This term “multi-vet pet” describes the new trend of multiple different vets being involved in one animal’s case, often bringing in their own set of specialities to the table. It tends to be the case with pets that have more complex issues and further help is needed, at the owner’s consent of course. 

The number of pets needing treatment has also drastically increased recently, as have the expectations of owners, and limits of what they are willing to do for their beloved animal. Therefore, the amount your primary care vet can do is limited, perhaps to time, skill and equipment available, and further support is needed. This is where vets with extra qualifications and training, and even referral centres come in. 

What is the benefit of this?

This is absolutely not saying that all vets aren’t extremely competent and good at their jobs. What it is highlighting is that there are vets who will have undertaken extra training to become specialists or advanced practitioners in a particular field. 

A great example of how multiple vets from different teams work together to help one patient is a dog with long term ear disease. They may have already tried several things with their primary vet, but nothing has helped so far. The vet may recommend referral at this point. At the referral centre, the dog may initially be under the care of the dermatology department. The dermatology specialist might request a CT scan, so the diagnostic imaging team will help. And the anaesthesia team will place the dog under a general anaesthetic while the scan is happening. It might even be that this dog needs specialist surgery, therefore the surgery team gets involved too. Overall, that’s 4 different departments all working together in the best interest of a patient. 

What services are offered by referral centres?

  • Internal medicine
    • This service will cover a wide range of problems, including kidney, gastro-intestinal and hormonal disease.
  • Orthopaedic surgery 
    • Orthopaedics will look after patients requiring surgery on bones or joints, such as fractures, hip replacements and further investigation of joint disease.
  • Soft tissue surgery 
    • They will perform things such as complex mass removals, gastro-intestinal surgery etc.
  • Neurology 
    • Anything to do with the brain, spine or nervous system is the area of speciality for this department. They can also perform surgery involving these areas. 
  • Diagnostic imaging 
    • This team are specialists in interpreting x-rays, ultrasounds and more advanced imaging like CT and MRI scans.
  • Oncology 
    • Unfortunately, our pets can also get cancer – oncology are available to treat and manage these cases
  • Dermatology 
    • The go-to if your animal has severe skin issues.
  • Cardiology 
    • Team cardiology look after patients with heart problems, including murmurs and abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Anaesthesia 
    • Referral centres will have a specialist team who will ensure your pets are safe and pain-free when they have to undergo any procedure involving a sedation or anaesthetic. They are also specialists in pain management, and often will run chronic pain clinics for animals suffering with long term discomfort due to conditions like arthritis and spinal disease. 
  • Nutrition 
    • Not as commonly found, but some centres will have specialist veterinary nutritionists who can help with patients that may have specific dietary requirements due to medical reasons, such as liver and kidney disease. 

Are there any downsides to referral? 

The big one would be the cost. Due to the fact that referral centres have highly qualified staff, the latest specialist equipment and often perform complex procedures, prices tend to be much higher. You should always be given an estimate of cost before going to a referral centre.

Can my pet be referred to another vet within my primary practice?

It is a lot more common now that some vets in primary practice will undertake further training in specific areas, while still working as a general practice vet. Therefore, there may be vets at your practice (or another branch of the same group) who can offer some types of surgery, heart disease work-ups, etc. 

Other services 

Adjunctive therapies are commonly offered to help certain conditions, particularly in the case of pain management. This may include:

  • Acupuncture 
  • Hydrotherapy 
  • Laser therapy
  • Physiotherapy 

There are many more treatment options for many conditions available to us nowadays, with specialists in lots of different fields. Remember, this is all done with an owner’s consent, and if you do not wish to go down the route of referral, then that is ok! There may even be vets with extra qualifications in your current practice so do be sure to check what your practice can offer.

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