Health ConditionsVeterinary Referrals

Veterinary Referrals: Just Another Way to Show We Care

By March 13, 2023 No Comments

We want the best for your pet, and as much as we want to have answers to all their health problems, sometimes we need help. This is why, on occasion, we send our patients to see a veterinarian at another facility. Being in southwestern Ontario, we’re fortunate because we have many veterinary specialists and specialty centres that can help us provide your pet with the best care possible.

Some of the specialist veterinarians (and the credentials they have earned) that we may refer your pet include:

  • Surgeon (DACVS)
  • Internal Medicine specialist (DACVIM)
  • Dermatologist (DACVD)
  • Behaviourist (DACVB)
  • Ophthalmologist (DACVO)
  • Oncologist (DACVIM subspecialty oncology)
  • Neurologist (DACVIM subspecialty neurology)
  • Cardiologist (DACVIM subspecialty cardiology)
  • Veterinary Dentist (DAVDC)
  • Rehabilitation specialist (DACVSMR, CCRP, CCRT)


These veterinary professionals have spent many years focussing on a smaller subset of veterinary medicine to become experts in their chosen field. When it comes to complex health concerns, these individuals are the most qualified to diagnose and treat these types of cases.

Although some work out of their own clinic, many veterinary specialists work at larger specialty/referral centres where they have access to other specialists that can assist them with patient care. These might include any of those listed above as well as anesthesiologists, critical care specialists, and veterinary technician specialists. They also will have more specialized equipment that isn’t available in a general practice.

 How does a referral work?

Most specialist veterinarians require a referral from a pet’s regular veterinarian before making an appointment. This allows us to best collaborate on a pet’s care as we can share examination findings, diagnostic test results, and responses to treatments performed so far.

 When you take your pet to a specialist, they will perform an examination tailored to their specialty. They will then discuss their findings and recommendations for further diagnostics and/or treatment of your pet as well as the costs involved. Specialists are also most qualified to discuss the prognosis for your pet with or without their treatment, and any questions you have about the process.

After your pet’s specialist appointment, the specialist will send us a report showing their findings and recommendations for care. The specialist will let you know when to make an appointment for any follow-up care. If ongoing care can be performed at our clinic, we’ll contact you to discuss the plan and arrange follow-up visits. If we haven’t contacted you within a few days of your specialist appointment or if you have any questions, please call us.

How long does it take to get a referral appointment?

This depends on what specialist your pet needs to see. Some specialists can make initial appointments within a few weeks. However, given the current state of veterinary medicine, most specialist appointments are often difficult to get on short notice. As some pets must wait months for their appointments, the sooner we can connect with the specialist on behalf of you and your pet, the better. If we’ve recommended a referral, please let us know as soon as possible that you would like us to make the appointment.

If your pet needs an urgent referral, this may require your pet be seen and admitted by the emergency department at a referral centre first. Your pet will then be assessed by the specialist when they have time (usually between appointments), but you may not get to talk to them.  Your pet’s emergency veterinarian will discuss the specialist’s findings and recommendations with you.

Referrals for overnight or ongoing care

As our clinic isn’t open 24 hours a day, we may refer your pet to another facility for continued treatment and monitoring by veterinary professionals. This is done in the best interests of your pet as it wouldn’t be safe to send them home on intravenous (IV) fluids or keep them in clinic without a veterinary professional attending to them. If we stop IV fluids and other supportive care overnight to send your pet home, it could delay recovery or worse, cause your pet’s condition to worsen.

If we ask you to take your pet to another facility, it will be one that we have contacted, obtained a place for your pet in their care, and reviewed your pet’s current condition, diagnostic tests, and treatment plan with their veterinary team. In some situations, this may be overnight or longer. However, in many cases, we’ll want you to bring your pet back to us following their overnight care so we can reassess them, continue their care and if they respond well, discharge them to you that day with our recommendations for home care.

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