Click here to learn more.
I’ve always said a good veterinarian is one who listens. Not only to “Dr. Mom” or “Dr. Dad” but also to veterinary technicians and to other veterinarians in the same practice. A great veterinarian does all that and more: He reaches out for the help of specialists when a situation calls for it. Sometimes that happens without your even being aware of it.
With the ease of email and online services (and even the old-fashioned phone call or face-to-face at a veterinary conference), we veterinarians can pick the brains of top specialists, professors and researchers pretty easily, which helps us keep up with new treatments and strategies. But we are also likely to refer our patients to specialists when we think it can help.
Like any doctor, vets refer patients to specialists for specific health issues. It’s pretty typical for veterinarians to suggest referrals to veterinary oncologists after a diagnosis of cancer, for example, or to cardiologists for the management of heart disease. But though we frequently refer because we know what something is, we also send patients on to specialists because we don’t know what we’re dealing with. Sometimes we refer because we have tried everything we know to do and it’s not working. And sometimes specialists are called upon for difficult procedures we’re rarely faced with or don’t have the high-tech equipment to do.
But a specialist referral isn't just for illness or injury. As we understand more how medication can help with common behavior problems, we veterinarians are also referring to veterinary behaviorist colleagues. While some wags may mock these specialists as “pet shrinks,” I know they’ve saved many pet owners’ sanity and many pets’ lives.
So what would prevent your veterinarian from suggesting a referral? There are a few reasons, and they’re all worth discussing with your veterinarian if you feel your pet’s care isn’t getting anywhere and he hasn’t brought up a referral on his own.
Sometimes it has to do with where you live. Many urban areas support independent specialists or specialty group practices. But in less populated areas, unless you live near a school or college of veterinary medicine, specialists can be hard to find. For some people, these travel issues are insurmountable. Your veterinarian knows this and may be hesitant to suggest a specialist as a result.
Cost is another issue, especially these days. Many veterinarians find their recommendations turned down so often for money reasons that they stop offering care options like specialists. However, as veterinarians, it’s our job to offer all our professional recommendations without regard to cost. Once it’s all on the table, then and only then can we base a course of treatment on what someone can afford and when. But we are first and foremost advocates for a pet’s health, and we can’t be that if we don't inform a pet owner of everything that could and should be considered in terms of treatment for a pet's health issues.
It’s your veterinarian’s responsibility to offer all the care options for your pet, and it is your responsibility to speak up if you think you need more than you’re getting. That means if you feel you need a referral (or a second opinion), you have to be the one to ask.
Whether you ask or your veterinarian offers, your veterinarian should work to coordinate specialty care. Specialists typically are brought on board to address only one thing. They don’t handle routine care and will send you back to your own veterinarian for all other matters or when a situation is finally resolved. The mutual respect and cooperation between referring veterinarian and specialist is key to the smooth and effective handling of your pet’s care, so it’s important you understand how it works.
We’re all in this together for the care of the animals we love. The use of top-notch specialists is good medicine, and that means healthier pets.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
An adorable black and white cat parked
himself right in the way of one of the
holes on a mini-golf course.
Vets performed a two-hour surgery to try to
save the leg of a Maltese struck
by a stolen van during a police chase.
You may be more familiar with the black-and-white variety of panda, but the red panda
had the name first.
Nocturne: Creatures of the Night, by Traer
Scott, showcases night-loving animals like
owls, moths and raccoons.
At this point in your dog's life, he's likely
beginning to show the signs of his age
and is not as active or…
With 40,000 animals poached each year
for the ivory trade, it might not be long
before elephants disappear…
When she's not curled in your lap, the affectionate and elegant Birman will gladly play fetch or chase a ball.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.