Fort Myers Florida Weekly

Veterinary specialists can provide the latest in care

Veterinarians learn about all animals, but some choose to specialize in certain species.

Veterinarians learn about all animals, but some choose to specialize in certain species.

Iwas talking to one of my stepmother’s friends recently, and she mentioned that her dog had been diagnosed with a heart murmur.

“You should take him to a veterinary cardiologist,” I said.

“I didn’t know they had cardiologists for dogs,” she replied.

“They have every kind of specialist for pets that they do for people,” I told her.

I should know. Over the years, my seven dogs, past and present, have been to a number of them.

Veterinarians with a string of letters behind their name and DVM or VMD title are board-certified. They’ve put in long hours and years of study to earn the designation of diplomate and membership in the specialty organization, after passing tough certification exams (boards). For instance, an internal medicine specialist’s designation is DACVIM, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. If you were to see the letters DECVIM, it means the veterinarian was certified through a European internal medicine organization.

Besides an assortment of veterinary cardiologists, one or another of my dogs have been treated by a veterinary dentist, an ophthalmologist, internal medicine specialists, a neurologist, oncologists, radiologists (who specialize in imaging techniques) and a dermatologist. And although we didn’t see this particular specialist in person, we’ve also had the services of a pathologist, who identified Harper’s tonsillar mass as cancerous. My bird Larry went to an avian specialist.

Beyond the specialists I’ve mentioned, pets and their people can benefit from veterinarians with advanced education in anesthesiology, behavior, emergency and critical care, nutrition, preventive medicine, sports medicine and rehabilitation, surgery and theriogenology (reproductive medicine).

People with working and sports animals are likely to take their pets to orthopedic or rehab specialists. They may also see veterinarians trained in acupuncture, chiropractic and massage, although these are not recognized specialties.

Breeders consult theriogenologists when they have questions about genetic disorders or if their animals have issues with low sperm production or require insemination or a cesarean section.

Surgical specialists may focus on soft tissue traumas or orthopedic problems, minimally invasive techniques, or neurologic, oncologic or cardiovascular procedures.

Anesthesiology specialists assess and reduce anesthetic risks, especially for special-needs pets, and provide good pain management before, during and after surgery.

Some veterinarians specialize in particular species. They are certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, which recognizes specialties in avian, beef or dairy cattle, canine and feline, equine, exotic companion mammal, feline only, food animal, reptile and amphibian, shelter medicine, and swine health practices.

For avian veterinarian Brian Speer, there’s so much to know about birds — he has treated approximately 350 species during his career — that he limits his practice to them. Other veterinarians care for his own dogs and cats.

Veterinarians who specialize in microbiology study organisms that cause infectious disease. Pharmacologists help to develop new medications for animals or ensure safe use of medications. Toxicologists may be employed in veterinary emergency rooms or by diagnostic laboratories.

General practice veterinarians may not have a specialty, but they can acquire special skills or knowledge through courses or programs such as the Cat Friendly Practice, offered by the American Association of Feline Practitioners; Fear Free certification; and Human-Animal Bond certification by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute.

Or they may meet the requirements for their practice to be certified by the American Animal Hospital Association. ¦

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