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Getting a Second Opinion
Your senior dog has been diagnosed with cancer, heart failure, or another life threatening illness.
What do you do?
For many owners the next step is getting a second opinion, especially if you feel your veterinarian has not fully answered your questions or offered all treatment options available.
Also consider seeking advice if your dog has begun treatment but her condition has not improved and your veterinarian is unwilling to try another procedure or drug.
“Clients shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting a second opinion,” said Laura Garrett, DVM, and assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. “It is a very reasonable thing to do in the medical world.”
You can get a second opinion from either a general practitioner or a board certified veterinary specialist who has undergone three to six additional years of training for specific problems, such as heart disease, cancer, and neurological issues.
“Unlike people who often need a referral from their general physician before they can see a specialist, animal owners can contact veterinary specialist at any time,” said Barry Kipperman, DVM, of VetCare in Dublin, California.
Before the appointment, obtain a copy of your pet’s medical records, including x-rays and ultra sound images.
You can either get a copy by going to the veterinary hospital, or the new veterinarian can call and request it. (If your veterinarian won’t provide a copy, contact the state board of veterinary medicine to find out about record ownership laws in your area.)
Getting a second opinion can be costly. Be prepared to pay for the office visit and to repeat tests with abnormal results.
Often times, veterinarians redo tests in order to confirm an abnormality and to find out if it’s worsened or improved between appointments.
If the second opinion is different from the first one, a third by a board certified specialist may be necessary. Or, if you already consulted with a specialist, you could accept that opinion since he or she has more knowledge than a general practitioner about the disease.
If the second veterinarian agrees with the first one, your next step is to decide on the best treatment for your pet.
Of course, you’ll also need to figure out which veterinarian to use. Select the one you feel most comfortable with and that has experience in treating similar cases. Two good questions to ask veterinarians are:
- Have you seen this problem often and have you had successful outcomes?
- How much experience have you had with this particular problem or procedure?
Communication is extremely important. Make sure you fully understand how this disease will affect your senior dog (both short and long term), what treatment options are available, and the cost involved.
Ask for written material or online resources to review at home. This gives you more time to absorb the information. Then write down questions and consult with your veterinarian again to get answers.
When your dog is ill it can be a frustrating and emotionally difficult time. If you’re having trouble thinking clearly, ask a trusted friend or family member to come with you to appointments and for help in making decisions.
~ Staff, SeniorDogs.com
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