Missed Diagnoses: What to Do When You Think Your Vet Is Missing Something
By Jennifer Coates December 18, 2017
You know your pet best, but your veterinarian has more expertise when it comes to medicine. So what are pet parents supposed to do when they have a sneaking suspicion that their veterinarian has missed something? The answer: communication. In other words, talk to your vet!
Veterinarians are only human. As much as we hate to admit it, we can overlook things and make mistakes. Good vets understand this and are open to being questioned, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach this conversation. Here are three recommendations for talking about the possibility of a misdiagnosis or treatment error with your vet.
If you want your veterinarian to be open to acknowledging that they could be wrong, you should be willing to concede the same thing. Perhaps the vet has made a mistake, but something else might be going on, too. Your pet’s case may be especially difficult, require advanced testing, or they could be having an unusual response to treatment…the list of potential complications is almost endless. Go into the conversation with an open mind. You and your veterinarian are a team who can provide the best care for your pet when you work together.
That said, don’t be afraid of offending your veterinarian. Any doctor who can’t handle questions from an owner who obviously has their pet’s best interests at heart isn’t worth worrying about (or returning to).
Your veterinarian is going to want to know what it is about your pet’s situation that makes you think that they have missed something. Come prepared with a list of symptoms that worry you. Maybe something has changed or you’ve remembered something since the last time you spoke. Be sure to bring that up. Admit that you have consulted Dr. Google (We know you have. We do it too when it comes to our own health.) and bring up any conditions that you are specifically concerned about.
Don’t expect all of your questions to be answered on the phone. There is a very good chance that your vet will need to examine your pet and perhaps even run some new tests. A pet’s condition can change rapidly, so what might not have been evident initially could be readily apparent at a recheck.
Go with Your Gut
If after all of this you are still worried about your pet’s care, it’s time for a second opinion. Ask your veterinarian if they think a referral to a specialist is in order, or if you’d rather not have that conversation, you can schedule an appointment for a second opinion yourself. Just make sure that you provide a complete copy of all your pet’s medical records so the new veterinarian is up-to-date on the testing and treatment that has already taken place.
If your pet’s symptoms are vague and relatively mild, you can make an appointment with a general practitioner. Ask around or look at online reviews to find a veterinarian who seems to be a good fit. If, however, your pet’s condition is more serious, getting the services of a specialist would be best. The website Vetspecialists.com includes listings for specialists who are board-certified in surgery, internal medicine, cardiology, neurology, and oncology. Other types of specialists can be found through these links:
- American Veterinary Dental College
- American College of Veterinary Dermatology
- American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists
- American College of Veterinary Nutrition
- American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
- American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation
- Society for Theriogenology (Reproduction)
- American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care
A misdiagnosis can have serious consequences. Don’t delay in getting your pets the care they need.
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