What is a veterinary specialist?

While most enter general practice, veterinarians, like medical doctors, may choose to complete additional training and specialize in a specific field of veterinary medicine. Perhaps surprisingly, there are currently twenty-two sub-disciplines recognized by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties.

The following provides a brief description of the focus of each specialty area:

  • Anesthesia – Management of pain associated with veterinary procedures
  • Animal Welfare – Education, certification, and scientific investigation
  • Behaviour – Study of behaviour in both healthy and sick animals
  • Dentistry – Animals’ teeth
  • Dermatology – Diseases and conditions of animals’ skin
  • Emergency and Critical Care – ‘ER’ and intensive care
  • Internal Medicine – Specialties including cardiology (heart and circulatory system), neurology (brain, spinal cord, and nervous system), and oncology (tumours and cancer)
  • Laboratory Animal Medicine – Research or practice specializing in laboratory animal species (rabbits, rats, mice, etc.)
  • Microbiology – Study of viruses and bacteria
  • Nutrition – Animal diets and required nutrients
  • Ophthalmology – Diseases and conditions of the eye
  • Pathology – Examination of organs, tissues, and body fluids to diagnose disease
  • Pharmacology – Study of effects of drugs on animals
  • Preventative Medicine – Study of how diseases are spread and how they can be prevented
  • Radiology – X-ray, ultrasound, CAT scan, MRI, and other imaging procedures to see ‘inside’ an animal’s body
  • Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation – Returning animals to normal function after injury, illness, or surgery
  • Surgery – Specialization in performing surgeries: orthopedics (bones, joints, ligaments of the body’s skeletal system); soft tissue surgery (internal organs, non-bone tissues)
  • Theriogenology – Animal reproduction
  • Toxicology – Study of the effects of toxins/poisons and how to treat animals affected by them
  • Zoological Medicine – Zoo animals, free-living wildlife, aquatic species, and companion zoological animals

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