Angie's List: Tips to navigate specialty veterinarian care for your pet

LEWISTON, ID - According to estimates by the American Pet Products Association, Americans will spend over $13 billion on general and specialty care this year.

Medical specialties once reserved for human health care continue to expand into the realm of veterinary care. However, with specialized care come increased costs.

"When going to a specialized veterinarian, you need to plan ahead for the costs," said Angie's List owner Angie Hicks. "Talk to your general veterinarian about how much it's going to cost so you are not surprised. More than 50% of the respondents to a recent Angie's List poll have used a specialty vet and 27% of them said it cost more than $2,500."

From a cardiologist to a radiologist, verify the veterinarian's board certification. Board certified veterinary specialists must complete an internship and residency in their specialized field which typically means an additional three to five years of training and required exams.

"Because his (Tiberius) pain crisis was really beyond what the typical vet clinic is capable of handling," said pet owner Kay Miller. "Not that they are not good and not that they don't understand medicine and what's wrong with dogs, but they don't have the extra special certified people on their staff or the extra equipment."

Think ahead before an accident or illness occurs about how much you want to spend on your pet's health.

"We knew from six months on that he had hip problems and we were going to have to watch and we did," said Dan Miller. "It stabilized until he got worse at about 5 and that's when we had a hip transplant."

Research pet insurance options to plan for unexpected expenses, but be sure to ask about deductibles, exclusions, co-pays and caps.

Angie also said you should manage your expectations: Some pet health conditions cannot be resolved, no matter how much money you spend on treatment. Seek a second opinion if you're not satisfied, but be prepared if nothing can be done.