Specialty pet care has been around for years, yet many pet parents are still not familiar with what it is or how it works. Seeking specialty care can play an integral role in your pet’s health, but it can also make a dent in your savings. For example, a specialist’s sick exam fee typically costs between $100 and $250.* Thankfully, comprehensive pet insurance can help with these specialty care expenses.
What is a veterinary specialist?
A veterinary specialist is a veterinarian who specializes in an area of medicine, surgery, or even a specific species. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there are 40 veterinary specialties with more than 11,000 practicing veterinarians who have earned the “board-certified specialist” designation. Veterinary specialty training goes beyond the standard four years of veterinary school, with three to four additional years of training, research and an intense examination.
Benefits of using a veterinary specialist
Veterinary specialists offer more advanced and focused medical care for complicated illnesses and injuries, such as imaging (think MRI or CT scans) and emergency care treatment or hospitalization. Your primary veterinarian may refer your pet to a specialty hospital, or you can seek out the type of veterinary specialist your pet needs without a referral.
Let’s take a look at a real-life example. Lucky† the Goldendoodle was suffering from a runny nose and frequent sneezing for months. He was referred by his primary veterinarian to an internal medicine veterinarian for more advanced diagnostics including a CT scan, rhinoscopy (a test to visualize the nasal cavity) and a nasal tissue biopsy.
Thanks to these advanced tests, it was revealed that Lucky had an aggressive fungal infection! The internal medicine team treated him with trephination (surgery to enhance antifungal therapy), nasal flushes and supportive care.
Tips for visiting a veterinary specialist:
- If it’s an emergency you don’t need an appointment - head to the nearest emergency center.
- Prior to your appointment, have your primary veterinarian’s office send your pet’s medical records to the specialty hospital and make sure you have a physical copy.
- Fill out any forms and questionnaires prior to your visit
- Plan for a longer vet visit
- Bring your pet’s medications with you or have a list that includes the drug name, dosage and frequency
- Write down any questions you have and bring them with you
- Be able to communicate the timeline of your pet’s symptoms.
- Ask about fees upfront. Your primary veterinarian may be able to give an estimated cost or, you can ask the specialty hospital when you book your appointment.
- Let them know you have pet insurance.
Pet insurance that covers specialty care
Most pet insurance companies cover specialty veterinary care for illnesses or injuries (as long as they are not pre-existing conditions). In Lucky’s case, he was already Petplan-protected, which covered the specialty care costs including the exam. His parents were reimbursed $4,625!‡
When your pet has a complicated illness or injury, it can take a village to manage their health and specialty care can be financially overwhelming. While you rely on the veterinary team to take care of your pet, let comprehensive pet health insurance relieve you of the financial burden so you can choose the best care for your pet, no matter the cost.
*According to Petplan claims data.
**American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
†Names have been changed to protect privacy.
‡According to a Petplan paid claim in 2018 in accordance with policy specifications.
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