We’ve all run into this scenario whether, with your personal medical care, your child’s, spouse’s or pet’s – You’re having issues, your regular doctor can’t diagnose the problem even after running the first set of tests and trying a course of medication or treatment. We often will opt to try another doctor because we feel that the first was incompetent for not being able to diagnose us or ‘fix’ the problem the first time around, but that’s not the case.
Medicine is an incredibly complex subject with many moving parts. You have to listen to what the patient tells you (in our case, what the client tells you), what the diagnostics tell you and try to discern and problem solve your way to the next diagnosis or course of action. Now imagine having to manage all of these pieces with a patient that can’t tell you how they are feeling, where it hurts etc. It’s difficult.
In human medicine, they have a slew of diagnostic tools at their disposal. Your doctor can send you for an MRI, CT scan, ultrasound, any blood panels they may need, surgery etc. and there is no bill provided directly to you as we pay for our medical care via tax dollars. In veterinary medicine, we have these pieces available to us, but they come at a cost to the client as we do not get subsidized by the tax dollar. This means we have to run as private medicine which means we have to bill for what we do. We could not charge for these diagnostics, but that would mean we would not be able to stay open, pay staff, or get new diagnostic tools.
Sometimes, unfortunately, due to financial restrictions/geographical limitations, this leads to not being able to run all of the diagnostics that we would like because the average person cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars each time they need to have their pet assessed for an illness. This adds to the problem-solving aspect. Veterinarians need to be able to assess, on physical exam, medical history and conversation with the client alone, what next diagnostic steps they need to take and then, on top of that, which diagnostics are going to give us the most information because we may not be able to run all of the diagnostics that we would like to due to cost. See how this starts to get tricky? We could do blood work because it gives us a baseline of how the internal organs are functioning, we could do an x-ray to see if we can see any enlarged organs, we could send you to PEI to get the more extensive tests done like MRI, CT scan etc. But what is best for the patient? What is the most cost effective for the client? And what is going to give us as much information as we can get within this client’s budget?
So now, a client’s chosen what diagnostics they want to move forward with. We run those diagn ostics and see what we see. This gives us one small view of the giant tapestry that is your pet’s health. Based on this, we determine what treatment(s) we can provide, again within the client’s budget, whether that’s medication, surgery etc.
Now, a good chunk of the time veterinarians hit it right on the nose as they are highly educated and amazing problem solvers, but sometimes, their assessment, from the limited information they are working with, doesn’t manage to fix the concern at hand. You may take your pet to another veterinarian, they’ll look at the records, run a different diagnostic test, work with all of the information that the first veterinarian provided plus this new information they were able to obtain by being able to run a different diagnostic test. They may come to a different conclusion and be able to manage the case differently. Every veterinarian comes with their own set of special interests and skills which means they will look at all cases with their own perception or point of view which is why they will often bounce cases off of each other. All of this can lead to a second opinion managing to fix the concern at hand which is great! But can also leave a bad taste in a client’s mouth about the initial veterinarian. Here’s the secret – veterinarians are fine with you getting a second opinion, especially if that means that it will provide answers for you and your furry family member and, most importantly, improve their health and/or quality of life.
Most veterinarians did not get into the business to make tons of money, trust me, they didn’t, and if they did, they were very misguided, as veterinarians are one of the lowest paid professionals in the workforce on average. Veterinarians love medicine, love animals and are passionate about their work and about making their patients lives better.
So please, the next time you seek to get a second opinion, do it! But do it with the idea that you are seeking to understand your pet’s health better, and knowing that the first veterinarian did what they felt was best or most appropriate for the case with the information they had at their disposal.
Written by: Blair Lutes