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Like humans, your pet, may at some point, require specialist medical care and treatment which is outside the expertise of a general practitioner. People see their GP for advice and diagnosis of an illness, but sometimes the GP will refer us onwards to a specialist e.g. an NHS consultant who has more in-depth knowledge and experience of the condition. It’s the same for our beloved pets. Our trusted regular vet may suggest a veterinary referral for your pet in order to seek specialist treatment for an illness which is specific to a certain body part, such as the eyes or heart, or to a species of animal.
Receiving a veterinary referral for your pet does not need to be feared. It means that your pet can access the specialist care and treatment that he or she needs. Your vet is recognising that someone with specialist knowledge, skills or equipment can better help your pet back to health, and you should follow their advice in seeking the expertise of a veterinary specialist. Speak to your vet if you are worried about why they feel a veterinary referral is necessary.
If you feel that your pet needs specialist help, then please talk to your vet about your concerns. Your vet will talk you through your options in seeking a veterinary referral.
A 'RCVS Recognised Specialist’ is similar to a consultant in the NHS and concentrates on a small area of veterinary practice. RCVS Specialist status is not easily achieved. To be included on the list of RCVS Specialists, an individual must have achieved a postgraduate qualification at Diploma level at least and must additionally satisfy the RCVS that they make an active contribution to their specialty, have national and international acclaim and publish widely in their field. An RCVS Specialist must also be available for referral by other veterinary colleagues. Specialist status is time-bound and the individual must reapply for recognition every five years (or earlier in certain cases) to maintain their name on the list.
More information about specialists can be found here http://yourvetspecialist.org and here http://findavet.rcvs.org.uk/find-a-vet/veterinary-qualifications/.
The specialist may be a one-person practice, or part of a multi-discipline veterinary teaching hospital, or something in between. When choosing a veterinary specialist, you should not only consider their expertise but also how using them will impact on your travel time, and also the financial implications.
You will find a list of some of the practices that refer to us on our Referring practices page.
Costs can vary widely depending on the type of treatment required. The cost could be a one-off, such as an operation, or ongoing e.g. for medication. Higher cost does not always indicate a better service so it’s wise to ask others, including your vet and research what is being offered.
If you are being referred to another practice, please check that you are happy with their payment terms because not all veterinary practices charge the same way. You should ask for an idea of cost from the beginning and make sure you’re able to meet the payment terms of the referral practice.
You may be able to claim from your pet insurance. Again, you should check with your insurer because eligibility varies from one provider to another. Your insurance cover may require you to contact the insurer prior to treatment. Your insurance company may have a list of preferred providers for referrals (who may not necessarily be specialists) and you need to be happy that the cost will be met before you embark on a course of treatment or you may end up paying for everything yourself.
Speak to your regular vet. Getting a veterinary referral to see someone with specialist skills and knowledge can be a life-saver for your pet, though there are lots of things to consider. You should seek advice from your vet, from fellow pet owners, and from your pet insurance company before making any big decisions. The choice of what to do with your pet’s health and life can be a heart-wrenching time but seeking a veterinary referral at the right time can be the best thing you do for them.
You may also download our leaflet The Referral Process.The Referral process (PDF 321kb).