Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Veterinary Specialists Karri Miller


When I tell someone what I do for a living, their response is usually the same, “You are a veterinary oncologist?  I did not know there was such a thing.  Do people treat their pets for cancer?”  This usually prompts a response about what my job entails and my passion for veterinary oncology.    

It is interesting that in today’s society where most households have at least one pet, so few people realize there is specialty care available for their pet.  Just as in human medicine, many specialties now exist in veterinary medicine.  Some examples of the specialties available for your pet include:  internal medicine, neurology, oncology, cardiology, surgery, ophthalmology, and dermatology.  The family physician is the equivalent of a general veterinarian, who your pet visits for basic wellness and vaccines.  If the family physician were to hear a heart murmur or irregular heartbeat on a patient, they would be sent to a cardiologist for tests and an evaluation.  It is very similar in veterinary medicine where a heart murmur or irregular heartbeat found by the general veterinarian, may be further evaluated by a veterinary cardiologist.  Your family veterinarian may be the first doctor to assess any medical problem that your pet has, but they may recommend your pet visit a specialist for additional help managing your pet’s medical condition.  

Another question that I get asked when telling people about my job is, “Did you have to undergo special training to do oncology?”  The answer to that is yes!  Any specialist, whether it is a human physician or a veterinarian, has to pursue special training after medical or veterinary school in order to specialize in one area.  This typically involves an internship and residency performed under faculty and mentors that have been specialists in the field for years.  There are also rigorous exams administered upon completion of a residency, to insure that each doctor is able to practice the specialty with a certain level of knowledge and standard of care.  It is only when all of these criteria are met, that someone can become board-certified in a certain field. 

While the comparisons between human physician specialists and veterinary specialists are numerous, there are some differences in the way people and pets are treated.  Sometimes treatments available for people may not yet be available for pets.  Treatments that are available to both people and pets, may be administered differently in pets.  Reasons for this difference include:  cost, availability of the treatment, and the ability to tolerate the treatment.  Dogs and cats metabolize medications differently than people, and some treatments can be ineffective or toxic in these animals.  Ultimately, the goal of any treatment in pets is to maintain a good quality of life, while extending their life span.  

If your pet has any special medical condition, from itchy skin to a growing mass, a board-certified specialist may be able to help.  Your family veterinarian and veterinary specialist work as a team to provide the best care for your pet’s medical condition.  Should you choose to seek a specialist’s help for your dog or cat, your family veterinarian will be able to help locate the right specialist to meet your family’s needs.
Blog By:
Karri Miller DVM, MS, DACVM (Oncology) 
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice 

Dr. Karri Miller provides Skype and Phone consultations to families across the United States whose pets have been diagnosed with cancer. As a Board Certified Oncologist, she will be able to provide your family with information about cancer, treatment options, and expectations.

Blog originally prepared for the Lakeland Ledger (Florida)

Posted by Vet Mary Gardner

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