Veterinary Specialists: Internist

by Nancy Kay, DVM 

This is the area of veterinary specialization most near and dear to my heart! 

As an internal medicine specialist I am clear that those of us who choose this career path are fascinated by the innermost workings of the body. From the lungs to the liver, the pancreas to the pituitary gland, internists become well versed in the nuances of every identifiable organ and gland within the body.

Internists tend to be superstars at performing a variety of nonsurgical diagnostic procedures. 

Endoscopy is a favorite and involves passing a long telescope device into a body orifice (bowel, nasal passageways, lungs, urinary tract) to have a look around and collect diagnostic samples. Those of you who have had your recommended colonoscopy procedure when you hit the half century mark know exactly what I’m talkin’ about!

When should your dog be evaluated by a board certified veterinary internist? 

I strongly encourage you to consider this when:

  • In spite of diagnostic testing, the cause of your dog’s symptom(s)- vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite, increased thirst, weight loss, abnormal urination, to name a few- cannot be determined.

  • Your dog has been diagnosed with a disease with which your family veterinarian has limited experience. Far better that treatment be administered by someone who has done so hundreds if not thousands of times rather than only a few times (or never before).

  • Your dog has swallowed something (a bone, a pair of underwear, your engagement ring) that is now lodged in his or her stomach. It’s possible that surgery can be avoided and the object retrieved via the internist’s endoscope.

  • Your dogt has a medical
    issue that isn’t getting any better or is getting worse in spite of therapy prescribed by your family vet.

  • You simply want to be more certain about the advice you’ve received from your family veterinarian.

  • The breed you fancy is predisposed to a particular medical malady. For example, many Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers develop gastrointestinal and/or kidney disease resulting in protein loss from the body. Dalmatians are prone to developing bladder stones. A visit early on with an internist will help determine your dog’s likely susceptibility and allow you to learn about preventive measures you can take at home.

  • It has been recommended that your dog be evaluated by a neurologist, oncologist, or cardiologist  but doing so would be geographically challenging- compared to internists, these specialists are considerably fewer and farther between. Chances are the local internist has become adept at providing the services normally offered by these “missing” specialists.

To find a board certified veterinary internist within your community or learn more about this specialty, visit the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Have you and your dog ever visited a veterinary internist? 

What was the reason and what was the outcome?

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Did you get your copy of Speaking for Spot yet?

If not, go get the book. It's likely the most important dog book you'll ever read.

Articles by Dr. Kay:
Reasonable Expectations: The Ability to Discuss Your Internet Research With Your Vet
Finding Dr. Wonderful And Your Mutt's Mayo Clinic: Getting Started
Even The Best Veterinarian Can Make A Mistake
A Different Way to Spay
Making Tough Medical Decisions For Your Dog: Lily's Story
If You Don't Know What A Lick Granuloma Is, Count Your Blessings!
Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning 
Talking Teeth 
Urinary Accidents
I Can't Believe He Ate That! Foreign Body Ingestion 
What Caused Murphy's And Ruska'sPneumothorax?
The Whole Picture: When The Test Results Don't Match What's In Front Of You 
Stop that Scratching
Veterinarians And Vaccines: A Slow Learning Curve
What is a Veterinary Specialist? 
Veterinary Specialists: Oncologist 
Veterinary Specialists: Cardiologist