Having a sick animal is an emotionally difficult experience for any pet parent. The uncertainty about what's actually wrong with your much-loved family member and why further diagnostic tests are necessary can be daunting. There are times when pet parents seek a second opinion from another veterinarian, just to have someone else look at their animal with a fresh set of eyes.
It's important that pet parents are honest with themselves about why they are considering a second opinion. Perhaps they'd like to see if there's a way to reach a diagnosis without paying for the testing that their vet recommended. Their friend may have suggested they visit their veterinarian just to see what they think. Pet parents need to be aware that there will be costs associated with a visit to another practice, and the outcome for them and their pet may be the same.
There are three times, though, when seeking a second opinion may be a good idea.
- When you're told that there is no treatment for your pet's condition. In many cases, there are options that may make a difference to your pet's well-being even if they don't cure them.
- When your pet has been diagnosed with cancer. Treatment for this disease can involve surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, which is costly. Taking them to a cancer specialist for an examination may provide extra information on treatment options and how you can expect the disease to respond.
- When your pet needs an expensive and/or invasive treatment or operation that stretches your budget or there is uncertainty about whether it will be successful. While it's likely that your vet is on the right track, a second opinion will set your mind at rest that the financial investment will give you the result you're looking for.
Your veterinarian won't be offended if you ask for a second opinion. After all, the well-being of both you and your pet is their main concern. However, it is best to seek that second opinion from a vet who specializes in the disease or part of the body that's of concern. This will mean for example; you'll see a dermatologist for skin disease or an ophthalmologist to determine the best treatment for your pet's eye condition. For some illnesses, there may be holistic treatment options; if you're interested in this type of care, look for a doctor that is board certified in these alternative therapies. There usually isn't much to be gained by seeking a second opinion from another general practice doctor, as you'll often not gain any more information than that obtained from your original vet.
Treating a sick or injured pet is a team effort, with both pet parent and veterinarian involved in their care. At times, there are advantages to having a third person, a specialist, also involved to confirm the diagnosis and support the treatment alternatives. Asking for a second opinion doesn't mean you don't trust your veterinarian, it just means that you want to explore all options before proceeding. Your vet will understand this and respect your choice. After all, everyone involved wants the best outcome for your pet.