What is a veterinary specialist?

A Veterinary Specialist is considered to be an expert in a particular field. They undertake a training program which starts with an internship followed by a structured 3-4 year Residency program that enables them to develop a very detailed knowledge of a topic.

They then achieve internationally recognised Board Level (Diploma or Fellowship) examinations, and fulfil criteria that give them the highest level of recognition of expertise that can be attained in a veterinary field.

Veterinary Specialists working in Ireland are registered with the Veterinary Council of Ireland. The Veterinary Council maintains the Specialist Register which can be viewed here:


Referral to a Veterinary Specialist is made by your primary care (or first opinion) veterinarian. Pet owners can have reassurance that Specialists are highly skilled and therefore in a position to use their expertise to provide a high quality service.

Post-graduate qualifications specific to Veterinary Ophthalmology:

The veterinary profession has levels of post graduate study available for vets interested in ophthalmology. General practitioners who have a strong interest in a subject usually study towards a Certificate. Examples include the Certificate provided by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (CertVOphthal), the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA PGCertSAOphthal) and Improve International (PgC(SAO)). Following obtaining a Certificate, some stay at this level and see referral cases. However a veterinary surgeon can go on perform extensive further study and complete several years of training in a formal Residency, studying under a recognised Specialist. After this they are permitted to sit for the Diploma (ECVO or ACV0) or Fellowship (FANZCVS) examination, and only after achieving this high level qualification are they allowed to apply for Specialist status.