A Guide to Specialty Pet Hospitals

Your dog or cat may one day require treatment at a specialty pet hospitals. From a referral by your vet, specialists in the field of veterinary medicine will treat your pet in facilities designed to administer tests, procedures and treatments specific to certain diseases or disorders; these procedures may not be available at your vet's office or a regular animal hospital.

Areas of Veterinary Specialty

Your dog or cat can be treated by specialists at a specialty hospital usually only by referral by your vet, who will continue to provide input. If accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, a referral practice or specialty hospital must have board-certified veterinary specialists, who've completed additional years of residency in their areas of expertise, on staff. Here's a partial list of common veterinary specialties:

  • Advanced Diagnostic Techniques
  • Anesthesiology
  • Behavior
  • Cardiology
  • Critical Care
  • Dermatology
  • Dentistry
  • Emergency Care
  • Internal Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Nutrition
  • Oncology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Radiology
  • Surgery

What Happens During the Referral Process

  • Your vet will determine your pet needs specialty care.
  • Your vet will furnish you with contact information for specialty practices or hospitals.
  • You will make a consultation appointment or appointments for your pet.
  • Your pet may or may not undergo diagnostic tests, invasive procedures or surgery the same day of a consultation appointment. This will depend on your pet's health status.
  • Your vet will forward the necessary forms and medical records as requested by specialty practices or hospitals.
  • Specialists will repeat tests or administer new ones in order to further diagnosis your pet's condition and devise an appropriate treatment plan.
  • Your vet will continue to collaborate with specialists after your pet's release from a specialty practice or hospital.

What You Should Know about AAHA Accreditation

AAHA accreditation of specialty practices and hospitals is voluntary. Based on on-site visits, AAHA evaluators apply more than 900 standards of medical care to facilities in the U.S. and Canada in these general areas: quality care, diagnostic procedures, hospital pharmacy, hospital management and medical records. It is a good idea to ask for accreditation results when considering a specialty practice or hospital for your pet.

Remember: Treatment at a specialty practice or hospital cannot replace ongoing contact with your vet. In fact, primary care veterinarians and accredited specialists often work together to provide your cat or dog the most optimal and comprehensive medical care available today.