When your pet has a major medical problem, your veterinarian will suggest you take advantage of all the extremely advanced medical care available at veterinary colleges and private specialty practices across the country.
A veterinary specialist is generally recognized to be a graduate veterinarian who has completed an additional lengthy course (typically 3 years) of advanced training in a given discipline such as surgery, internal medicine, dermatology, ophthalmology, Cancer, Cardiology, Orthopedics, and many more. To become "board certified" they will have to pass rigorous residencies, become expert in specialized equipment and skills, and pass both written tests and the approval of their mentors.
Most commonly, the veterinarian will have studied in a residency program offered by a veterinary teaching hospital, institution, or laboratory, with supervision by recognized specialists in the field. In the United States, where veterinary medicine is perhaps most specialized, specialists are organized into Colleges or Boards, where members have earned Diplomate status through training and testing. Many of these specialists have Masters and PhD degrees in their specialty in addition to their DVM degree and Board Certification.
You're probably thinking by now that these people must be arrogant jerks ... but you'd be wrong.
Because they are animal loving veterinarians first, you will find these highly skilled people very likable.
Think of veterinary specialists as complimenting your local veterinary services and as a great resource should you need it.
The referral process operates most smoothly when the specialist, general practitioner, and client work as an integrated team. This teamwork is critical to providing optimal patient care and maximizing the chances of a good outcome.
The cost of such care is a tiny fraction of the cost of identical care for humans. But even so, major veterinary procedures typically cost 1-5 thousand dollars so be prepared.
To learn more about the various specialties, check out the following web sites:
The picture above is to point out the wide range of roles that veterinarians play. Veterinarian Gregg Lanham in the picture is doing humanitarian work in Nicaragua.
Many vets are involved in food inspection, geo-political disease control, scientific medical research, food animal care, wild life care, teaching, pathology, parasitology, advanced specialty medicine, 3rd world and mission work.
There are zoo vets, fish vets, poultry specialists, reproductive vets, horse vets, farm vets, swine specialists, military vets, pharmacology vets, cat only vets, exotic pet vets, lab animal vets, preventive medicine specialists, and lots of dog and cat general practioners like me.
It's a fascinating profession. You'll find most vets to be extremely exceptional people.