Veterinary Specialist Finale

To date, I’ve blogged about a variety of veterinary specialists. My hope is that you have a better sense of what they do and when your pet should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist, dermatologist, neurologist, oncologist, surgeon, cardiologist, and/or an internist.

Believe it or not, I’ve not yet exhausted the list in terms of types of veterinary specialists! Based on the variety of specialties, the veterinary profession is definitely keeping up with its human counterpart. Here are capsule summaries to bring you up to speed.


Veterinarians who specialize in nutrition spend years learning all about what constitutes an ideal diet for animals who are young, middle aged, or geriatric. They also know how diets should be altered for pets who are performance athletes, pregnant, nursing, underweight, overweight, or coping with a particular disease process (e.g. arthritis, kidney failure, liver disease, gastrointestinal disease, food allergies). I strongly encourage consultation with a veterinary nutritionist if you and your vet are uncertain if the diet you wish to feed is nutritionally balanced/complete for your pet. Consultation with a nutritionist is also important if your four-legged family members are eating your home. Simply combining meats and veggies does not constitute a balanced canine or feline diet. Ask your vet to recommend a nutrition expert and/or check out the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. By the way, nutrition consultations are often handled “remotely” so if you like, you can work with a nutritionist clear across the country.

Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation

This is one of the newest specialties established within the veterinary profession. I believe it is a wonderful and exciting addition! Think about a visit with such a specialist if your pet is in need of rehabilitation (physical therapy) following an injury or joint surgery (think cruciate ligament disease). Thinking of having your dog participate in an exertional sport such as flyball or agility? Talk with a sports medicine/rehab doc to learn what you can do proactively to protect your athlete’s musculoskeletal health (no anabolic steroid talk here!). Visit the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation to learn more about this specialty.

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

Acupuncture and Chinese herb therapy are two of the oldest and most worthy treatment modalities for a variety of maladies. Veterinarians can achieve “certification” status in one or both via the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and the Chi Institute. Consider acupuncture and/or Chinese herb therapy for your pet as an adjunct to conventional (western) therapy. If you prefer a more holistic or integrative approach to health care, you might want to work with someone who specializes in these eastern modalities right from the get-go.


Does your pet need to be anesthetized for a procedure, but you and even your veterinarian are nervous about doing so? Perhaps your ancient kitty requires removal of a horribly infected tooth, or your dog with heart disease requires surgical repair of a broken leg. Board certified veterinary anesthesiologists are the most qualified individuals to be at the helm of the anesthesia machine. They are adept at choosing the most suitable drug protocols and will have access to the latest and greatest bells and whistles for monitoring anesthesia. Veterinary anesthesiologists are reliably found at veterinary teaching hospitals which means this is where your pet’s procedure will need to be performed. Well worth the hassle if it means your pet is more likely to survive anesthesia. To learn more about this specialty, pay a visit to the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists.


Is your kitty hell-bent on urinating in the middle of your bed? Does your dog suffer from extreme separation anxiety? Consider consultation with a board certified veterinary behaviorist who will have a number of tried and true tricks to put your pet’s behavior back on track and restore your sanity. Additionally, if behavior modification medications are part of the solution, he or she will be able to prescribe them. To find a behavior specialist in your neck of the woods visit the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.


Root canals, crowns, and orthodonture for pets? You betcha! Under the care of a dental specialist, the same procedures used to restore and properly align our teeth can be applied to our pets. The American Veterinary Dental College website will help you find a board certified veterinary dentist in your community.

Now that you know more, would you consider using the services of a veterinary specialist, should the need arise?

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
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit 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,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.



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6 Comments on “Veterinary Specialist Finale

  1. i would like to add that i am so very grateful to our “regular” vets for recommending specialists when needed. i have never felt that it was because they were not knowledgable (just the opposite!) or concerned about a law suit (like human health care). i have always felt that they wanted the best care for my pets.
    thank you!

  2. so here we are in paris and maisie, our 12 1/2 year old lab suddenly can’t get up, collapses when she does, wanders, disoriented, doesn’t want to eat… (eat! this is a lab!). it is bad. we rush over to our vet and they look in her eyes, ears, move her legs, have her walk (stagger) run blood tests (on the premises, in a “french 10 minutes”) and they say “this is in the brain..” (in our fractured french at least this is what we thought they said.) so within hours we have appointments with two specialists (centre hospitalier fregis, close to port orleans) a veterinary radiologist and a veterinary neurologist. it turns out she has idiopathic vestibular disease (IVD).the best outcome we could have ever have expected… and only diagnosed by elimination. (her brain was fine… personally, it looked really small to me). but she is getting better every hour. no meds. it was really scary but we felt we were getting very professional advice… [priceless. although, the vet fees here are very reasonable. i think with socialized medicine for humans the fees for pets must be in line…)

  3. Nancy, you always have such great information on your site and in your blog posts. Thanks for that. And the answer is, yes, we’ve used veterinary specialists as needed. We’ve consulted specialists in dental, eye, acupuncture/herbs, and heart, as well as, sadly, a veterinary surgeon last year trying to get my head around cancer. I suggest people very carefully interview a specialist based on their mindset first: whether animals are a commodity or family member. You’d be shocked (or not) at people who do not have your family’s best interests in mind. We were lucky, always had great people.

  4. I am a huge believer in the value of acupuncture for our animals as well as ourselves. I have had specialists use it on my horses in the past and with each of my dogs for the last fifteen years.
    Currently, I have my Golden Retriever getting acupuncture treatments for his allergies. Coupled with Chinese herbs, a healthy diet and a vitamin regimen, his immune system has greatly improved and his allergies are well managed.

  5. Thanks for your posts on specialists. I have used several specialists and will continue to do so. With the additions of area referral hospitals in my area, there are specialists to consult! All good as far as I’m concerned. You’ve clarified when to use a specialist also. Very helpful.

    Barb Stanek

  6. In 1995 I adopted my first dog, Missy, who was extremely shy and fearful, and a fear-biter, especially at the vet. Her vet sent us to Texas A&M to have a consultation with behavior specialist Dr. Bonnie Beaver. She gave me some very good advice. I had no idea what I’d gotten into, but I adored Missy and I was able to help her quite a bit. I took Missy with me almost everywhere and I was able to keep both her and strangers safe. I also worked with her on handling vet visits and she never bit one in nine years.