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Being referred to a Specialist hospital can be an anxious time for owners and we do understand that. We have therefore collated some of the questions we frequently get asked in this section, which hopefully will answer some of the concerns you may have prior to or following your appointment with us. If your question is not answered here please call the hospital and we we do our best to help you as quickly as possible.

Find out more

Why has my pet been referred?

Much in the same way a doctor may refer you to a consultant in a hospital for a complex condition or procedure outside of their level of expertise, your vet might suggest that you are referred to a Specialist veterinary consultant.

How do I get referred?

Much like a GP doctor refers you to a consultant, referral to a veterinary specialist must go through your primary care vet. We are unfortunately unable to accept a referral directly from members of the public or to give advice to pet owners on cases that have not been referred. Your primary veterinary surgeon will therefore need to complete an online referral form via our website to start the referral process. Once we have received this our reception staff will then contact you using the information provided and an appointment can be arranged for a mutually convenient date and time.

If you feel that your pet might benefit from a Specialist opinion then you should contact your own veterinary surgeon/practice who is obliged to facilitate a referral if it is appropriate. It may be that referral is not appropriate but this does not mean that we cannot be of help to you and your pet as we can offer advice to veterinary surgeons over the phone or via email. If your pet needs to be seen urgently then your vet should contact us directly to organise this.

Can I make an appointment without a referral from my vet?

Unfortunately, no. This has to be arranged by your own primary veterinary surgeon. Maximum benefit from a referral is achieved by accumulating a whole series of information about your pet. This includes your pet’s previous medical history along with laboratory tests, radiographs, biopsy results, etc, that have already been obtained. This information is best provided directly to us by your own veterinary surgeon.

Will my vet be offended if I ask to be referred?

In short … no. It should not affect the relationship you have with your local vet as this is the same as asking your doctor if you can see a consultant. We work closely with all local vets, providing both advice over the phone or opportunity for referral to ensure your pets get the diagnosis and/or treatments they need when they need it most. Your vet will understand that sometimes expert help is needed.

What is a Veterinary Specialist?

A Veterinary Specialist is similar to a consultant doctor. A referral to a member of our expert team gives you the peace of mind that your pet is in the very best of hands.

Find out more about what it takes to become a Veterinary Specialist.

Why should I travel further to see a Specialist?

A Specialist is an expert in their particular field. An appointment with one of our Specialists will generally be much longer than at your local practice meaning you will have a lot more time to ask about the condition, the tests and what the likely outcome is going to be. The Specialist will take time to explain in detail what will be done and how much it will cost.

Your vet may offer for you to see a Certificate holder, CertAVP or Advanced Practitioner that may be closer to you. This, however, is not same as seeing a Specialist as they do not work at a ‘consultant’ level like you would expect to find in a human hospital. Certificate holders are accredited as having done extra study in an area of interest but are not recognised as experts or Specialists in their field.

Learn more about a Veterinary Specialist.

So, I’ve been referred – what’s next?

If your pet has been referred to NiVS, you will be sent confirmation of your appointment by email. Your vet will send us your pet’s history and any test results or images your pet might have already had, which will be reviewed by one of our veterinary consultants before you arrive. At the time of your appointment and after a thorough examination, your clinician will discuss your pet’s specific health issues with you, whether further tests and/or treatments will be needed, as well as costs and prognosis. Should your pet require further diagnostic work or procedures they may then be admitted to the hospital.

Our aim is to provide the best service possible for you and your pet and to make the process as straight forward as possible. We work closely with your local vets and will send them reports to keep them informed and up-to-date on your pet’s treatment.

Find out more on how to prepare for your appointment, what to expect when you arrive, and what happens if your pet is admitted to the hospital.

Is there parking available when I arrive?

Yes – there is a spacious carpark on your left as you drive through the gate in front of reception.

How long will the appointment be?

Your first consultation appointment with the veterinary Specialist will be approximately 45-60 minutes. Any further appointments will be approximately 30 minutes.

What happens if my pet needs further tests or treatment?

If your pet needs any further investigations or surgery they may need to stay with us whilst these are carried out. Your clinician will discuss the results with you, as well as any further actions that may need to be taken. Once all necessary procedures have been completed, your pet will be discharged with a care plan. We’ll also give your primary vet an update.

Learn more about what happens if your pet is admitted to our hospital.

Who will look after my pet?

Our experienced, friendly and compassionate team of Specialist vets and nurses will look after your pet during their stay with us. We endeavour to treat every patient as if they were our own pet. Click on one of the links below to learn more about the people looking after your pets.

Where can I stay overnight?

Please check out our local area information for a few local places to stay and other amenities which may be useful during your visit to us.

What happens if my pet has to stay? Can I visit my pet?

Visits to your pet can of course be beneficial, but we always advise discussing individual needs on a case-by-case basis.

Your pet will have 24-hour care, with experienced veterinary surgeons and nurses on site around the clock, for your peace of mind.

What are your opening times?

Our reception team will be available on the phone from 8am until 7pm. If your pet is staying with us we can arrange times for you to call and speak to the team members looking after your pet.

When do I pay for treatment?

We ask that you pay 50% of the estimate for treatment at the time of admission with the balance due on discharge. If a direct claim has been agreed, we will require the insurance excess and administration fee to be paid at your first appointment.

Will you tell my vet what has happened?

We will always report back to your vet in detail to ensure they know what treatment has been carried out and what ongoing care may be required.

What do I do if my pet deteriorates after being in hospital?

If your pet has been a patient of NiVS within the last six months you should contact the practice on 02892 680 681 to make an appointment. If it is outside of our opening hours of 8am to 7pm please contact MiNightVet on 02892 680 680 to make an appointment. In the case of an emergency, they will stabilise your pet and transfer your pet into the care of NiVS in the morning.

If there is a new problem with your pet, unrelated to the  problem they were seen for by  NiVS,  you will need to contact your own first opinion practice who can treat your pet and decide if referral back to NiVS is the best option for them.


Will I always have to come back to NiVS for follow up?

In many cases following referral, long term management is best undertaken at your local practice in conjunction with advice from the referral Specialist dealing with your case. We will always report in detail back to your local vets to ensure they know what treatment has been carried out and what ongoing care may be required.

How can I give feedback about service I received or treatment for my pet?

Please review us on Google or Facebook or send an email to the clinical directors on

Who do I contact about a complaint?

Our aim is to provide the highest standard of care for you and your pet and we hope you do not have reason to be dissatisfied with our service. However, if you do have any concerns please put them in writing to our clinical directors at or alternatively write in to The Clinical Directors, Northern Ireland Veterinary Specialists, 50 Old Coach Road, Hillsborough, Co. Down, BT26 6PB.


Please read our complaints policy (PDF 1.32MB) for further information.

COVID-19 Update

Our practices are open and providing routine, urgent and emergency referral care for your patients. We continue to work safely with social distancing and a combination of telephone consultations and on-site examinations. GP vets should contact our referral centres directly for clinical advice on cases.