Gut Feelings and Second Opinions

by Nancy Kay, DVM 

I am a “regular” at the local corner coffee stop, so much so that my drink is often ready for me before I’ve had a chance to order it.  Amongst the eclectic group of shmoozers gathered most mornings are the schmoozers’ dogs. 

That morning while waiting for my coffee, Molly, a massive Rottweiler mix, greeted me. 

As usually, her voice and body language told me in no uncertain terms that she expected me to toss her a cookie (a bin full of dog biscuits resides beneath the shelf holding Half-n-Half, sugar, and other coffee accoutrements).

I noticed that Molly’s demands were less vigorous than usual.  

My veterinary antennae began to quiver and I paused for closer inspection. I was aghast to see one of Molly’s eyes almost closed and filled with pus; the other had a completely cloudy cornea. 

The owner observed my startled expression and explained that she had taken her darling Molly to see the vet three times in the past couple of weeks. 

In spite of treatment with various ointments, her eye problems were clearly worsening.

I bit my tongue for approximately one millisecond before my concern for Molly forced me to question, “Have you considered getting a second opinion?”  The owner responded that the thought had crossed her mind, but she’d not acted on this impulse- she didn’t want to hurt her veterinarian’s feelings.  After some serious coaching- 

“A second opinion results in a new diagnosis as often as 30 percent of the time.” 

“Veterinarians are used to people desiring second opinions.”  “What’s more important, Molly’s health or your vet’s feelings?”-

The owner agreed that it was time to contact our local board certified ophthalmologist.

Is this story unusual? 

No, but I wish it were. When it comes to our own health issues or those of a beloved four-legged family member it’s not uncommon that, even when our gut tells us it’s time to consider a second opinion, we ignore the feeling.  I believe that this gut feeling, sixth sense, intuition, or experiential wisdom- whatever one chooses to call it- is a true gift.  In fact it is one of the few things that actually seem to improve as we age. All we need to do is pay attention to this gift rather than ignore it. 

Second opinions are invaluable for our health and our peace of mind.  

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Molly and her eyes will be sparkling and bright the next time I see her.  


Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Did you get your copy of Speaking for Spot yet?

If not, go get the book. It's likely the most important dog book you'll ever read.

Articles by Dr. Kay:
Reasonable Expectations: The Ability to Discuss Your Internet Research With Your Vet
Finding Dr. Wonderful And Your Mutt's Mayo Clinic: Getting Started
Even The Best Veterinarian Can Make A Mistake
A Different Way to Spay
Making Tough Medical Decisions For Your Dog: Lily's Story
If You Don't Know What A Lick Granuloma Is, Count Your Blessings!
Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning 
Talking Teeth 
Urinary Accidents
I Can't Believe He Ate That! Foreign Body Ingestion 
What Caused Murphy's And Ruska'sPneumothorax?
The Whole Picture: When The Test Results Don't Match What's In Front Of You 
Stop that Scratching
Veterinarians And Vaccines: A Slow Learning Curve
What is a Veterinary Specialist? 
Veterinary Specialists: Oncologist 
Veterinary Specialists: Cardiologist 
Veterinary Specialists: Internist 
Veterinary Specialists: Neurologist
Veterinary Specialists: Surgeons
Nutritional Management of Canine Epilepsy
Have a Miniature Schnauzer? Know about Sick Sinus Syndrome (SSS)
Puddles: Potential Health Hazard for Your Dog
What Is Glomerular Disease?
Leaky Dogs: A Primer on Urinary Incontinence  
Eight Tips for Coping With Your Dog’s Age-Related Hearing Loss


  1. I am a firm believer in second opinions. I bet the owner was glad you brought it up.

    1. With Jasmine's issues we were so stuck ... a second opinion was what saved her. If you're not getting anywhere it's time for a second pair of eyes.


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