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How To Get Your Questions Answered Or Seek A Second Veterinary Opinion


Veterinary exam room by Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM

Veterinary exam room

by Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM
Are you confused about your pet's diagnosis or treatment or perhaps unsatisfied with your pet's care? It is not uncommon for people to be confused or upset with their pet is sick or injured; as stress may hinder thinking and memory. Here are some tips to facilitate good communication for getting the answers you need, or perhaps finding a new pet care provider.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Varies

Here's How:

  1. Good communication is always a key element for a good relationship. Whenever you have questions about the office protocol, general pet care and sanitation, the diagnosis or treatment plan for your pet, the first thing to do is ASK! If possible, bring a note pad with your questions, and a place to write the answers down. Emotional times such as illness or injury make it very hard to concentrate and "think" about questions and answers.
  2. If the problem involves rude behavior from a staff member not directly related to your pet's care or diagnosis, make time to discuss the issue with the office manager or owner veterinarian. It may be a problem that is only experienced by clients, and not known to the staff or owner. A responsible managing staff will want to know about this and make improvements.
  3. If presented with a treatment plan that is only one option or too cost-prohibitive, ask your veterinarian if there are other (maybe less "perfect") treatment options available, and if the office offers any type of payment plan or other financial options. This may also be a good time to ask if the veterinarian would be willing to refer the case if it is a difficult or complicated one.
  4. After presenting questions and receiving answers, if you are still confused, ask again. Ask new questions to help further understanding. If the veterinarian or staff appear unwilling to work with you, it may be time to seek a second opinion.
  5. If you are still comfortable with your veterinarian, ask if they have any recommendations. Otherwise, ask your friends what veterinarian they see, and what their thoughts are. There are additional tips in the "How to Find a Veterinarian" article as well.
  6. Once you have located a veterinarian that you would like to review your pet's case and provide a second opinion, you can either collect copies of your pet's record yourself, by calling and requesting that your vet forward them over, or the new veterinarian can call and request the records from the former office on your behalf. Office policies and state laws vary, so check with your state's veterinary board if you have questions about records.
  7. At the new veterinary office, try to keep emotion out of your pet's case presentation. This can be difficult at times, but personal feelings about an individual (vet, staff, or practice in general) do nothing to advance your pet's case treatment or diagnosis. What matters most is the physical evaluation, history of clinical signs, laboratory or other case work up, and any previous medications or dietary supplements.
  8. Be prepared to pay regular office and work up fees at the new veterinary clinic. You are a new patient, and there are a lot of records to be set up, data entry time, office appointment time scheduled, and so on. Any tests to be run are not at a "discount rate" just because this is a second opinion. Discuss what tests have been already run, in what time frame, and what the priority is for diagnosis -- based on previous work up, with the new veterinarian.
  9. After a second work up, the end answer may be the same, different, or not relative to the previous diagnosis. At this time, you may elect to continue with the new vet, or content with the new answers, return to your previous veterinarian. As a client, this is your choice. You are not bound to stay in one practice over another. Go where you feel most comfortable and your pet's needs are taken care of.


  1. For difficult case referrals: personally, I feel that unless a veterinary practice is a "multi-specialty" general and referral practice, an office that doesn't like to refer or is not open to working with other veterinarians (or a veterinary university) on a difficult case, this may be a warning sign. Some feel that referring clients away may cause them to lose business, but I feel that if your business and service are good, people will come back! This is my personal opinion.
  2. Keep calm and as positive as possible when communicating in a difficult situation. Veterinary medicine is by nature emotional, and too much emotion can sometimes inhibit good, useful communication.
  3. If there is ever a question of who "owns" records or other legal issues, check the blue pages of the phone book for your state's veterinary licensing boards. They should be able to answer these types of questions relative to local laws or professional misconduct.

What You Need

  • Note pad for writing down questions and answers.
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