Last Updated on: October 12, 2015 by Ingrid King


Your cat’s veterinarian is the equivalent of your family doctor: he or she is your partner in keeping your feline family members healthy and happy. Regular annual or bi-annual veterinary exams are critical. By the time a cat shows symptoms, the disease may already be in the advanced stages, requiring more extensive, and expensive, care.

Most general practice vets will perform surgeries, ranging, depending on the vet’s experience and comfort level from spay and neuter surgeries to exploratory surgeries, foreign body removal, and wound repair. Most will also perform routine dentistries.

What do veterinary specialists do?

However, just like your family doctor won’t be able to treat every disease you might present with, general practice vets may refer you to a specialist for more complicated conditions. Alternately, cat guardians may want to seek a second opinion from a veterinarian specializing in specific conditions.

Advances in veterinary medicine make it possible to diagnose and treat medical conditions in cats that would have been a death sentence a decade ago. From chemotherapy to kidney transplants, MRI’s to radiation therapy, ICU care to chemotherapy, cats can now receive the same level of medical care as humans. Cutting-edge veterinary care by board-certified specialists ranging from internists to oncologists to opthamologists is becoming more widely available than ever before.

Searchable database helps cat guardians locate veterinary specialists

The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) are recognized specialty colleges responsible for establishing training requirements, evaluating training programs, and examining and certifying veterinarians in the veterinary specialties of Cardiology, Oncology, Neurology, Internal Medicine and Surgery. The two organizations joined forces and created, a comprehensive searchable database of board-certified veterinary specialists worldwide.

While your veterinarian will most likely be your best source for a referral to a specialist, this site allows pet guardians to search for specialists near them. What I love even more about the site is that it is chock full of detailed information about what exactly these veterinary specialists do and the diagnostic tests and procedures you might expect when you take your cat to one of them. The site also contains an extensive library of articles about specific diseases.

For more information, and to locate a veterinary specialist near you, visit

Have you taken your cat to a veterinary specialist? Share your experience in a comment.

Photo credit Mississippi State University, Tom Thompson, used with permission

17 Comments on Does Your Cat Need a Veterinary Specialist?

  1. I had to find a Veterinarian Dental Specialist for my Kitty, a
    Tortie, Halle! She began drooling & “pawing” @ her face on the left. Took her to 2 local Vets…both said she just needed cleaning. I did some research, and new 1 of her back molars looked black!! I just had a feeling it was something more, & felt she was “auto-immune.” Found a Vet in a Specialty ER Clinic in Wichita, Ks (1.5hrs drive) WONDERFUL!!! Sure enough, after Hi Speed Radiographic films under anesthesia, she had 2 teeth removed and a good portion of the bone as well! Incredible Surgery! Dx’d with Resorptive Tooth Autoimmune Disorder that is, unfortunately,progressive! I’m so sad, but she is very chipper
    and doing well after Morphine & Ibuprophen post op. Do your research..there is no Vet in my city that could have done that
    $1,500. procedure!! Thankfully I have Pet Insurance. One just never knows. I’m a Critical Care R.N. with some extra
    great “instincts” that have guided my well @ times.

  2. My Missy cat had complete endocardial cushion defect. After seeing 3 specialists I settled on the cardiology department at Texas A&M university. The only thing available to her was drug therapy but I think I had her a bit longer than I would have otherwise. She had an 8 mm hole in her heart. She almost made it to 5. Now I am dealing with persistent diarrhea with Zorro. He has had antibiotics and a steroid shot. Of course he had a fecal which was negative. My regular vet has indicated he doesn’t have anything else to help Zorro. Unfortunately he will not allow the vet to do much with him. He will accept injections and a cursory examination, but he has to be asleep for blood samples or more complete examinations. My vet did try but Zorro bit him very hard. I always bring the stool sample in so he will not have to have that done to him. But he still gets quite upset.

    • It’s very challenging when you have a cat who does not do well at the vet’s. If you need to pursue further diagnostics for Zorro, look for an internal medicine specialist who is comfortable working with difficult cats.

      • I had heard (perhaps here) that there is a more detailed fecal that can be sent off to a lab that can find things that an in house fecal cannot find. Zorro is a very sweet cat, he is just absolutely terrified – I’ve tried him at different vets and Dr Smith is the one who has gotten the furthest with him- but Zorro bit him, HARD. I went out to the car and cried I was so upset both for Zorro and Dr Smith. We have tried the following: pumpkin, yogurt, fortiflora, some stuff made of volcanic ash my previous vet swore by, Standard Process Feline Immune Support, steroids, and convenia. His bloodwork shows very slightly elevated white blood cell count and not much else.

        • Kelley, I’m concerned that Convenia is part of Zorro’s regimen. Please be aware that this drug comes with some potentially serious risks:

  3. My bottle-fed baby, RazMaTaz, had a really bad eye infection that wasn’t responding to the meds that our regular vet provided. I called a specialty vet clinic and was able to get in to see an ophthalmologist right away. He diagnosed her with a type of herpes virus, and issued all new meds. She had to have drops and ointments 4x daily, but recovered nicely. This was back in 2010. She is still doing very well.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. My cats have never seen a specialist, but I think it’s about time Carmine see one for a second opinion regarding his tummy/IBD issues.

  5. Unfortunately where I live there aren’t many veterinary specialists available. There is a fabulous eye specialist that several friends have used successfully. I have taken 3 different cats to an Internal Specialist here in Buffalo over the years and I love her and her assistant. Yes, it’s pricey but they allow the owner to be there the entire time during the ultrasound and I held my cats, reassuring them, and blitzing the doctor with a ton of questions (all of which she answered frankly and honestly). She’s currently treating my Heffernan for HCM, he’s also diabetic so he’s a complicated case.

  6. Thanks for the informative post. So far I have not had to use these services. Good to know they are there.

  7. My veterinarian of over 35 years or so did some research locally, in N. Texas, and referred me to a specialist to treat my 3rd oldest cat – now 16-1/2 yrs old, for radiation treatment of a hyper-thyroid condition that almost killed her. She’d been treated with pills for several months but never stabilized very long & then did a nosedive. Had we not acted quickly to try the radioactive treatment, she would never have survived. That was the end of January — 2014. All things considered, she’s doing quite well; her lab work always comes back excellent, especially considering her age. Grateful to have had extra and quality time to have her in my life. There’s a backstory for her that’s way too long for this comment box.

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