Internal medicine specializes in diagnosing and treating the internal organs and body systems. A veterinary internist is a veterinarian with advanced, specialized training in internal medicine. Following four years of veterinary school, they complete a one-year internship and three-year residency. To become board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, they must then complete an additional rigorous credentialing process involving publishing in a peer-reviewed journal and passing qualifying and certifying examinations. Board-certified veterinary internists are extremely well-qualified to diagnose and treat your pets and animals.

Similar to their human medicine counterparts, a veterinary internist may receive referrals on difficult cases. They may aid in determining a diagnosis for puzzling symptoms, or provide treatment requires special expertise. Internists treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Some common ones in dogs and cats include diabetes, anemia, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, bronchitis, infectious diseases, kidney problems, unexplained weight gain/loss, and respiratory problems. Large animal internal medicine (LAIM) specialists diagnose and treat these conditions in large animals such as horses, cattle, goats, and sheep.

Animals may need to see an internist if their condition remains undiagnosed after standard testing; if they have an uncommon disease; if they are not responding well to treatment; or if they require advanced care or hospitalization. Pet parents can also seek an internist if they would like a second opinion on their pet’s condition. You may receive a referral from your family veterinarian or choose to seek an internist on your own. In either case, the internist will work with you and your veterinarian to get a full medical history of your pet, as well as any pertinent lab records.

Internists can provide a vast array of diagnostic services. This could involve an endoscopy, ultrasound, bloodwork or urine samples, or biopsy. The internist will work with you to determine the most sensible options for your pet. Following a diagnosis, treatment options can vary widely, since internists treat a vast array of diseases and conditions. If a pet receives a cancer diagnosis, the internist can work with a veterinary oncologist to develop treatment plans. This could include overseeing chemotherapy treatments.

Internists often work in animal hospitals, including teaching hospitals at universities. In addition to treating your animals, internists may be involved in teaching and training veterinary students, or conducting research and clinical trials. They are often on the leading edge in developing diagnostic and treatment options for animals.