically trained for one purpose.
In the veterinary world, specialization has been slower to happen. The doctor that diagnoses your pet is likely the same doctor that treats or operates on your pet and performs follow up care.
To obtain entry into veterinary school, applicants must have first completed a science dominant course of study as an undergraduate college student. Once in vet school, students complete four years of training to become full fledged veterinarians.
To become a veterinary specialist, students complete an additional two to four years of training, and to become board certified, complete a rigorous three day exam and publish a scientific research paper.
In the human world, referral to a specialist happens at the first hint that you have a specific condition, but for your pet, a specialist exam usually happens when your pet’s care falls outside the scope of a general practitioner.
So why would your vet not refer immediately to a specialist? There are several reasons.
First, a specialist will cost much more than your regular veterinarian. The testing alone, if your pet needs advanced imaging or testing such as allergy testing, is often prohibitive to some owners.
Specialists also frequently have a long wait time for an appointment, several months or more. Even if your pet eventually needs to a see a specialist, your regular doctor can provide care in the interim.
The Baltimore area has many choices for specialists, but not all areas are so lucky. In some rural areas, the closest veterinary cardiologist or behaviorist might be several hours away.
At BSAH, we are equipped to handle routine and emergency surgery. We provide day time critical care and general dentistry, general radiographs, ultrasound and cold laser therapy, in-house diagnostics, preventive care and vaccinations, puppy and kitten care. We refer for advanced imaging (MRI, etc), advanced dentistry, all orthopedic procedures, overnight critical care, and behavior counseling.
If your pet has been seen for a dermatology problem or diagnosed with heart disease or another serious condition, we may refer you to a specialist when all typical avenues of treatment have not been successful. In addition to saving you money and time, a specialist would want these treatment options tried first. In any case, your specialist and your regular vet should communicate with each other.
If you would like to see a specialist, call the office for a recommendation.