Get a Second Opinion: A Way To Do It Without Breaking The Bank (or offending your vet)

As with people, pets may be diagnosed as having a medical condition that requires a second opinion. It can be difficult to get a second opinion on the condition of your pet, as it is not common in human medicine. Learn how to obtain a second opinion and how to avoid offending your primary veterinarian. Also, learn why it is so important to share information with your veterinarian.

What is the best way to get a second opinion?

Your primary veterinarian is the first person to ask when you want a second opinion.

Ann Hohenhaus DVM, staff veterinarian at Animal Medical Center, New York City, says that the veterinary community in New York City is small and your veterinarian will likely know the best specialists.

Hohenhaus admits that some pet owners are afraid to hurt their doctor’s feelings by seeking a second opinion. However, it could be harmful to your pet’s health if you don’t have the two vets working together.

No veterinarian could possibly know all there is to learn. Hohenhaus explained that sharing information and collaborating is important in any type of medicine.

Your vet may miss something that another vet would catch. They may collaborate on a treatment plan you both approve of. If you are working with more than one veterinarian, she says it is best if only one vet coordinates care and discusses lab results. In the hospital in which Hohenhaus is employed, the pet owners aren’t charged for the time that the veterinarians take to discuss cases with each other. The staff at the clinic works together as a cohesive team. The only time pet owners will be charged is for the individual appointment they make with their veterinarian.

Find an Expert

You can start your search for second opinions with professional associations for veterinarians who specialize in your field (if your primary vet does not recommend anyone). For a list of all specialty colleges in the United States, please visit the American Board of Veterinary Specialties. also has listings of board-certified specialists in internal medicine, surgery, cardiologists, oncologists, and neurologists. You can search by area and whether you are looking for a doctor who specializes on small or large animals.

It’s a positive sign if your veterinarian recommends another specialist or vet. It’s likely that the two vets are good friends. There is a good line of communication. You will spend less because you will know your veterinarians, and they will talk with each other.

Let’s imagine you live far away from a vet specialist. What if you don’t live near a specialist? Start by asking your primary veterinarian for a recommendation of another vet who is an expert in certain aspects of veterinary care, but not a specialist. If there’s a vet in your area who has good credentials but isn’t board-certified, it is worth doing some research and checking with your veterinarian.

Heather Loenser, DVM and veterinarian advisor for public and professional matters at the American Animal Hospital Association also emphasizes that general practitioners have a mutually beneficial relationship with specialists and suggests moving from being a general practitioner to becoming a specialist.

If you are having a problem with your pet, then it is best to consult a specialist. Loenser says that it doesn’t really make sense to move from one generalist to another. She says that if your relationship with the first vet isn’t working, it would be a good idea to look for another veterinarian.

What conditions require second opinions?

Loenser says that almost any medical condition could require a second consultation. Some of the more common conditions include cancer, eye problems, dermatological issues, behavioral disorders, neurologic diseases, advanced dental procedures, and organ failure. Animals can get anything that a human could. She said that we had a specialist in this area.

Hohenhaus says that the top three reasons to seek a second opinion include: you don’t agree with the diagnosis, your veterinarian’s plan isn’t working, or you aren’t sure whether the drastic treatment prescribed by your doctor will be appropriate.

Avoid hurting your vet’s feelings

Hohenhaus suggests that you avoid making your veterinarian uncomfortable by not mentioning anything personal in the discussion of getting a second view. You can start by:

  • The diagnosis is not logical to me. “How can we be sure that the answer is correct?”
  • This is an extreme step. It is an urgent problem. “I would be more comfortable if another opinion supported that plan of action.”
  • I’ve followed your instructions for the last month, but my pet has not improved. Is it possible that a second opinion could shed some light on the best way to make my pet healthier?

What is the one thing that you do not want to mention? Hohenhaus claims that saying “I’m not sure you’re right” doesn’t do anyone any good.

What are the best ways to get a second opinion for your pet without breaking the bank?

Loenser advised that multiple vet visits can be costly. It is best to bring diagnostic tests, notes, and X-rays to your second appointment. So, your vet will not have to repeat any of the initial tests. It’s best if both veterinarians can discuss the case on the phone. She said that this ensures continuity and quality care for the pet.

You should seek a second opinion as soon as you can if your pet is receiving a severe diagnosis. Loenser says that you shouldn’t wait until the situation becomes an emergency.

She says, “I’d see animals come in with problems that were thousands of dollars in cost that could have been hundreds of dollars if they had arrived days or hours earlier.” It’s frustrating to everyone.

How to Respond After a Second Opinion

After receiving multiple diagnoses or opinions, it’s time to start making the best possible decision for your pet.

The family should ask what is best for the pet. Ask the vet if it makes sense to you. ‘” says Hohenhaus.

You can speak to a social worker if your pet is in a hospital. They can guide you through your emotions and help determine the best course of action. It may be necessary to consider euthanasia and hospice care for your pet.

It may be counterproductive to invest time, energy, and money in a plan of care that will only extend your pet’s life for a few months or weeks, especially as they age. Talk to your veterinarians about the best treatment plan for your pet.