Understanding The Different Veterinary Specialty Options for Your Animal’s Care
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Understanding The Different Veterinary Specialty Options for Your Animal’s Care

by Krystin Langer
Oct 12, 2022

When your pet has a medical condition that requires special care, your primary veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary specialist for treatment. Board-certified veterinary specialists are licensed veterinarians who have undergone specific educational training and hands-on experience related to each of their fields. For example, if your pet is diagnosed with cancer, your primary vet would refer you to a veterinary oncologist for advanced treatment, such as chemotherapy.

Currently, there are 22 recognized veterinary specialty organizations with more than 40 different veterinary specialties. VetSpecialists.com is a resource for animal owners to search for ACVIM Board-certified veterinary specialists in the five fields that are offered: Cardiology, Large Animal Internal Medicine, Neurology, Oncology and Small Animal Internal Medicine. These are the different specialties and reasons for why seeking a veterinarian licensed in one of these fields might be the best option for when your pet needs advanced medical attention.


A veterinary cardiologist is a Board-certified veterinary specialist that has advanced training in the heart and circulatory system. Most veterinary cardiologists work with small animals; however, some specialize in large animals, including horses and cattle. Your primary veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary cardiologist for various cardiac conditions such as recognizing a heart murmur or consistent high blood pressure in your pet.

Learn more about the medical conditions that a veterinary cardiologist treats>>

Large Animal Internal Medicine (LAIM)

A Board-Certified Large Animal Internal Medicine (LAIM) specialist provides treatment for horses and other large animal species with a wide variety of medical conditions. While some large animals are able to have their medical conditions diagnosed and treated through their primary vet, there are several cases where these animals may benefit from the advanced care of a veterinary specialist. Animal owners may seek out care from a LAIM specialist if the disease is uncommon, if the current treatment is not working as well as expected or if the medical condition requires a complex treatment or surgery.

Read more about the conditions that LAIM specialists treat>>


A Board-Certified Veterinary Neurologist is a veterinary specialist that is experienced in performing detailed neurological exams and treating a multitude of neurological disorders. Your primary veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary neurologist if your pet is having tremors, difficulty using their legs (paralysis and/or weakness), if you notice behavioral changes or confusion, or if you notice that they have a head tilt and balance issues.

Learn more about the specialized tests and treatments performed by veterinary neurologists>>


A Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist specializes in several different aspects of veterinary nutrition, including conducting research, taking care of patients, consulting with veterinarians and animal owners, and teaching. They also have the expertise to advise pet owners on all areas of their pet's nutrition, including their metabolism, balancing their diet and treatment of nutrition-based health conditions, such as obesity or allergies.

Learn more about the reasons for visiting a nutrition specialist>>


A Board-Certified Veterinary Oncologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pets. Sadly, cancer can develop in our pets the same way, and at the same frequency, that it develops in people. If your primary veterinarian recognizes a mass or tumor in your pet that they believe may be cancerous, they may refer you to a veterinary oncologist for further diagnosis and treatment. Typically, a veterinary oncologist will work directly with your primary veterinarian to help tailor care specifically to your pet, their condition, and their response to treatment.

Learn more about the procedures that veterinary oncologists perform>>



Small Animal Internal Medicine (SAIM)

A  Board-Certified Small Animal Internal Medicine (SAIM) specialist has advanced training and experience in diagnosing and treating various internal conditions in your small pet (dog, cat, etc.) If your primary veterinarian recognizes an internal gastrointestinal medical condition in your pet that requires advanced care from a specialist, they may refer you to a small animal internal medicine specialist for further testing. Usually, the primary vet will be able to diagnosis this condition before referral and will work with the veterinary specialist to formulate the best line of treatment for your pet.

Learn more about the reasons for visiting a SAIM specialist>>


To learn more about when you should seek out care from a Veterinary Specialist, read ‘Signs Your Pet Needs to See a Veterinary Specialist’. You should always talk to your primary vet to discuss options and discover the best course of care for your pet’s wellbeing. Additionally, if you believe that your pet is having a medical emergency, you should bring them to a veterinary emergency clinic immediately. 

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