Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Word On Second Opinions

With Jasmine's health being a constant challenge, veterinary topics are a daily subject of our conversations.

If there is a single take-home point of my blog, it is this:

Your dog's health is ultimately in your hands. Making the right decisions for your dog is your responsibility and you cannot pass it onto somebody else and not regret it.

Yes, it sucks. It's a lot of pressure and it involves a lot of homework.

Do I have to go to vet school just because I want to have a dog?!?!

Of course not. But there are things you better learn about.

Choosing the right veterinarian and knowing when to seek a second opinion can be the difference between sickness and health, and sometimes even life and death of your dog!

Not all vets were created equal and even the best vet can make a mistake. So now what?

How often do we put our dogs at the mercy of an incompetent vet and question nothing? Or we do question things but do nothing about it?

Swimming pools, Kitchens, Council flats and KarmaFor your dog's sake, don't let it be you!

During one of our conversations hubby came up with a great idea to illustrate the importance of questioning things and seeking second opinion.

I decided to turn it into an article and it is now published on VetLive blog—Leak under the Kitchen Sink.

If the situation you find yourself in feels wrong, you have the right to a second opinion! 

And you owe it to your dog and to your own peace of mind.

Of course when we say we want a second opinion—whether we don't like the diagnosis or the proposed treatment—what we really want is a different opinion.

Well, you're in luck.

With few exceptions, the chances that a different vet will come to the same conclusions—the ones you didn't like in the first place—are really quite low.

When after she recovered from her ACL surgeries Jasmine started limping on her hind leg again, we first took her to the main vet. He concluded that she had hurt her muscle.

When her TCVM vet examined her, he figured that it was likely a tendon injury.

When we took her to a chiropractor/physical therapist for treatment, she decided that Jasmine had a problem with her knee after all.

Three vets—three opinions. This happened last fall, and wouldn't you know it, it happened recently again!

In case you're wondering who turned out to be right, it was her main vet.

“Ten different doctors will come up with ten different diagnoses based on the same data”
—Gregory House

How is it possible that you might get as many different opinions as many vets you consult? 

I am starting to question whether there is such a thing as an objective opinion in the first place. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that there isn't. The meaning of the word opinion itself is inherently subjective.

Any conclusion is an interpretation of the available facts based on previous experience (or lack of thereof). 

Though it's really the kind rather than the amount of experience that matters. That will determine where and how the vet will choose to look and how they interpret what they see.

There's truth in the adage: "Choose your specialist - choose your disease." Doesn't work this way with specialists only!


It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
" 'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

I'm not going to quote the whole thing, if you want to read all of it check it out here.

Bottom line is that if you desire a second (or even third, fourth, fifth) opinion, the chances that you will get them are good.

Here comes the catch though.

Now that you have all these opinions, you still have to choose one!

So how do you do that?

After all this trouble you're back to where you started – homework. 

There is no way around it. Whether it involves finding a vet so awesome that you simply take their word for it, or researching all the possibilities that had been laid out for you, you still do have to do your homework.

You can go with your gut, that often works, but you still need to root it in some information.

Of course you can always toss a coin. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe …

However you decide to arrive to your decision, make sure you will be able to live with it afterward.

It's your dog's health!

Related articles:
Finding Dr. Wonderful And Your Mutt's Mayo Clinic: Getting Started
Making Tough Medical Decisions For Your Dog
It's Your Dog's Health
Does Your Vet Listen To You?
Help! My Dog Is Purple!
Veterinary Drive-Thru: Coming Soon To A Veterinary Hospital Near You!


  1. I find doing a little internet research on the symptoms or even the vet's recommendation makes my better informed and more confident with the diagnosis and/or treatment. This happened recently when our older dog was eventually diagnosed with demodectic mange. The vet didn't catch it the first time (probably because the symptoms weren't as pronounced), but when I took him back with my suspicions some time later, he did some scrapings and now my boy is getting better!

  2. Yes, that is exactly the point, we need to do our homework! :-)

  3. One of the reasons I love working at a progressive animal hospital is the opportunity to confer with other doctors about various cases. It's just so true that everyone has differing opinions!

  4. Quite fascinating though, isn't it? Glad you have wonderful colleagues to bounce ideas around with! If I won a lottery I'd build a teaching hospital for our vet - House M.D. style :-)

  5. Hi Y'all,

    Great article. My Humans weren't happy with one clinic and changed and then the new young vet felt I had a problem she wasn't sure about, so she referred me to a specialist...and WOW! What a difference in my life, and as a result, my Humans' lives too! (Yes, for the BETTER)

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  6. Hi Hawk! So glad to hear that your problem got fixed! What was wrong?

  7. Thanks to you Jana, I finally plucked up the courage and seeked a second opinion for my Precious. Last week has been the worst and I thought I was losing Precious. Tests' results are still not in but Precious is much better. He also enjoyed a nice warm shower this morning and is looking forward to his walks again.
    regards Marthese and Precious from Malta

  8. Glad the palliative treatment is helping Precious feel better! Fingers crossed that the lab results will provide some answers and Precious can get all better!

  9. It was hard for me to seek a second opinion. This was the second veterinary Precious has been referred to. I spent sleepless nights trying to find a diagnosis and a cure for my boy on the net. Precious has been having so many medicines, gone tru a surgery and still was undiagnosed. I wanted to trust the doctor's opinion altough at times i felt uncomfortable with his decisions. A part of me wanted to seek help elsewhere but a part of me was scared of having to start all over again. Finally I made up my mind I had enough of yoyoing medicines and after a message from you Jana to seek a second opinion I went to another doctor. I was scared but it was a decision I had to make as it is very true what you say, that we are responsible for our dog's health. I'm glad I seeked a second opinion even though Precious is not doing great I know I took the right decision, just long to see my boy up and about steeling our things again being the naughty puppy he's always been. It's been nearly 4months now, hopefully situation will get better.
    thanks for your support Jana
    regards, Marthese

  10. Often, with the lab results available the new vet can use them. Sometimes they want to run their own further tests.

    The thing is, if something isn't working, it's time to try something else.

    Your new vet sounds like he might be on top of things. Did you try the antibiotics and enzyme treatment yet?