Resources for Animal Owners

DVM vs DACVIM: What's the difference?

Wondering what those letters after your veterinarian's name mean? The credentials DVM signify that an individual has earned a doctorate degree from a school of veterinary medicine in the United States. In other countries, this may be abbreviated as DMV, VMD, etc., but the meaning is essentially the same.

The credentials DACVIM signify that an individual has gone on to achieve Board-certification in one of the six specialties of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, or the ACVIM. The individual is considered a member of the ACVIM, also called an ACVIM Diplomate.

What is an ACVIM Diplomate?

ACVIM Diplomates are Board-certified veterinary specialists who have received advanced training in one or more of the six ACVIM specialties: cardiology, large animal internal medicine, neurology, nutrition, oncology and small animal internal medicine. To become Board-certified, Diplomates must have completed four years of veterinary college, a one-year internship or equivalent, and two to three years in a recognized residency program. There are additional training and caseload requirements that must be met during residency. In addition, candidates must pass a series of rigorous examinations to become an ACVIM Diplomate.

When should I see a veterinary specialist?

Ideally, this is a decision you will make with your primary care veterinarian. They are the doctor that knows your pet, its current problems, and know how veterinary specialists in the area can help. The mutual respect and cooperation between referring veterinarians and specialists is key to the smooth and effective handling of your pet’s care. However, if your pet’s medical issues are not improving despite the best efforts by your primary care veterinarian, a specialist may be able to offer new treatment options. 

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What is the Triad of Care?

We encourage animal owners to think of their visit to a veterinary specialist as an extension of their family veterinarian. Together, the primary care veterinarian, Board-certified veterinary specialist and the animal owner communicate and work together to make up the ideal Triad of Care for the animal.


The six types of ACVIM specialists:


focus on diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the heart and some lung condition

Large Animal Internal Medicine (LAIM) Specialists:

focus on the anatomy, physiology and internal medicine of horses, cattle, sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas and others.


focus on conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, muscles and nerves.


focus on the nutritional management of both healthy animals and those with one or more diseases.


focus on cancer, including the way it develops and how to treat it.

Small Animal Internal Medicine (SAIM) Specialists: 

focus on the anatomy, physiology and internal medicine of cats and dogs; encompasses many sub-disciplines, including gastroenterology, infectious diseases and more.

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