When Is It Time to Bring Your Pet to an Internal Medicine Specialist? Key Signs to Watch Out for

When Is It Time to Bring Your Pet to an Internal Medicine Specialist? Key Signs to Watch Out for

Our pets are beloved members of our families, and ensuring their health and well-being is a top priority. Sometimes, our furry friends suffer from chronic or complicated illnesses that can be challenging for even the most experienced primary care veterinarian to diagnose and treat. 

In these cases, it might be time to consult a veterinary internist. In this article, we’ll dive into the role of these specialists, the signs that your pet may need their care, and how they can work together with your primary care veterinarian.

What is an Internal Medicine Specialist (Veterinary Internist)?

Veterinary internists are medical professionals specializing in assessing, diagnosing, and treating internal medicine for dogs and cats. These specialists have undergone years of additional training and are certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). 

They focus on the complex interaction of your pet’s organs and bodily systems and have in-depth knowledge of treating the underlying causes of disease. Pets are often referred to an internal medicine specialist when they suffer from chronic or complex diseases that are difficult for primary care veterinarians to diagnose or treat. 

Some examples of conditions that fall under the purview of veterinary internists include gastrointestinal tract issues, kidney and liver diseases, lung/airway problems, and endocrine disorders.

Veterinary Care

Puppy and kitten veterinary care are essential for ensuring a solid foundation of health as they grow into adulthood. Regular check-ups and vaccinations are essential to maintenance, and early intervention can help minimize the risk of a complicated or chronic illness later in life.

Signs Your Pet May Need an Internal Medicine Specialist

Some specific symptoms and signs may indicate a need to consult an internal medicine specialist for your pet:

Chronic Illnesses with No Clear Explanation

If your pet has been suffering from a chronic illness or experiencing recurring symptoms without a definitive diagnosis, it may be time to seek the help of an internist. These specialists are skilled at piecing together the puzzle of complex diseases and can help uncover the root cause.

Unexplained Weight Loss and Digestive Issues

If your pet is losing weight unexpectedly or struggling with chronic digestive problems such as diarrhea or vomiting despite dietary modifications, consider consulting with an internist. They may identify underlying gastrointestinal diseases or other systemic issues at play.

Consistent Coughing, Sneezing, or Breathing Difficulties

Chronic respiratory problems in your pet can be a sign of a more significant issue. An internist can diagnose and treat lung, airway, and cardiovascular conditions contributing to these chronic symptoms.

Persistent Urinary or Reproductive System Issues

Pets with ongoing urinary infections, incontinence, or reproductive issues that aren’t resolved with first-line treatments may benefit from an internist’s expertise to identify the underlying cause and develop an effective treatment plan.

Signs of Liver or Kidney Dysfunction

Symptoms such as jaundice, lethargy, increased thirst, or changes in appetite can indicate liver or kidney disease. An internist can thoroughly examine and employ advanced diagnostic techniques to pinpoint the problem and create treatment strategies.

Diagnostics and Testing Performed by Veterinary Internists

Internal medicine specialists can access various advanced diagnostic tools to verify the underlying cause of your pet’s health issues. Some tests and specialized assessments they may use are:

Comprehensive Blood Tests and Chemistries

A veterinary internist may perform advanced blood tests to identify specific markers of disease or dysfunction.

Advanced Imaging (ultrasound, CT scans)

Using state-of-the-art imaging technology, an internist can identify abnormalities or lesions in your pet’s organs or internal structures.

Biopsies and Endoscopy

Internists may utilize minimally invasive techniques to collect tissue samples or visualize internal structures to obtain valuable diagnostic information in a less invasive manner.

Evaluating Immune and Hormonal Responses

Measuring hormonal and immune responses can shed light on the nature and severity of your pet’s condition and help inform the development of therapeutic strategies.

Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

At a veterinary diagnostic laboratory, comprehensive analyses of various bodily fluids and samples can be done to diagnose your pet’s condition accurately. These labs may perform work in collaboration with the internist. To learn more, you can check this link.

Working with Your Primary Care Veterinarian and an Internal Medicine Specialist

It is essential to have a strong collaboration between your primary care veterinarian and an internal medicine specialist to ensure effective communication and decision-making in your pet’s ongoing care. Primary care veterinarians are instrumental in identifying the need for a specialist and initiating referrals, while internists provide their in-depth expertise to diagnose and treat complex diseases. 

An internist will work closely with your primary care veterinarian and keep them informed of any critical findings, ensuring a smooth handover of your pet’s care in the transition back to their primary veterinary team.

Preventative Measures and Early Intervention

It cannot be overstated how important it is to maintain regular check-ups and early intervention to detect and address potential health problems in your pet. Proper pet care, nutrition, and vigilance in monitoring for changes in your pet’s behavior or health can help ensure that they receive the appropriate attention and minimize the risk of developing complex health issues.


Recognizing when it’s time to consult a veterinary internist is essential to ensuring your beloved pet’s high quality of life. Trust in the expertise of your primary care veterinarian and be proactive in seeking any necessary specialist care as needed. You can keep your pets healthy and happy for years through preventive care and specialist intervention when necessary.