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Vet Specialists

A veterinary specialist is a licensed veterinarian who has successfully completed a board certification in an AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) recognized veterinary specialty college or board.  A DVM must have extensive post-graduate training, education, experience, and pass a credential review and examination set by the given specialty organization to become board certified in their specialty.  These board-certified specialists are prepared to serve people, their animals and the veterinary profession by providing quality service in disciplines as varied as behavior, dentistry, internal medicine, surgery, oncology, pathology, and toxicology, to name a few.  Veterinary specialists are consulted when an animal’s condition requires specialized care beyond the abilities of a general DVM.

The requirements for most specialties includes a 1-year internship or 2 years of clinical practice prior to beginning a residency that may take 2 to 3 years to complete.  A resident DVM is usually required to produce an academic contribution, such as a scientific publication, to qualify for the certifying examination and review.  Admission to a veterinary specialization is very competitive in the United States.  Specialty programs are offered by university based residency programs or in approved private specialty hospital.  Each specialty has its own requirements. 

The first two veterinary specialties were recognized in 1951 and the AVMA House of Representative approved criteria for specialty organizations.  The two specialties that were recognized and approved in 1951 were the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ABVPH) and the American Board of Veterinary Public Health (ABVPH).

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizes 20 specialty boards and colleges, with a reported 7,357 active, board-certified diplomats. There is one representative from each of the 20 recognized veterinary specialty organizations that serve on the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS). This group annually reviews each of the specialty boards or colleges according to established criteria in order to ensure uniform standards and performance by all recognized veterinary specialty organizations.

While most veterinary practices treat almost all forms of illnesses and injuries, these specialty veterinarians become exceptionally knowledgeable about one area of veterinary medicine.  Similar to human medical doctors, these are doctors who specialize in a field like neurology or oncology. 

Neurologists diagnose and treat medical conditions related to the neurological system; this consists of the spinal cord, the brain, nerves and muscles of an animal.  Animals suffering from neurological problems often show the following symptoms; loss of balance, weakness, exercise intolerance, paralysis, deafness and seizures. These specialists often work in a practice that specializes in oncology, with veterinary technicians that have also specialized in this field.

Veterinary oncologists diagnose and treat animals with cancer. There have been amazing breakthroughs in veterinary oncology that have prolonged the lives of many animals. Oncology practices have state of the art technology and equipment to aid in the treatment of cancer.  The radiation treatment used in veterinary medicine is the same technology used to treat human cancer patients.  Oncologists use surgery and chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer as well as radiation treatment.

It does take a few more years to become a specialized veterinarian, but these DVM’s usually make 2-3 times more than a general veterinarian’s salary. Often times veterinarians work in the field for a few years before they decide to pursue a specialty.

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