What’s So Special About Veterinary Specialists?


As we’ve seen in this past year, more than ever, health care is an ever-evolving, rapidly changing field. In veterinary medicine, as in human medicine, there is an incredible volume of knowledge, research and new advancements in treatment to keep up with. Add to that the fact that there are currently 22 American Association of Veterinary Medicine (AVMA)-recognized veterinary specialty organizations comprising 41 distinct specialties, and it becomes clear that it’s simply impossible for one person to be an expert in all of it.

If your pet has a condition that will benefit from the expertise of a board-certified veterinary specialist, your primary care veterinarian may choose to refer you to a practice or animal hospital such as Guardian Veterinary Specialists.

GVS Cardiology

What is a Veterinary Specialist?

Specialists are your primary care veterinarian’s partners in providing the highest quality medical and surgical care to your pet. Specialists complete significant training in a specific field and pass rigorous examinations that evaluate their knowledge and skills in that specialty area. Most specialty organizations require that in addition to the four years of veterinary school, veterinary specialists spend one year in an internship and two to three years in a residency program before they take their final exams that qualify them to become what is called “board certified.” They are also then referred to as a Diplomate.

At Guardian Veterinary Specialists, our staff of board-certified veterinary specialists, licensed veterinary technicians and trained support staff offers care in a range of areas, including:

When Would My Pet Need a Veterinary Specialist?

Primary care veterinarians are similar to human primary care physicians, and it’s natural that when an illness or injury is complicated – or requires advanced care or equipment beyond the scope of a general practice – the patient is referred to a specialist.

If your primary care physician found a problem with your heart, for example, they would refer you to a cardiologist who can provide the highest level of cutting-edge care in that area, from diagnosis to treatment to recovery. You wouldn’t want your primary doctor performing heart surgery, would you? You’d want a cardiac surgeon. That same level of specialized care is also available for your pets.

Here are two examples of the part board-certified veterinary specialists can play in total pet health:

  • Your cat is diagnosed with a complicated case of diabetes. Your veterinarian decides to send you to an internist (specialist in internal medicine) who has access to advanced diagnostic equipment and training to help get your feline friend’s condition under control. The internist zeroes in on the problem and builds a treatment plan, which your primary care veterinarian then helps you manage.


  • Your dog is limping, and your primary care veterinarian’s X-rays confirm a torn ACL, requiring surgery. You are referred to a board-certified veterinary surgeon with extensive experience performing the complicated tibial plateau levelling osteotomy (TPLO) surgery, who performs the procedure in a state-of-the-art surgical suite. A team of skilled technicians monitors your pet closely during and after the surgery, setting him on a smooth path to recovery.

It’s important to remember that true pet care is collaborative. This means that although your pet has been referred for specialty care, you will still visit your primary care veterinarian for physicals, vaccinations, and routine care.

If you have questions about any of our specialties or how we might work with your current veterinarian to treat your pet, please give us a call at 914-704-3400. At Guardian Veterinary Specialists, we offer exceptional care. Without exception.


Filed Under: Blog, Pet Health

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