The Age of Specialization
It should come as no surprise that, with today’s specialized services being the norm in everything from your hairdresser to your attorney, the profession of veterinary medicine has fundamentally changed as well. In bygone days, your local veterinarian took care of all of your pets’ needs from birth through old age. However, the past 10-15 years has witnessed the dawn of a new era – The Age of Specialization.
While your primary veterinarian will always remain the doctor you may lean on most for guidance, with the extraordinarily advanced care now available, it is no longer feasible for that doctor to be able to always provide what’s best for your pet. It is essential for every pet owner to be aware that there are indeed specialists in virtually every discipline that we have come to expect in human medicine, e.g. surgeons, cardiologists, dermatologists, oncologists, ophthalmologists, etc. In order to be considered a specialist in veterinary medicine, one must have completed a formal internship and a residency in a specific discipline and pass a certifying exam of clinical proficiency along with any number of other requirements as dictated by the various specialty boards. The veterinarian would then be considered Board Certified and therefore recognized as a Diplomate in their respective area. If the doctors are not Board Certified, then he/she may not represent themselves as specialists.
The list of specialty services seems endless, ranging from advanced orthopedic surgeries and arthroscopic surgeries, to laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery, to complex cardiac diagnostics, to cataract surgeries, to chemotherapy and radiation therapy offered by oncologists, etc. If you’ve heard of it being done in human medicine, it is now likely to be available in veterinarian medicine.
What will distinguish one general practitioner from the next will not only remain the care and compassion they provide to you and your pet, but their ability to recognize their limitations and their willingness to recommend specialists who may be able to provide a needed level of care that they can’t. If your pet’s veterinarian does not approach the subject when your pet is having serious, more difficult, or lingering problems then it is up to you to be your pet’s advocate. The same applies to hospitalization for your pet. You must make sure that if your pet is being hospitalized for medical or surgical care that there is indeed a staff of nurses and doctors taking care of your pet 24 hours a day. Don’t assume, ask!!!
Specialists will distinguish themselves not only by their abilities and the hospitals they work in, but by giving you and your pet the same tenderness and compassion that your family’s veterinarian and their staff provides. You have choices and they do not have to be prohibitively expensive either.
At West Hills Animal Hospital & Emergency Center we have doctors and nurses working 24 hours a day, seven days a week for emergencies as well as routine care. Additionally we have added a board-certified Surgeon offering laparoscopic and other minimally invasive surgery in addition to advanced soft tissue and orthopedic surgeries, and Cardiologists to our staff. As always, if you ever have any pet questions that I can assist you with, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Alan M. Coren, DVM