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Does Your Dog Need A Veterinary Specialist?

It is common for pet owners to resist going to see a veterinarian specialist.  Why?  It’s probably for a lot of the same reasons that it is common for us to want to avoid specialist appointments for ourselves.  Specialists can cost more than going to see a general practitioner, and you know your dog’s primary care veterinarian.  You may feel comfortable with him or her and not too excited about dealing with a stranger. 


It’s not a good idea to avoid vet specialists though.  We can argue back and forth with ourselves when it comes to making decisions about our own health, but your pet doesn’t get a say.  It’s up to you as a responsible pet owner to err on the side of caution.  If your primary care vet is urging you to take your pooch to a specialist, he or she has a good reason.  Sometimes primary providers simply cannot provide the best care for dogs with particular conditions.


If your primary care vet refers your dog to a specialist, it is a good idea to ask some questions.  Find out what tests have been performed, what treatments have been tried, and ask flat out why the referral is being made.  Ask what tests and treatments the specialist will be able to provide that the primary care vet cannot.  Then make sure that you have all your dog’s medical records before you head over.  Make sure the specialist knows how to contact your vet’s primary care provider so that they can communicate. 


In some situations, your situation may be the opposite.  Your primary care vet may not think that your dog needs a specialist, but you think he does.  Sometimes vets are hesitant to make specialist referrals.  It might be because you live in a rural area without a lot of options nearby.  Other times the issue is cost.  In situations like these, it is important to speak up for yourself and your pet, and make it known to the primary care vet that you are willing to deal with cost and travel hassles to ensure your pet gets the best care.


How can a veterinary specialist help your dog?


  • Sometimes specialists are the only ones who can provide an accurate diagnosis.  Without an accurate diagnosis, there is no way to provide the right treatment.


  • Even with an accurate diagnosis, a specialist may be needed to provide specialized care and treatments.  If your dog has been diagnosed with cancer, for example, going to a veterinary oncologist may be necessary to treat your pet.  If your dog has heart disease, a veterinary cardiologist may be the only one who can help him to lead a healthy life.


  • Sometimes specialists are needed to treat common behavioral problems, not just injuries and illnesses.  It may seem strange to take your dog to a “dog shrink,” but you may be surprised what a difference it makes! 


  • Specialists can recommend helpful products for your pet.  Some dogs require special foods, toys, beds, clothes and other supplies.  Sometimes just buying your dog something new can make a huge difference for health and happiness. 


A veterinary specialist can not only help to diagnosis and treat your dog, but also help you make sure you are following the best lifestyle advice and purchasing products that are right for your pet.  Maybe your dog needs a special orthopedic dog bed, or dog toys for mental stimulation, or some other specialized product.  Perhaps you need to start dog crate training or make some other lifestyle changes for your dog to be happy and healthy.  Whether the problems are behavioral or related to physical health, a specialist can hold the key.  So don’t avoid an appointment just because it’s inconvenient.  Do what is best for your furry pal!


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- All prices in Canadian dollars.

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