Thursday, August 4, 2011

Heading to a pet specialist? Here's how to prepare.

Cats like this one sometimes need the help of a specialist

I had an email from a reader yesterday, asking for medical advice. Now, I'm no veterinarian so I was absolutely no help on that score, but I did suggest that this reader take the dog to see a specialist. I tossed this information out as though the reader would know what that meant, but I am realizing this isn't always the case.

Specialty veterinary medicine isn't new to me. My Boston saw specialists multiple times for his advanced health care problems, and then I worked for a specialty veterinary hospital for many years and became accustomed to the work they do. I've also seen cats in shelters, like this one, who might need a specialist for one health problem or another. To me, a specialist appointment is pretty routine. But this is probably not the case for every pet owner out there.

So here's the deal. 

While a regular veterinarian can handle most things, there are some problems like cancer, diabetes, seizures and allergies that need specialized attention. Also, some surgeries are complicated and best handled by a surgical professional.

A veterinary specialist steps in to assist when a regular veterinarian needs just a little extra help. They're like a SWAT team that comes in, takes over for a short time, and then leaves the issue in the capable hands of the regular veterinarian. 

These specialists have advanced degrees and specialized knowledge, and their office visits can be much more expensive than a regular vet's office visits. This is, in part, why you don't want to run to a specialist for every little problem. They should only be consulted when your regular veterinarian can't solve the problem your pet is having.

Often, you'll be asked to bring your pet's medical records, your pet's medicine and your pet's x-rays. You must also bring your pet (unbelievably, we had clients who didn't bring their pets to their appointments). Sometimes, you can't feed the pet before the visit, so the veterinarians can do advanced blood work or other testing. Most facilities will tell you exactly what to bring to your appointment, and how to prepare your pet for the appointment.

When used properly, a veterinary specialist can be a valuable addition to your pet's medical team. And now you know how to prepare and get the most out of your visit!