Just like the medical doctors who treat disorders in humans, veterinarians frequently specialize in a particular element of their profession. For example, some specialize in house pets like dogs and cats, or companion animals; others focus on horses or other large farm animals. The ABVP recognizes 11 specialties, among which are practices in shelter medicine, exotic companion mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and birds.
Veterinarians earn board certification by completing exhaustive training above and beyond what they received in veterinary school, to demonstrate excellence in both theoretical and clinical application of their specialty. This process takes a minimum of three years, depending on the specialty. The ABVP designates as Diplomates those veterinarians who complete the process and certifies them in one or more of the specialties.
Perhaps because of the rigorous nature of the training and testing programs, only a small number of veterinarians have earned board certification. Of more than 110,000 veterinarians practicing throughout the U.S., only about 900 have achieved ABVP Diplomate status.