What is a Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist?
A veterinary internal medicine specialist, or veterinary internist, specializes in diagnosing and treating complex diseases that often affect multiple organ systems. These diseases can be either chronic, having been present for many months or years, or could be imminently life-threatening having been only present for minutes. Veterinary internists treat patients that have medically, as opposed to surgically, treatable diseases. Veterinary internists specialize in either large animal (horses, cattle) or small animal (dogs, cats) internal medicine.
Veterinary internists have completed rigorous training after receiving a four-year Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. This additional training includes a one-year internship, followed by a three-year residency in internal medicine. Completion of the residency requires clinical training as well as teaching at a veterinary school or similar veterinary specialty hospital. Also required is the completion and publication of research related to veterinary medicine, and finally the passing of a two separate written exams taken one year apart administered by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). Upon successful completion of the internship and residency requirements, and successfully passing the required examinations, a veterinarian becomes recognized and awarded Diplomate status by the ACVIM.
Examples of diseases that veterinary internists commonly diagnose and treat include respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis, kidney failure, liver diseases, infectious diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, pancreatitis, endocrine (hormone) diseases such thyroid disorders and diabetes mellitus, and blood abnormalities such as anemia and low white blood cell counts. Some of the diseases can be severe enough to require admission to the hospital for 24-hour intensive care.
Could my pet benefit from seeing a veterinary internist?
Your pet may benefit from a consultation and treatment by a veterinary internist if a condition or symptom remains undiagnosed, their condition requires 24-hour intensive care, advanced imaging, or endoscopy is required or they have multiple simultaneous diseases present. Your pet may also benefit from seeing a veterinary internist if the current treatment for a previously diagnosed condition has not been as effective as anticipated.
How can I get an appointment for my pet to see the internal medicine specialist?
We are a referral-only practice and only see pets that are referred to us by another veterinarian. We do not accept walk-ins or client-scheduled appointments. You must be established with a family veterinarian who provides your pet with routine healthcare.
If you think that your pet may benefit from seeing one of our internists, you should first discuss this with your family veterinarian. Your veterinarian will then contact our office and provide us with all the pertinent medical information about your pet. One of our staff members will then call you to set up an appointment.
You may also call us at (912) 721-6410 if you would like us to call your veterinarian to discuss whether a referral may be beneficial for your pet.
How will you work with my family veterinarian?
The veterinarians and staff of Savannah Veterinary Internal Medicine & Intensive Care are proud to consider ourselves an extension of your family veterinarian. We work in collaboration with, and are not a replacement for, the family veterinarian that your pet sees on a regular basis. We do not provide vaccinations or routine health care. We do not sell heartworm medications, flea and tick prevention, or pet food. We provide specialized diagnostics and treatments, and have access to specialized equipment not routinely available at your family veterinarian. For hospitalized patients, a veterinarian is in our hospital 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year to monitor and care for your pet.
Appointments with our specialists are referral-only. Your family veterinarian must contact us to arrange for you and your pet to have a consultation with one of our internists. After a consultation with us and diagnostic tests performed, a treatment plan is formulated and discussed with you as well as your veterinarian.
Future rechecks and follow up care is typically performed by your family veterinarian. On occasion, complex diseases may require several rechecks with the internist before follow up with your family veterinarian resumes. If any rechecks are performed by our internists, your family veterinarian is kept updated as to your pet’s progress, so that as a healthcare team, your pet receives the benefits of both veterinarian’s insight and knowledge.
At Savannah Veterinary Internal Medicine & Intensive Care, we only diagnose, treat and make recommendations on the specific problem for which your pet has been referred. Your family veterinarian is still your primary veterinarian and they will continue to diagnose, treat and monitor other diseases or conditions for which your pet was not referred.
How should I prepare for my visit?
We will ask your family veterinarian to FAX us copies of your pet’s medical records before the day of your appointment. Please obtain copies of X-rays and results of other tests performed by your veterinarian that cannot be sent to us by FAX.
On the day of your appointment, please do not feed your pet for 12 hours before your appointment time. Your pet should always have access to water. Some patients, such as diabetics and puppies and kittens, should not have food withheld, therefore please call us to discuss this if this applies to your pet or if you have questions. Medications should be given on time as previously prescribed by your family veterinarian. You may give medications with a very small treat.
Please bring the bottles of all medications that your pet is currently receiving, or has recently finished. If you cannot bring the actual bottles, please write down the names of the medications, the strength, concentration and the frequency that the medications are being given.
Please arrive at your appointment 15 minutes early so that patient registration and permission forms may be completed.
If your pet has been referred to us for a kidney or bladder problem, please do not allow them to urinate for four hours before your appointment. It is important to not let your dog urinate once they arrive at our hospital if they have been referred for a urinary related problem. For most urinary problems, it is important that your pet be examined with a full bladder. Also we may want to obtain a urine sample for analysis.
What should I expect at my visit?
When you arrive at our facility, you will be asked to fill out a patient registration form. You and your pet will then be brought into an examination room where a technician will obtain your pet’s medical history. Your pet will then be brought to our treatment area where their vital signs and body weight will be obtained and examined by the internist. Following the exam, the doctor will come to the exam room and speak with you about their findings and recommendations. No tests will be performed before the internist meets and discusses your pet’s condition and diagnostic plan with you.
If your pet is scheduled to have an ultrasound, the body area to be examined (abdomen or side of chest) will be shaved so that the ultrasound probe can make contact with the skin. This procedure is typically performed while you wait. However, since the procedure can take 30-45 minutes you may also leave the facility for a short time if you would prefer. Sedation or anesthesia are not typically needed for an ultrasound. However, if for some reason your pet needs to be sedated, this will not be performed without your permission. After the ultrasound, the internist will again meet with you in an exam room and discuss the results and any further recommendations.
Sometimes diagnostic tests may require several hours to perform, and in that case, we may ask if you could leave your pet with us for the majority of the day while those tests are being performed. The internist will discuss and arrange this with you during your consultation. If your pet stays with us for the day, we require that you come back to the hospital by 6:00 pm to discuss the day’s results with the doctor and to pick up your pet.
After any initial testing is completed, if it is determined that your pet needs an anesthetic procedure (e.g. endoscopy, CT scan), these tests may be scheduled for a different day. On that day you will drop your pet off at the hospital in the morning, they will have their procedure performed during the day, and then you will pick your pet up by 6:00 pm.
What should I expect if my pet is admitted to the hospital?
If your pet’s condition warrants admission to the hospital and treatment as an inpatient, they will be cared for in our 24-hour intensive care unit.
Although you may visit your pet at anytime while they are in the hospital, we encourage you to visit between the hours of 10:00 am and 5:00 pm (weekdays) when we will be available to answer any questions you may have. If your schedule does not allow you to visit during these hours, visitation at another time can be arranged.
During evenings and weekends, most visits will be coordinated by the staff of the Savannah Veterinary Emergency Clinic (SVEC). Although you may visit at any time during the weekend, we ask you for your patience if, when you arrive at the hospital to visit, the SVEC and the waiting room are busy with emergency patients. Please note that the staff and the veterinarians of the SVEC are not authorized to provide medical updates for patients under our care. All pertinent medical updates and information about your pet will be provided to you directly by the internist. We ask you to refrain from questioning the SVEC staff about your pet’s medical progress.
While your pet is in the hospital, the internist will call you each morning between the hours of 8:30 and 10:00 to provide a medical update, and to discuss your pet’s plan for the day. At other times of the day until 5:00 pm, you are welcome to call and receive updates on your pet’s progress. You will speak with one of our technicians who is directly caring for your pet. Please note that we do not answer the phone between the hours of 8:00-9:00 am and 5:00-6:00 pm as these are the times when we are in rounds, discussing each hospitalized patient’s progress and care.
We have a variety of foods to feed your pet while they are in the hospital. We carry various prescription diets, liquid canine/feline elemental diets and baby food to entice our intensive care patients to eat. Although you are not required to provide your pet’s food while they are in the hospital, you may do so. We may also ask you to bring something special for your pet that may tempt them to eat.
We are frequently asked if dogs admitted to the hospital are taken for walks. All of our canine patients are taken for walks on our property every 4-6 hours, depending on their needs. Cats are always provided a litter box and we strive to give them privacy within their cage.
What is your payment policy?
Although we love animals and wish we could help every four-legged creature pro bono, we would not be in business very long or be able to help very many animals. Therefore, payment is expected when services are provided.
For patients that are admitted to the hospital, an estimate of anticipated fees will be provided and a financial deposit required. For patients hospitalized for extended periods, additional deposits will be requested during the course of their stay.
Accepted payment methods include cash, checks, all major credit cards, and CareCredit. Unfortunately, we do not offer a payment plan at this time.
If you have pet insurance, we will be more than happy to provide you with the necessary supporting documentation and medical records, and assist you with the submission of the claim.
What is a registered veterinary technician?
A technician is recognized as and awarded registered veterinary technician (RVT) status by the state of Georgia only after having completed an associate degree in applied science (veterinary technology), followed by the successful passing of a national and local board examination.
The state of Georgia recognizes RVTs’ accomplishments and expertise in veterinary medicine. Certain tasks within a veterinary hospital are only allowed to be performed by registered veterinary technicians, emphasizing the importance in training and experience that these tasks demand.
We are proud that all of the technicians employed by Savannah Veterinary Internal Medicine & Intensive Care are RVTs in good standing with the state of Georgia.
My pet was admitted to the Savannah Veterinary Emergency Clinic; can I see the internist?
If your pet has been admitted to the Savannah Veterinary Emergency Clinic (SVEC) and you would like a consultation with one of our internists, simply inform the attending emergency veterinarian.
Each morning we accept referrals from the SVEC that have internal medicine related conditions and diseases. We will contact your family veterinarian to discuss your pet’s current medical condition, obtain your pet’s medical records as well as to coordinate and facilitate your pet’s ongoing care.
The SVEC shares a building with us, so if your pet’s care transfers to us, your pet remains in the same building as they have been in. You will not need to be present in the morning for this transfer of care to take place.