Veterinary Specialists - What Kinds Are There? - Cat Info Detective

Veterinary Specialists – What Kinds Are There?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Greetings curious cats… Skye Blake here, with more info about veterinary specialists!

These are hard working men and women who want to focus their skills on one area of veterinary medicine.

Find out more below…

paw prints coming in from a distance
Click These Trails…u003cbru003e
  1. Who Is Skye Blake?
  2. AMVA-Recognized Veterinary Specialties
  3. Other AVMA Specialties
  4. Discover More
  5. Sources
  6. List of Sources

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page. 

cartoon girl reading book

All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping. 

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs. 

AMVA-Recognized Veterinary Specialties

rod of Asclepius - medical symbol for general vets and specialists

It wasn’t that long ago that vet medicine was in its infancy and specialists were unknown.

Lucky for us fabulous felines, it’s now caught up with human medicine in training and technology.

vet researcher looking in microscope

Otherwise we wouldn’t have access to all this great help when we need it!

It takes a lot of extra time, dedication and effort to become a specialist.

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

vet examining cat

The AVMA is a professional organization that represents veterinarians and strives to maintain integrity and high standards for the profession.

It accredits and certifies educational programs to keep a high standard of quality vet care.

The AVMA also makes products and services available to vets that support their success in protecting and helping animals in their care.

bird on a branch

They also educate the public about the various ways vets work to help their livestock, pets, and wildlife.

There are “22 AVMA-Recognized Veterinary Specialty Organizations™ comprising 41 distinct AVMA-Recognized Veterinary Specialties™.” “Veterinary Specialties” | American Veterinary Medical Association (

“More than 16,500 veterinarians have been awarded Diplomate status in one or more of these specialty organizations after completing rigorous postgraduate training, education, and examination requirements.” “Veterinary Specialties” | American Veterinary Medical Association (

American Board of Veterinary Practitioners

veterinarian - specialist

The American Board of Veterinary Practitioners is an AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organization™ that certifies 11 recognized veterinary specialties.

“ABVP certifies veterinary practitioners with exceptional knowledge, skill, and competency in the care of the total patient.

ABVP Diplomates are certified in clinical practice for the species in which certification is granted.” “Veterinary Certification – American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (“, ABVP

parrot with wing spread - avian vet specialist

These are the specialist practices they certify…

  • Avian (birds)
  • Beef Cattle
  • Canine and Feline (dogs and cats)
  • Dairy (cattle)
guinea pigs eating - exotic animal vet specialty
  • Equine (horses)
  • Exotic Companion Mammal (guinea pigs, hedgehogs, rats, mice, gliders, monkeys, etc.)
  • Feline (cats)
  • Food Animal (sheep, goats, poultry, hogs, etc.)
herd of sheep
  • Reptile and Amphibian (snakes, lizards, etc.)
  • Shelter Medicine (established animal shelters)
  • Swine Health Management (hogs)

Other AVMA Specialties

Note: The organizations below that say “college” in their title are professional organizations, not schools.

Anesthesia & Analgesia

anesthesiologist-vet medicine

“Analgesia is a pain-free state, whereas anesthesia is a state achieved when there is a loss of touch, pain, and temperature sensations with or without loss of consciousness.” Analgesia vs. Anesthesia: Learn the Differences – eMediHealth

American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia

“The American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia exits to promote the highest standards of clinical practice of veterinary anesthesia and analgesia and defines criteria for designating veterinarians with advanced training as specialists in the clinical practice of veterinary anesthesiology. ” American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia

Discover more about vet anesthesiologists at “What’s a Veterinary Anesthesiologist?

Animal Welfare

animal welfare word cloud

Looking after the welfare of animals in their care has always been a fundamental part of veterinary medicine.

However, recently “animal welfare” has become its own special topic requiring advanced knowledge.

“Veterinarians educated to an advanced level in all aspects of animal welfare science and ethics are uniquely positioned to step forward to provide the public, general veterinary practitioners…with accurate information, advice, and advanced expertise concerning animal welfare questions and challenges.” American College of Animal Welfare

American College of Animal Welfare
various pets

“The mission of the American College of Animal Welfare is to advance animal welfare through education, certification, and scientific investigation.

Diplomates of the American College of Animal Welfare are veterinarians with specialized training and experience to carry out the ACAW mission.” American College of Animal Welfare

Veterinary Behaviorists

man holding maine coon cat

Veterinary behaviorists are trained to look at an animal’s health, environment and experiences to see how they affect its behavior.

They are veterinarians who have extensive knowledge of drugs used for mental health, how they can be used, potential side effects and interactions with other medications.

They are licensed to prescribe these drugs when appropriate.

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists



“The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) is the certifying board for veterinarians who are specialty trained to advance the behavioral health of animals through clinical practice, research, and science-based behavior education.” American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (


side view of white cat's teeth

Dentistry for animals is similar to humans. Animals can get many of the same problems and need dental care.

Sometimes a specialist is needed for more advanced diagnostics or procedures (e.g., root canal).

They also will work with animals that need dental work but have other problems and can’t handle anesthesia.

Discover more about Board-Certified Veterinary Dentists at “What’s a Dentist For Cats?

American Veterinary Dental College
horse showing teeth

Board Certified Veterinary Dentists are veterinarians who have completed a doctorate in veterinary medicine and surgery (a 4 year medical degree) after years of college(often 4 years) and then complete a formal training program (a residency) in veterinary dentistry under the direct supervision of a Diplomate Residency Director.” What is a Veterinary Dentist? |

Emergency & Critical Care

vet performing surgery on cat

All regular vets deal with emergencies, but some specialize in life-threatening situations.

They usually work in veterinary hospitals and schools, where critical care is vital in cases of severe injuries or illness. When an animal needs intensive care, these vets oversee them in a vet hospital’s ICU.

The American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care
vet medical vital signs monitor

“The American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care is the AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organizationTM for certification of veterinarians in the field of veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. 

ACVECC Diplomates are veterinary specialists who have undergone specialized training in the field of veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.

We help veterinarians get the proper training, residencies, certificates, and employment as well as helping pet owners find qualified vets for emergency care.” The American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC)

Feline-Only Practices

veterinarian giving vaccine to cat

Fortunately for us crazy cats, there are veterinary specialists who work only with us… imagine that! We certainly are special, aren’t we?!

Vets who specialize in working only with us felines understand the needs of cats. They also speak “cat” and make their offices as comfortable as possible for the nervous types.

Just think… no barking or smelly dogs!

AAFP | American Association of Feline Practitioners
vet removing cat from carrier

“The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) supports its members in improving the health and welfare of cats through high standards of practice, continuing education, and evidence-based medicine.” Mission and History | American Association of Feline Practitioners (

Internal Medicine

vet looking at ultrasound

Internal vet medicine is a specialty that deals with diseases affecting an animals internal organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc.).

Vets who specialize in internal medicine are called “internists”. Some of the many conditions they deal with are diabetes, cancers, kidney failure, Lyme Disease, FIV, FeLV, and anemia.

American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
vet office

“The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) is the international certifying organization for veterinary specialists in cardiology, large animal internal medicine, neurology, oncology and small animal internal medicine with over 3,000 members worldwide.” American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Laboratory Animals

white mouse in gloved hand-research

Laboratory animal use and care is a special area of vet medicine. Those who specialize in working with lab animals must know the laws and regulations involved, as well as ensure their humane treatment.

American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine
closeup of a kitten's face-black & white photo

“The American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM) is a specialty board recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) as the certifying organization for laboratory animal medicine, a recognized specialty within the veterinary medical profession.” American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine

It’s mission is to promote training and research in laboratory animal medicine, certify qualified vets, and set up standards of training and experience for vets dealing with the health of lab animals.


Virus under microscope

Microbiology is the study of anything that can’t be seen without a microscope. Bacteria, viruses, and algae are just a few examples.

If you can’t see it, microbiologists will find it!

American College of Veterinary Microbiologists

“The American College of Veterinary Microbiologists (ACVM) is the veterinary specialty organization recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association for certification of veterinarians with special expertise in microbiology.” American College of Veterinary Microbiologists


raw food as medicine - alternative vets

Nutrition is very important in health and healing for all animals. Ever heard the saying “You are what you eat”? It’s very true!

Veterinary nutritionists research and consult with clients, advising them on the best nutrition for the specific needs of their animals.

They also educate fellow vets on the latest breakthroughs in nutrition science.

Discover more about them at “What’s a Veterinary Nutritionist?

American College of Veterinary Nutrition
cat eating from food bowl

“The primary objective of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition is to advance the specialty area of veterinary nutrition and increase the competence of those who practice in this field by establishing requirements for certification in veterinary nutrition, encouraging continuing professional education, promoting research, and enhancing the dissemination of new knowledge of veterinary nutrition through didactic teaching and postgraduate programs.” American College of Veterinary Nutrition

Eyes (Ophthalmology)

close up of golden cat's eye

Eye doctors in veterinary medicine (ophthalmologists) specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries of the eyes.

“Many eye problems can be managed by a general practice veterinarian (DVM or VMD).

veterinarian looking at a kitten's eyes

However, if the veterinarian believes that the patient would benefit from the skills and experience of a specialist, the patient may be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist for additional care.

Problems typically referred can include: perceived cataracts, glaucoma, retinal diseases, severe injuries, and cancer of the eye.” Referrals — American College Veterinary Ophthalmologists

American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (eyes)
dog's eyes-top of head

“The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists promotes excellence in veterinary ophthalmology through advanced training, certification, research and education.” ACVO Public

Pathology (Study of Disease in Animals)

Blood cells

Pathologists diagnose disease by studying animal tissue and bodily fluids (e.g., tissue biopsies, blood, and urine)

Their study of many animals helps advance knowledge of both human and animal diseases, development of drugs and other methods of combating disease.

American College of Veterinary Pathologists



The ACVP is an organization that promotes the education, mentoring, and careers of veterinarian pathologists.

Pharmacology (Drug Use & Safety)

yellow stethoscope and medicines on pink background

Pharmacology is the study of drugs and how they can be effectively and safely used with animals.

Vet pharmacologists usually work at drug companies, vet schools, and other organizations.

American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology

“The American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology (ACVCP) is a specialty board recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The primary objectives of the College are to advance the discipline of veterinary clinical pharmacology as a clinical specialty and assure the competence of those who practice in this field.” American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology


chickens in a row

Poultry vets specialize in poultry medicine and management. They have taken advanced training in care and management of poultry like chickens, turkeys, and ducks.

These vets do everything from regular exams and vaccinations to flock inspections.

They also check the quality of meat and eggs, make recommendations for proper nutrition, and create health management procedures. 

American College of Poultry Veterinarians
male turkey

“The vision of the American College of Poultry Veterinarians is to define and set the gold standard in the veterinary specialty of poultry health and well-being.” Welcome to ACPV

Preventive Medicine

farrier working on horse's hoof

Some veterinary specialists focus on preventing, controlling and/or eliminating diseases that affect food animals and humans worldwide.

Some disease examples are anthrax, hoof and mouth disease, rabies, West Nile virus, bird flu, and swine fever.

Their work advances sustainable agricultural productivity and elevates the health of animals and humans.

Veterinarians who specialize in preventive medicine must be knowledgeable in…

sow and baby pig
  • veterinary microbiology
  • epidemiology
  • immunology
  • parasitology
  • public health
  • production medicine
  • clinical medicine
American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine


herd of goats

“The American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine (ACVPM) is an AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organization offering board certification in preventive medicine with the option of a specialty in epidemiology” About the ACVPM – American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine (control of diseases).


vet tech operating x-ray machine

Radiology is the use of medical imaging, such as x-rays, magnetic resonance, nuclear, ultrasound, to diagnose disease in both animals and people.

American College of Veterinary Radiology
vet looking at ultrasound

The ACVR is an organization that certifies veterinary specialists in radiology, radiation oncology and equine diagnostic imaging.

“Societies in CT/MR, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, large animal imaging, and zoo/wildlife medicine work closely with the ACVR to provide continuing education.” American College of Veterinary Radiology (

Reproduction (Theriogenology)

cow and calf

Vets who specialize in animal reproduction are important to farmers and ranchers, zoos and wildlife organizations.

Some work with specific types of animals, such as cattle, sheep and goats, horses, cats, and dogs.

Their work is important to help breeders maintain herd quality and remove genetic defects.

American College of Theriogenologists


longhorn cattle

“The mission of the ACT is to promote animal well-being, reproductive health, responsible breeding and genetic practices, and efficient management of breeding-age animals in agriculture, veterinary practice, zoos, preserves, and ecosystems.

In particular, the ACT envisions development of focus areas in theriogenology to incorporate the following in theriogenology/reproductive medicine:

1. Population control for domestic and non-domestic animals including feral animals, free-ranging and captive wildlife.

2. Genomics in livestock and companion animal practice.” American College of Theriogenologists

Skin (Dermatology)

Sphynx cat in window

Vets who specialize in skin diseases and conditions deal with things like mites, allergies, and ear infections.

If your kitty has a stubborn skin problem your vet may recommend seeing a dermatologist.

American College of Veterinary Dermatology (skin)
white cat scratching an itch

“The American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD) is a group of individuals who are each a Board Certified Veterinary Dermatologist®. 

These veterinarians have expertise and specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of animals with benign and malignant disorders of the skin, hair, ears and nails.” American College of Veterinary Dermatology

Veterinary Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation

cowgirl on quarter horse

Veterinary specialists who work in sports medicine and rehabilitation focus on helping animals move freely without pain.

They help all types of animals recover from surgery, injuries, chronic conditions and neurological problems, many of which used to mean the end of a racing career or even the animal’s life.

dog with herd of sheep

“They are experts in an animal’s musculoskeletal system—the bones, joints, muscles, and associated nerves—as well as in diseases, pharmacology, and tissue healing.

To treat such problems as bone fractures and injuries to tendons and ligaments, sports veterinarians may use braces, carts, casts, or splints.

They may use a combination of animal physical rehabilitation, therapy, physical conditioning, and may use surgery as well. ” Animal Sports Medicine | Ross Vet (

brown horse

A few examples of the many problems these vets help are…

  • racing or working injuries
  • hip dysplasia
  • cancer
  • spine diseases
  • stroke
  • obesity
vet checking cat's leg

This area of vet medicine is one where traditional and alternative methods of treatment intersect well.

They may use diagnostics and treatments like… 

  • Acupuncture
  • CT scans
  • Food therapy 
  • Herbal medicine
  • Laser therapy
  • Ultrasounds
  • Orthotics/ Prosthetics
  • Weight management
American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation
pack of hound dogs

“The American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation® was developed to meet the unique needs of athletic and working animals as well as all animals in need of rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation (the term used for people is “physical therapy”) not only focuses on recovery after surgical procedures, but also on improving the quality of life in animals suffering from debilitating diseases such as arthritis or neurologic impairments.” American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation

Veterinary Surgery

vet performing surgery-specialist

There are three main areas of veterinary surgery…

  • soft tissue – skin, organs and systems such as cardiovascular, urinary, digestive, respiratory, reproductive
  • neurosurgery – brain, spinal cord, column & nerves
  • orthopedics – bones, joints & muscles
vet doing surgery on a cat

You may be asking “But don’t all vets do surgery?”

Well, most regular vets do routine surgeries like spays and neuters or removal of tumors.

But when more complex procedures are required, you’ll be referred to surgeons that specialize in delicate, difficult cases.

These are veterinary specialists who have more technology and the extra training and expertise required to perform them.

vet surgery, surgeon

Some examples of these advanced surgeries are…

  • joint replacement
  • cancer
  • kidney transplant
  • complex wound repair
  • complex fracture repair
American College of Veterinary Surgeons
vet surgeon

“A veterinary surgeon has undergone additional training after veterinary school in order to become a specialist. This training consists of a minimum of a 1-year internship followed by a 3-year residency program that meets guidelines established by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS).

If your animal develops a problem or injury requiring advanced care and procedures, your primary veterinarian or emergency room veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary surgeon.” What Is a Veterinary Surgeon? | American College of Veterinary Surgeons – ACVS


poison warning sign

Toxicology is the scientific study of poisons. Veterinary toxicologists are specialists who determine the characteristics and harmful effects of any toxic substance.

They also develop and use detection methods to discover what type and level of poison is in an animal or human’s body.


An example is when there is a question of criminal activity, such as whether or not someone has poisoned a neighbor’s pet.

Tests are done to determine if a poison is involved in the case.

Toxicologists help us understand how to use poisons safely in agriculture, medicine, and daily life.

American Board of Veterinary Toxicology
two clear glass test tubes

“Board-certified veterinary toxicologists protect human and animal health.

We inform and educate health professionals and the public about toxicologic hazards to pets, livestock, and wildlife.

We work in academia, veterinary medical diagnostic laboratories, poison control centers, government agencies, industry, research laboratories, and private consulting firms.” American Board of Veterinary Toxicology (



Zoology is the branch of biology covering the entire scientific study of animals, especially wild animals.

Veterinary specialists who study wild animals are zoologists, although technically all vets are zoologists to some degree.

Zoology includes…

  • Classifications – example: “cat”
Felis silvestris catus (“cat”)Class: MammaliaFamily: FelidaeKingdom: AnimaliaOrder: Carnivora
  • Behavior & habits
  • Anatomy structures (skeleton, exoskeleton, claws, hooves, skin, wings, internal organs, etc.)
  • Distribution – where animals live in habitats around the world, especially wild animals.
American College of Zoological Medicine
hawk sitting on fence post

“Zoological medicine is a discipline that integrates principles of ecology, conservation, and veterinary medicine and applies them to wild animals within natural and artificial environments.

The American College of Zoological Medicine is dedicated to excellence in furthering the health and well-being of captive and free ranging wild animals.” FAQ – American College of Zoological Medicine (

Discover More

For you curious cats, discover more about vets and your cat’s health at “Cat Health“.


Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

5 Types of Veterinarians and What They Do“, VET PRACTICE, December 14, 2018

8 Things People Don’t Realize About Being a Veterinarian | PetMD“, PetMD Editorial, April 17, 2019


American College of Veterinary Microbiologists

Analgesia vs. Anesthesia: Learn the Differences“, by Natasha Nambiar, MD, Pharmacologist, eMediHealth, April 29, 2020 – Updated on July 27, 2021

Animal Teeth vs. Human Teeth“, Mountain View Pediatric Dentistry,

The Disadvantages of Being a Veterinarian (“, Janice Tingum, Updated December 28, 2018

Emergency and Critical Care FAQs“, Small Animal Hospital, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida (

“History of Theriogenology” – Society for Theriogenology

How Much Does a Veterinary Orthopedic Surgeon Get Paid? (“, Donald Harder, Updated August 08, 2019

How Much Money Do Veterinarians Make a Year? (“, by Horacio Garcia,, Updated July 05, 2017

Interesting Facts About Marine Veterinarians (“, Jennifer Hicks, Updated September 03, 2019

Laboratory Animal Medicine”, edited by James G. Fox, Lynn C. Anderson, … Mark T. Whary, ScienceDirect, 2015

Nutrition“, University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine (


Perspectives in Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology (“, by Arturo Anadón, Frontiers In Veterinary Science, U.S. National Library of Medicine, NIH, September 13, 2016

Poultry Veterinarian Careers, by Mary Hope Kramer,, updated on February 17, 2019

Reproduction Specialty Group, (

“Toxicology”, NIH National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (

TOXICOLOGY” English Definition and Meaning,

U.S. Veterinarians 2018“, American Veterinary Medical Association (

Veterinary Dermatology: From Allergies to Toenails“, BluePearl Pet Hospital (

Veterinary Surgery“, Wikipedia

Welcome, Veterinary Surgery“,

What is Microbiology?“, Microbiology Society

What is Neurosurgery?“, OHSU, School of Medicine, Department of Neurological Surgery

What is Veterinary Pharmacology?“, by Mary McMahon,

What Specific Types of Veterinarians Are There? (“, Stephanie Fagnani, Updated July 05, 2017

Why Feline-Only Veterinary Clinics Are Worth It (Your Cat Will Thank You)”, by T.J. Banks,, June 1, 2020

Updated November 15, 2023

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