When your pet is sick or injured, no doubt your first step is to call your local veterinarian.  Most likely, they know your animal pretty well, especially if you have an established relationship.  And not only does the vet know your pet, but they know hundreds of other animals and have all the medical experience that goes with it.  So, when that sick or injured pet needs care, chances are that your local vet can provide it. However, in certain instances your pet may need care beyond what your vet can provide, or you or your vet may feel more comfortable seeking the opinion of another veterinary professional.  In these situations, talk to your vet about his or her referral services.


What Is A Vet Referral?

A vet referral is a recommendation from your local vet telling you to consult another doctor, typically a veterinary specialist.  It is different from a second opinion consultation, in which you would seek out another veterinary general practitioner, present your pet and his medical history, and see if this vet would recommend the same course of treatment.  A specialty vet referral will send you to a vet specializing in the type of care your pet needs, offering services that your current vet cannot.  These services may include specialized diagnostic or surgical equipment or expertise in a specific area, such as cardiology.


When Should You Seek Out a Veterinarian Referral?

There is no single reason why you should seek out a referral, and the idea may come from you or your vet.  If your pet is suffering and the treatment your vet has offered fails to make a difference or if your vet is unable to determine the root cause of your pet’s illness, it may be time to see a specialist.  Another good time to think about a this is if you are uncomfortable with the treatment plan your vet recommends. You can always inquire about seeing a specialist, and your vet may even bring up the referral himself.  He or she may realize that your pet’s needs are outside of the routine care they usually provide and that your pet would be better served by a specialist. Or, your he or she may sense that you are unsure of what to do and that a second opinion from a specialist would be reassuring.


Will Asking for a Vet Referral Hurt My Vet’s Feelings?

In short, no.  Especially if you are friendly with your veterinarian, asking for a second opinion may feel a little funny, but a good vet has your pet’s best interests at heart and will want to help him get the care that he needs.  A general practitioner is well-versed in routine care and ailments for a variety of animal species and knows that there are limits to his or her capabilities. A specialist may be able to determine the elusive cause of a tricky illness or perform the particular procedure that your pet requires, and a good vet will have no problem admitting that this is out of their comfort zone.  It is important to talk to your vet if you are looking for a specialist, because he or she may already have a relationship with local veterinary specialists and can put you in touch with the right one for your pet, saving you the trouble of researching specialists. At AMC, we maintain relationships with veterinary specialists in cardiology, oncology, ophthalmology, internal medicine, and surgery, among others.

If you think that your pet needs a specialist, put aside any awkward feelings and ask your veterinarian for a specialty vet referral. No doubt he will be happy to help you find the the doctor who can help your pet feel better as soon as possible!