BALTIMORE ” With more Americans willing to seek advanced medical care for their pets, the notion of a getting a “second” opinion or directly seeking a veterinary specialist is gaining in popularity.
Seventy-three percent of veterinarians said their clients seek more referrals to veterinary specialists today than they did just five years ago, according to a survey by the Companion Animal and Family Health Council.
Treatments and therapies once used only in human medicine are now readily available to pets through veterinary specialists. Owners of animals requiring specialized care for internal medicine conditions such as heart disease, cancer, neurological issues and other organ diseases are seeking the most advanced care and treatments available.
Many of the specialty veterinarians offering the latest cutting-edge medical advances are members of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). ACVIM members perform specialized health procedures ranging from implanting pacemakers to administering chemotherapy and removing urinary stones without surgery.
ACVIM’s 1,537 members are Board-certified veterinary specialists (“Diplomates”) and have three-to-six additional years of veterinary medical training. They specialize in small and large animal internal medicine, cardiology, neurology and oncology.
Diplomates employ the most advanced diagnostic tools available, including magnetic resonance imaging and Doppler ultrasound. Often, pet owners wanting the most cutting-edge care for their pet’s internal medicine condition seek specialists who have knowledge and experience in treating specific illnesses or problems. Pets not responding to or improving from a current treatment and those requiring around-the-clock care are good candidates for specialty care.
Owners wanting to find a specialist can ask their primary veterinarian for a referral or seek the care directly. “Unlike people who often need a referral from their general physician before they can see a specialist, animal owners can contact veterinary specialists at any time,” said Barry Kipperman DVM, Diplomate ACVIM, in Dublin, Calif. “Referrals are more apt to occur if you have a trusting relationship with your veterinarian and you are willing to advocate that you want the best care possible for your pet.”
ACVIM advises animal owners to ask the following questions of their veterinarian prior to seeking out a veterinary specialist:
- Would a second opinion be of benefit/value?
- Would the animal’s chances of success/improvement be better if we saw a specialist?
- Have you seen this problem often and have you had successful outcomes?
- How much experience have you had with this particular procedure/treatment?
- Is the animal receiving the most advanced/aggressive treatment possible?
Pet owners who want to find a specialist in their area can search a national database of ACVIM Diplomates at www.acvim.org; click on “searchable database,” fill in specialty and species, and enter the state in which the pet owner resides.
ACVIM is the national certifying organization for veterinary specialists in large and small animal internal medicine, cardiology, neurology and oncology. Established in 1973, ACVIM’s purpose is to advance the knowledge of animal health and diseases, and to foster the continued development of specialty veterinary care.