In healthcare today – both human and veterinary – there is an incredible volume of knowledge, research, and methodology with new advances happening rapidly. It’s simply impossible for one person to be an expert in all things. Your primary care veterinarian works hard to stay current and at the top of their game, however, if your pet has a condition that will benefit from the expertise of a specialist, they may choose to refer you to a veterinary practice such as The COVE.

Why and when would a pet be referred to a specialist?

In human healthcare, if your primary care physician found a problem with your heart, for example, they would refer you to a cardiologist, because as an expert in cardiac matters, they can provide the highest level of leading-edge care from diagnosis to treatment to recovery. It’s the same for your pet and is a sign that your veterinarian has your pet’s best interest in mind.

Usually, a referral to a veterinary specialist happens as soon as your primary care veterinarian has diagnosed or suspects that your pet’s situation would benefit from more advanced care. For instance, if your dog is limping and your veterinarian suspects he has a torn ACL and needs surgical intervention, a referral to a board-certified veterinary surgeon – one who has many years of training and expertise in advanced surgery – can provide the very best options for healing and recovery.

It’s important to remember that true care of a pet is collaborative. This means that although your pet has been referred for specialty care, you will still visit your primary care veterinarian for all physicals, vaccinations, and routine care.  

How does a veterinarian become a specialist?

A specialist is a veterinarian who has completed significant training in a specific field and has passed an examination that evaluates their knowledge and skills in that specialty area. Most specialty organizations require that in addition to the four years of veterinary school, veterinarians spend one year in an internship and to two-three years in a residency program before they take their final exams that qualify them to become what is called “board certified.” They are also then referred to as a Diplomate.

Currently, there are 22 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organizations comprising 41 distinct specialties. The COVE has three specialty departments, cardiology, critical care, and surgery. We also have a highly trained veterinarian in the field of advanced dentistry.

How does the specialty referral process work with The COVE?

Once you have received a referral from your primary care veterinarian, please call our Referral Coordinator at 757-935-9111 to schedule a consultation. You will then receive written information (via e-mail) from us detailing what you need to know before you arrive. Instructions will include the expected length of your appointment (dependent on service) and instructions on fasting your pet if they will be undergoing any diagnostics that require sedation.

The consult will include a thorough exam, a review of your pet’s medical history, and any necessary diagnostic testing. The specialist will discuss the diagnosis and all treatment options with you. There will be ample time to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. If additional diagnostics, surgery, or other treatments are needed, our referral coordinator will work with you to schedule all necessary appointments. A copy of your pet’s completed medical record will be sent to you and to your family veterinarian.

New patient forms can be downloaded from our website and can be completed prior to your appointment, or you may fill them out onsite. We will obtain your pet’s referral details and medical records from your veterinarian, but we request that you bring information about your pet’s food, treats, supplements, and medications with you.

At The COVE, your pet will receive the highest level of advanced care from experienced, compassionate experts and team members at the top of their field.  And remember, in an emergency, we are open 24/7 and no appointment is ever needed.

About Us

The COVE’s veterinarians and staff wholeheartedly embrace the core values of community, collaboration, commitment, compassion, and integrity. This focus ensures that pets, the people who love them, and their primary care veterinarians have as positive and affirming a healthcare experience as possible, regardless of the circumstances that bring us all together.