Should You Get a Second Opinion on Veterinary Care?

Asking for a second opinion, just like you would from your own primary care physician, can feel uncomfortable but is sometimes necessary.

Here’s how to know when to ask for a second opinion and how to broach the subject with your vet.

Trust Your Gut and Your Vet

For routine veterinary care, things like your pet’s annual exam or treatment of an upset stomach or minor wound, you should already see a vet you trust to take care of those basic tasks. If you don’t trust your current vet for routine appointments, it’s time to find a new vet. If you feel confident in your veterinarian, and you think that the treatment or protocol prescribed for your pet makes sense, then skip a second opinion. If, however, you feel uncomfortable about any aspect of your pet’s care, feel free to ask another practitioner’s opinion before agreeing to treatment.

Explore Alternatives

If you’re interested in other modalities of veterinary care—say, acupuncture or chiropractic care—ask your vet for a recommendation. Many vets are happy to work with owners to develop the best possible care for their pets, but it’s your responsibility to keep your vet informed about any treatment (including supplements) that your pet undergoes at another office. It’s smart to utilize the experience of alternative practitioners when concerned about a treatment your vet has recommended; however, try to think of them and your vet as part of the same team.

Consider Specialties

Just like our physicians, not all vets are experts in all things. In fact, specialties are growing in animal hospitals everywhere. For dogs with extreme skin conditions, for example, your generalist vet might know of a dermatology specialist who can treat your pet’s unique issue. Same goes for serious or rare conditions. Your vet will be able to refer you to an oncologist, a cardiologist, an ophthalmologist or whatever specialty your pet might require. After receiving any specific diagnosis for your pet, you should always feel comfortable asking your vet for a referral to a specialist in that area.

Ask: Should I Get a Second Opinion?

Sometimes your pet doesn’t respond to your vet’s prescribed treatment. Or your vet hasn’t yet come up with an accurate diagnosis of a problem. Or, even if all’s going well, you should feel confident asking your vet, “Should I get a second opinion?” Pet owners often think that their vet might get hurt feelings or feel like you’re calling into question his or her expertise. Not at all! Asking for a second opinion shouldn’t make pet owners feel uncomfortable, and vets should be willing to provide a referral.

Meet the Author: Maggie Marton

Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.

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