What is a Veterinary Specialist?

Like human medicine, some veterinarians choose to specialize in one particular type of medicine (i.e. internal medicine, oncology, and surgery). There are currently more than 20 veterinary specialties recognized by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association). WestVet is proud to offer the vast majority of small animal specialties and to be the only small animal specialty hospital in Idaho.

What makes a veterinarian a specialist?

To become a veterinarian, one must first earn an undergraduate degree, which takes an average of four years. Then, veterinary school requires another 4 years. Upon graduation, both national and state boards (exams) must be successfully passed in order to practice veterinary medicine in the United States.

To become a veterinary specialist, one must undergo additional extensive training for 3 to 5 years after completion of veterinary school where clinical experience in the area of the chosen specialty is obtained. During this time, clinicians must also perform clinical research in an area associated with that specialty, publish research in a peer-reviewed journal and pass a credential review and specialty board examinations. In veterinary medicine, only specialists are designated by the post-nominal letters given by the individual specialty college. For example, a board certified surgeon is “DACVS” which stands for “Diplomate American College of Veterinary Surgeons."

Only those obtaining this honored designation can be called a specialist. There are times when sick or injured pets need advanced care. Veterinary specialists are a valuable resource in treating your pet; a specialist's expertise complements that of your family veterinarian. You may be referred to a veterinary specialist if diagnosing or treating your pet requires specialized equipment and/or expertise that your veterinarian does not have. WestVet specialists work closely with family veterinarians and owners to provide seamless veterinary care to your beloved pet. Our goal is to ensure that you and your pet have access to board certified specialists and the highest level of veterinary medicine available.

Your veterinarian and WestVet specialists will work together to treat your pet. When treatment is complete, you will continue your routine and preventative care with your family veterinarian.

Appointments with WestVet specialists are by referral; please contact your family veterinarian for a referral, feel free to contact us with any questions.