When to Visit a Veterinary Internist

At long last, it’s time to discuss the area of veterinary specialization most near and dear to my heart! As an internal medicine specialist I am clear that those of us who choose this career path are fascinated by the innermost workings of the body. From the lungs to the liver, the pancreas to the pituitary gland, internists become well versed in the nuances of every identifiable organ and gland within the body.

Internists tend to be superstars at performing a variety of nonsurgical diagnostic procedures. Endoscopy is a favorite and involves passing a long telescope device into a body orifice (bowel, nasal passageways, lungs, urinary tract) to have a look around and collect diagnostic samples. Those of you who have had your recommended colonoscopy procedure when you hit the half century mark know exactly what I’m talkin’ about!

When should your pet be evaluated by a board certified veterinary internist? I strongly encourage you to consider this when:

  • In spite of diagnostic testing, the cause of your pet’s symptom(s)- vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite, increased thirst, weight loss, abnormal urination, to name a few- cannot be determined.
  • Your pet has been diagnosed with a disease with which your family veterinarian has limited experience. Far better that treatment be administered by someone who has done so hundreds if not thousands of times rather than only a few times (or never before).
  • Your pet has swallowed something (a bone, a pair of underwear, your engagement ring) that is now lodged in his or her stomach. It’s possible that surgery can be avoided and the object retrieved via the internist’s endoscope.
  • Your pet has a medical issue that isn’t getting any better or is getting worse in spite of therapy prescribed by your family vet.
  • You simply want to be more certain about the advice you’ve received from your family veterinarian.
  • The breed you fancy is predisposed to a particular medical malady. For example, many Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers develop gastrointestinal and/or kidney disease resulting in protein loss from the body. Dalmatians are prone to developing bladder stones. A visit early on with an internist will help determine your dog’s likely susceptibility and allow you to learn about preventive measures you can take at home.
  • It has been recommended that your pet be evaluated by a neurologist, oncologist, or cardiologist  but doing so would be geographically challenging- compared to internists, these specialists are considerably fewer and farther between. Chances are the local internist has become adept at providing the services normally offered by these “missing” specialists.

To find a board certified veterinary internist within your community or learn more about this specialty, visit the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Have you and your pet ever visited a veterinary internist? What was the reason and what was the outcome?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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One Comment on “When to Visit a Veterinary Internist

  1. I monitored my diabetic cocker closely, and her glucose had rather wide swings. An internist recommended a different (prescription) food and to have a dental done (she wound up losing 11 teeth). She improved somewhat but there were still times that her pre-meal glucose was low enough to make me adjust her insulin down a notch or two. She had collapsed from hypoglycemia once and it was terrifying.