Signs Your Pet Needs to See a Veterinary Specialist
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Signs Your Pet Needs to See a Veterinary Specialist

by Krystin Langer
Sep 20, 2022

As an animal owner, making regular appointments at your primary veterinarian is a great way to stay up-to-date on your pet’s medical needs. Similar, to human healthcare, if your pet is diagnosed with a complex medical condition that is difficult to manage, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary specialist to recommend the best medication and treatment plan. Although pet owners should check with their veterinarian prior to receiving additional care, these are some signs that your pet may be in need of receiving treatment from a veterinary specialist.

Changes in your pet’s behavioral patterns

Behavioral changes are common in both people and pets, and they can vary for a multitude of reasons. However, if your pet begins acting erratically different in only a short amount of time, they may be alerting you to a medical issue. A few of these behavioral warning signs in your pet can include difficulty walking or a lack of balance, clear uninterest in eating/drinking, and excessive vocalization (barking, meowing). As the primary caregiver, you are most aware of your pet’s typical behaviors and will most likely notice a distinct change if they are disrupted.

Physical signs of distress in your pet

While behavioral signs of distress can be harder to detect, sudden changes with your pet’s physical wellbeing can often be more recognizable. If your pet begins to show these signs of distress, it may require a veterinary specialist appointment or an emergency visit, depending on the severity of the medical issue. If your pet is having difficulty breathing, having seizures, excessively vomiting and/or is unresponsive- this may warrant an immediate visit to an emergency animal hospital. Some less noticeable signs may include discoloration of the gums (brick red or blueish purple may indicate blood loss or circulatory issues) difficulties with defecation or urination or signs of blood in your pet’s fecal matter/vomit. Although these signs may seem to be less severe, they can still indicate a serious medical condition and your pet should be brought to see a veterinary specialist as soon as possible.

How do I know if I should bring my pet to a Veterinary Specialist vs a Veterinary ER?

When you begin noticing signs of distress in your pet, your first step should be to reach out to your primary veterinarian and describe these issues to determine if more attention is needed from a veterinary specialist. A large portion of veterinary specialists are employed in clinics and animal hospitals that have 24/7 emergency care and can transfer cases in hospital if warranted. It is also important to note that veterinary specialists generally reserve appointments for medical conditions that are directly related to their specialty (ie. If your pet is having issues related to their heart health, you would see a veterinary cardiologist). However, if your pet’s medical issue is brought on suddenly and seems life-threatening or if it occurs after hours, it is recommended to bring your pet to an emergency veterinarian who can determine if immediate treatment is needed. It is always better to be safe than sorry! A tip for pet owners: it is always smart to have contact information saved in an accessible location for both your primary veterinarian and an emergency veterinarian in case a medical emergency arises.

Stay prepared

As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to continuously monitor your pet’s health and ensure that they are receiving the best care possible. The sooner that you are able to recognize the signs that your pet may be experiencing a medical issue, the better it can be for your pet’s prognosis and treatment options. It is important to talk to your veterinarian to learn more about veterinary specialists and locate veterinary clinics near you in order to be prepared for any medical condition or emergency that your pet may experience.

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