Loving pet owners are often willing to go to great lengths to ensure the health of their pets. After all, animals become part of the family over time.  When a pet’s health is in question, many owners follow their veterinarian’s advice on how to treat the medical problem or make their pet as comfortable as possible while living with the condition.  But, sometimes the solution to the medical condition is not straightforward, for the vet or the owner. In these situations, a second opinion consultation is the right move.

What Is a Second Opinion Consultation?

A second opinion consultation is an appointment to seek the opinion of an equally qualified veterinarian.  The goal is to present the same patient to another field professional and see if he or she would recommend a similar or different plan of action.  A second opinion consultation differs from a referral to a veterinary specialist, who holds a set of specialized skills that are a different from that of a general practitioner.  A referral would send you to a veterinarian offering services that your current vet cannot. A referral may provide you with specialized diagnostic equipment, surgical equipment, or expertise in a specific area, such as cardiology or endocrinology.

When Should You Seek a Second Opinion?

There are a variety of reasons you may choose to seek a consultation for a second opinion.  The idea may stem from the vet or originate with you or someone you know. Perhaps you are not confident in the treatment options your vet is offering. Or, someone you know has offered advice that contradicts what your vet has told you.  If you are ever unsure about the treatment plan your vet recommends, talk to him or her about it. Most vets are willing to explain why they have chosen a specific treatment and will also listen to any concerns you have. They may be able to explain why another treatment is inappropriate for your pet, or they may be open to your suggestion.  If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. If you are still unsure after discussing your concerns with your vet, you should seek a second opinion. Another veterinarian may confirm the treatment approach or be able to offer an alternate method.

The idea to consult another, equally qualified vet may come from your vet himself.  He or she may sense that you are confused or frustrated with his recommendations, and for this reason, suggest that you seek another opinion for your own peace of mind.

How Should You Ask for a Second Opinion?  

Be frank with your vet–after all, they too have the best interests of your pet at heart.  Voice your concerns and say that you are interested in the opinion of another vet. Most likely, your veterinarian is familiar with other vets in the area and can give you the name of another whom he/she respects.  It is also important that you inform them that you will be seeing another vet, so that you can bring along your pet’s records and any other important medical information.

For many pet owners, the relationship with their veterinarian is a very personal and important one.  Owners often stick with the same vet for years and years, perhaps through the ownership of multiple pets, and develop strong ties to that vet.  That loyalty may give the pet owner pause before seeking a second opinion. But, in certain situations, a second opinion is necessary. You should not worry about offending or hurting your veterinarian’s feelings–you have to do what is right for you and your pet, and a good veterinarian understands that.