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If your pet requires advanced diagnostics or treatment, your primary care veterinarian may refer your pet to a board-certified veterinary specialist. Specialist vets provide care for animals that goes beyond the scope of standard veterinary care. Today our vets explain what veterinary specialists are, and what they can do for pets in Halifax and Dartmouth.

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How is a veterinary specialist different?

A veterinary specialist is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) who has completed additional training in a specific field of veterinary medicine. Becoming a board-certified veterinary specialist requires extensive study in the area of specialization, as well as examinations to evaluate the applicant's knowledge and skills in the chosen area of specialty.

How does a veterinarian become a board-certified veterinary specialist?

Beyond the 6 - 8 years of education required to earn a veterinary degree, a veterinary specialist designation requires significant additional study, as well as internships, residencies and clinical experience in the field before certification exams can be taken. That can amount to an additional 3 - 5 years of additional education and training!

Once these hard-working professionals have met all of the requirements set by the relevant governing body, and passed the qualifying exam in their advanced area of study, they officially become certified specialists in that field.

What does a board-certified veterinary specialist do?

Board-certified veterinary specialists offer expertise and treatment that are beyond the scope of general practice. A specialist vet will work closely with primary care vets, other veterinary specialists, and pet owners to provide pets with well-rounded, specialized care that meets their unique medical needs. 

The details of this care and what it entails depends, of course, on the area of veterinary medicine in question.

What kinds of board-certified veterinary specialists are there?

There are over 40 different specialty fields in veterinary medicine. Here are just a few:

  • Veterinary internal medicine specialists are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the immune, cardiovascular, pulmonary, urinary, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems.
  • Emergency and critical care specialists work in emergency rooms and intensive care units to provide urgent care for critically ill animals.
  • Veterinary specialists who qualify in the field of surgery spend years training specifically in complex surgical procedures.
  • Veterinary cardiologists are specialists with advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease in dogs and cats.
  • Specialists in veterinary radiology have extensive training in the use of imaging technology and procedures that can see inside of the animal's body such as X-ray, ultrasound, CT, MRI, and more.
  • Veterinary Oncologists provide specialized diagnosis and treatment for animals with cancer.
  • A Board Certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist specializes in conditions and diseases of the eyes.

Veterinary Specialists at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital


Dr. Jeremy Orr is one of only four veterinary cardiologists located in Atlantic Canada. He has worked in general and emergency practices, completed a three-year cardiology residency at Ontario Veterinary College, and became board-certified in veterinary cardiology in 2010.

Meet Dr. Orr

Internal Medicine

Dr. Susan Carr, Board-Certified Internal Medicine Specialist (Internist), and Dr. Aleksandra Milaszewska, DVM, (Residency - Trained in Small Animal Internal Medicine), have both undergone advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting animals' immune, cardiovascular, pulmonary, urinary, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems.

Meet Dr. Carr  Meet Dr. Milaszewska


At our animal hospital in Halifax, our Board-Certified Veterinary Surgeon, offers advanced procedures to treat sick and injured pets from across Eastern Canada. Dr. MacDonald has practiced small animal surgery in both private specialty hospitals and as well as university referral hospitals in the US and Canada. 

If your pet requires advanced care in any of the above areas, speak to your vet about a referral for your cat or dog to one of the specialists at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital

What is a veterinary specialist?

Caring for Pets in Atlantic Canada

Our specialists are pleased to accept new patients by referral from primary care veterinarians. Our emergency service welcomes all clients – 24/7/365. 

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