If you went to your doctor with a problem but left feeling unsure about the diagnosis or treatment plan, or you just wanted more information, you may decide to seek a second opinion from another doctor. But can you do the same with your vet? In short, yes, absolutely. In this article, we will look at when you may opt for a second opinion, what to expect and how to go about it. 

Why may I want a second opinion?

Firstly, don’t be afraid to look for a second opinion. Pets cannot talk (if they could, my job would be a lot easier!) so you have to advocate for them in order to receive the most appropriate treatment. A good relationship between the vet and the client is vital, but don’t be afraid of offending your vet if you feel you want to speak to someone else. You may wish to get a second opinion for a number of reasons. 

Maybe your pet has a complex condition. Perhaps they’re not responding to treatment. It could even be that getting an actual diagnosis is proving challenging. Alternatively, on a more personal level, maybe an aspect of trust has gone from the relationship, concerns about the cost of ongoing tests and treatments, or reassurance that you’re doing the right thing. You may just have a gut feeling that something’s amiss.

Often it can help to speak to the vet involved first as there may be a breakdown in communication or a misunderstanding. They may be under the impression, for example, that you want further tests carried out when actually you’d rather trial a treatment first, or vice versa. But if you do feel that the way forward is to consult with another vet, then what happens?

How do I get a second opinion?

There are many ways in which you can seek a second opinion. It may well be possible to see a different vet within the same practice, or you could choose to visit another nearby general practice veterinary clinic. 

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Some cases may also benefit from seeing a vet with a specialism, such as orthopaedics or neurology. This is often in a referral hospital and will likely need to be organised by your veterinary practice. The second opinion vet will look at your pet’s case from the beginning, including;

  • when the problem first started
  • how it’s progressed
  • the symptoms involved
  • the results of any tests carried out
  • any response or lack of response to treatments already given

It makes a lot of sense for them to be able to access your pet’s clinical history. You can ask your vets to print it out for you or they can send it straight across, along with any blood work or images such as x-rays. The second vet will assess the case and discuss with you the potential options for moving forward. Once you have all the information, you can then decide on the best course of action. You will be under no obligation to stay with the second vet and are completely within your rights to return to your usual veterinary practice for any follow-up.

The one situation where a second opinion would not be appropriate would be in an emergency. By looking around for another vet, you could be delaying life-saving treatment for your pet. Some emergency cases will benefit from seeing a specialist referral vet, but these should be referred by your vet once assessed and any urgent treatment initiated. 

The basic principle is the same – talk to your existing vet practice to arrange it, if possible. They will have to send the notes over to the second opinion vet anyway.

Getting the right outcome for your pet

At the end of the day, everyone wants the same outcome. We all want to do what’s best for the animal and to see them improve with treatment once we have a correct diagnosis. By getting a second opinion, you are not going to hurt your vet’s feelings or imply they don’t know what they’re doing. In a lot of cases, your vet will be aware when a case isn’t working and will welcome a fresh pair of eyes, so speak up. Your furry, hairy, scaly or feathered friend will thank you for it. 

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