Asking for a second medical opinion can always seem a little complicated, whether the patient is human or an animal. You probably have a good relationship with your veterinarian and the last thing you want to do is imply any lack of trust. But if for some reason your pet is not responding to repeated treatments, you may feel uneasy about the situation. You want your pet to get better and you don’t want to hurt your vet’s feelings.
The fact is that despite treatment, sometimes a pet doesn’t respond, perhaps due to an elusive diagnosis. As with humans, pets can encounter rare ailments that are best diagnosed by a specialist. Many excellent vets are “general practitioners,” and would be the first to admit that they don’t have the same depth of experience in a particular malady as does a specialist. Asking for a second opinion is sometimes the only way to have your pet get better.
Types of Specialists
Your vet will carefully consider who to recommend when asked for a referral. There are many different types of veterinary specialists, including:
Most vets will refer you to a specialist rather than another general practitioner, and this makes a lot of sense. Going from one GP to another is probably not going to be as productive. Another GP may end up in the same place as your own vet, and then you still will have to make arrangements to see a specialist. So, seeing a specialist may be more helpful.
It’s Worth Being Sure
Remember, vets are dedicated to healing your pets, and probably feel terrible when a treatment appears to be ineffective. A specialist is likely to have more expertise in their field. Sometimes, just getting a new perspective can be helpful. Having a trusting relationship with your veterinarian can facilitate the process.
Another reason to get a second opinion is if your vet feels an expensive or invasive procedure is necessary. Another vet can look at all the evidence and make an independent recommendation. A specialist is in the best position to assess the pros and cons of many treatments, and to gauge the relative likelihood of success. If you feel the recommended treatment is too extreme or expensive, your vet will be able to offer alternative suggestions to at least keep your pet as comfortable as possible. For example, many humans decline chemotherapy – it’s up to you to ultimately decide whether to subject your pet to this treatment. If you decide against it, your vet can provide palliative care that will ease your pet’s pain and emotional distress.
It’s Your Decision
An animal referral center might be a good place to get a second opinion, since it likely has a full roster of specialists who can diagnose and treat difficult cases. Some facilities, such as ours at the Animal Clinic of Morris Plains, can bring in a surgical specialist for advanced cases when needed. Your pet might need surgery, which will require the services of several specialists as well as the necessary facilities. Perhaps you had enough foresight to buy pet insurance when your pet was still young – this might save you the thousands of dollars that advanced treatment usually requires. Without insurance, you might be hard pressed to afford pet surgery or other complicated treatments. There are special credit cards just for this purpose that provide an extended period of no-interest payments – check out CreditCare, one of the most popular.
Even if a specialist confirms your vet’s original diagnosis – the money spent on a second opinion may be worth the peace of mind knowing your pet received every opportunity for the proper medical treatment. In some cases, when the pet’s suffering cannot be alleviated, your veterinarian may recommend euthanasia. If a second opinion agrees, its advice best heeded, because you never want to see your pet suffer. An open and honest discussion about the option of getting a second opinion is always appropriate.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.