Veterinary Specializations


A veterinary specialist is a veterinarian who has completed additional training in a specific area of veterinary medicine and has passed an examination that evaluates their knowledge and skills in that specialty area. Currently, there are 22 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organizations comprising 41 distinct specialties. These organizations are referred to as “colleges”.

A specialist’s expertise complements that of a general practice veterinarian. You may be referred to a veterinary specialist if diagnosing or treating your pet’s health problem requires specialized equipment and/or expertise that a general veterinarian does not have.

Here’s a list of veterinary specialties recognized by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties, with very simple descriptions of what these specialists do. For more information about the specialties, click the link to go to the website of the specialty college responsible for certifying veterinarians in that specialty.

Anesthesiaveterinarians who focus on making sure animals feel less or no pain associated with veterinary procedures

Animal Welfare: veterinarians with specialized training and experience in animal welfare

Behaviorveterinarians with additional training in animal behavior

Dentistryveterinarians who perform procedures on animals’ teeth

Dermatologyveterinarians who study diseases and conditions of the skin

Emergency and Critical Carethe “ER docs” and intensive care specialists

Internal Medicinewhich includes specialties in

  • Cardiology: the study of diseases and conditions of the heart and circulatory system
  • Neurology: the study of diseases of the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the nervous system
  • Oncology: the study of tumors and cancer

Laboratory Animal Medicineveterinarians working in research or in practice, making sure that laboratory animal species (rabbits, rats, mice, etc.) receive proper care.

Microbiologyveterinarians who study viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc.

Nutritionveterinarians working to make sure that animals’ diets meet their body’s needs for nutrients

Ophthalmologyveterinarians studying diseases and conditions of the eye

Pathologyveterinarians studying disease in animals

Pharmacologyveterinarians studying how medications/drugs affect animals

Poultry Veterinariansveterinarians who work with chickens, turkeys and/or ducks, usually in food production settings

Preventive Medicineveterinarians who study how diseases are spread and how they can be prevented

Radiologyveterinarians who focus on the study of x-ray, ultrasound, computed tomography (often called CAT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and other imaging procedures that allow us to see “inside” an animal’s body

Sports Medicine and Rehabilitationveterinarians who focus on returning animals to normal function after injury, lameness, illness or surgery

Surgeryveterinarians who specialize in performing surgery, which can also be split into 2 subcategories:

  • Orthopedics: these surgeons focus on bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, etc. of the body’s skeletal system
  • Soft Tissue surgery: these surgeons focus more on the internal organs and non-bone tissues of the body

Theriogenologyveterinarians who specialize in animal reproduction

Toxicologyveterinarians who study the effects of poisons and other toxic products on the body (and how to treat animals affected by these toxins)

Veterinary Practitionersveterinarians in clinical practice who have additional training and expertise in certain animal species

Zoo Medicineveterinarians who work with zoo animal species

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