When Your Pet Needs More Than Your Local Vet
While human patients have been helped with doctors specializing in certain aspects of medical care for generations, our pets are now able to get the same kind of specialized care in the form of veterinarians dealing in different aspects of animal health and care. Many of these vet specialists have moved out of the veterinary schools where they formerly taught and have opened practices for the general public, making themselves available to pet owners for focused medical care of our companion animals.
Recognized as veterinary specialists by the AVMA and their various Veterinary Specialty Boards, doctors who treat particular animal illnesses or use specific treatment or diagnostic techniques must not only be a licensed veterinarian, but they must have obtained additional education and certification in their fields.
Listed below are some veterinary specialists you may not have heard about, but find you might want to consult should your pet ever need these particular forms of therapy.
Alternative medicine, also called holistic medicine, is a type of veterinary specialty that uses alternative methods to treat your pets’ illnesses. A relatively new branch of organized veterinary medicine, holistic veterinarians use therapies including acupuncture, chiropractic care, aromatherapy, homeopathy, herbal medicine, and ethnomedicine (a discipline taking therapies from ancient Chinese, Tibetan, Native American, and East Indian cultures) to facilitate animal health. If you’re a pet parent willing to try new methods and techniques on your furry companions, this type of vet is the one for you.
Animal behaviorists and animal welfare veterinarians deal with the physical and psychological make-ups of their animal clients, determining how previous treatment and training relates to ongoing behavioral issues. Some of these behavior problems may include food aggression, separation anxiety, excessive barking, and domination problems. Behaviorists treat each pet individually offering both training and medicinal solutions to behavior difficulties. Additionally, vets involved in animal welfare look at an individual animal’s longevity, immunosuppression, physiology, and reproduction to verify ethical treatment of the animal and its rights as a sentient being.
Veterinary dermatologists are mainly concerned with your pet’s skin conditions. Bacterial and fungal skin infections, allergies, incessant scratching and itching – these are all conditions that call for the intervention of a veterinary dermatologist if your regular vet cannot find a solution for your pet. Dermatologists often use specific forms of patch and needle testing to determine which allergens are most affecting your dog, and then formulate specific injections to boost your animal’s immune system and alleviate any allergic symptoms. Additionally, veterinary dermatologists specialize in diagnosing and treating skin cancers including melanomas, squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas.
Most veterinarians take diagnostic radiographs (x-rays), but the technology used in human medicine has made its way to animal medicine and pet parents are taking advantage of these inroads into veterinary science by consulting doctors skilled in diagnostic imaging. Some of these fairly new practices involve using ultrasonography, nuclear medicine, CT scans, Medical Resonance Imaging, endoscopies, and thermal imaging to diagnose animal disease and provide a treatment plan.
Veterinary oncologists, like their human medicine counterparts, deal with animals suffering from cancer. They are specially trained to both diagnose and institute specific treatments for individual patients, and to help pet parents determine when, and if, humane euthanasia is necessary. Because our dogs and cats suffer from many of the same types of cancers as humans, veterinary oncologists are often called upon from the traditional human medical community to provide statistics and to design clinical trials that benefit both
Theriogenology is the veterinary specialty concerned with animal reproduction, including the clinical practices of obstetrics and gynecology in females, urology in males, and the physiology and pathology of the reproductive systems of both sexes. Many of these veterinarians work in the breeding industry, including the spheres of food animal breeding, equine and canine breeding, and the breeding and restoration of endangered species and zoo animals.
If your dog has keratoconjunctivitis sicca, also called “dry eye,” or tear stains, your may be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist for a complete diagnosis and proper treatment. This veterinary specialist deals with the anatomy, physiology, and diseases of your animal’s eyes. Concerned with both medical and surgical eye problems, veterinary ophthalmologists are often affiliated with veterinary medical schools or large specialty practices in major cities.
Animal nutritionists are doctors who specialize in determining the dietary needs of companion animals, zoo animals, and agricultural animals. Combining the sciences of chemistry, physiology, mathematics, animal behavior, food processing, and economics, a veterinary nutritionist can help you keep your animals fit and active by providing meal plans and organic, healthy treats to ensure longevity and overall physical and mental well-being to furry family members.
While these are just a few of the veterinary specialists that the pet parents may need to consult during the lifetime of their pets, the website of the American Veterinary Medical Association contains a list of veterinary specialties recognized by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties, plus a brief description of what each type of veterinarian does on a daily basis.
Not sure if your dog needs a veterinary specialist? Ask our vet, it’s free!