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ProActive Cat Care

The Second Opinion

by Garry White and Pam Norman

 

 

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     Obviously, we should get a second opinion when we're not comfortable with the current one, but there are semantics involved that urge us to be cautious in making such a decision; critical issues that can mean the difference between life and death for our kitty. Let me preface this with a dose of reality: Vets are professionals, and we're not, so it's not in Fluffy's best interest for us to switch vets because a friend says we should. However, another reality is that vets are not super-humans, and some may have an agenda for Fluffy's longevity that differs from our own. Yet another reality is the general controversy surrounding the world of veterinary practice. Combine all of this, and we're faced with a confusing array of conflicting opinions. Ultimately, the decision to go for a second opinion defaults to us, and it should not be taken lightly.

     Clearly, it's our obligation to challenge a vet's diagnosis or prognosis when we feel it's necessary, but it's also our obligation to do what's best for Fluffy, and jumping too quickly (or for the wrong reasons) to get another opinion can be risky. There are many reasons we should choose to get a second opinion, but emotions shouldn't be one of them. Nobody likes to hear bad news, but if the bad news comes from a vet you've trusted so far, and it's followed by a suitable suggestion or plan that makes sense to you, then keep listening. And consider this: You don't know if the second opinion will be any different than the current one. My greatest caution is that you don't keep searching until you find a vet that says what you want to hear, and I warn against this for a few reasons, all of which are detrimental to Fluffy: First, the new vet will have to start from scratch…can Fluffy tolerate more tests than she probably just had? And, depending on her condition, is there time? Secondly, you probably have little (or no) knowledge about the new vet's experience, and yet you're trusting him/her to tell you what's really wrong…is this wise? Another major consideration: If you advise your vet that you want another opinion, there's a pretty good chance that you just alienated him/her…it's human nature to be offended, or slighted, when someone tells you they don't value your opinion. So my advice is that if you do decide to get another opinion, do it quietly.

     Okay…it all boils down to common sense, Fluffy's condition, and the diagnosis before you. There is no black or white answer to this, so let me tell you how I would approach it.

Why I would hesitate before getting a second opinion:

  • If Fluffy's vet has proven trustworthy and knowledgeable so far
  • Fear of the unknown: I have no knowledge of a new vet's experience
  • To avoid alienating a vet that already knows Fluffy's history
  • To avoid having to start from scratch and expose Fluffy to repeat testing with a new vet
  • If the diagnosis is sound, based on medical proof that is beyond challenge
  • If the diagnosis is in line with my own knowledge

Why I would consider a second opinion:

  • If I don't trust the vet completely
  • If the diagnosis is catastrophic
  • If I adamantly disagree with the diagnosis or treatment, and the vet won't budge
  • If the diagnosis is completely out of line with my own knowledge
  • If the diagnosis is in disagreement with that of numerous, experienced pet parents
  • If the vet suggests radical, non-standard treatment

     The ultimate decision has to come from you; it isn't something you make lightly, or for non-life-threatening situations. If you're simply uncomfortable with your vet in general terms, then find a new vet. But if he/she has proven to be conscientious, caring, and knowledgeable, then let's assume you'd consider a second opinion only if the situation is potentially disastrous, right? Given that, if you do feel it's necessary, then do it, and do it quickly, and do it without fear of alienating Fluffy's vet. If her life is at stake and the current diagnosis seems inappropriate, then get her in front of another vet as soon as possible.

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Copyright © 2003-2013 by Kathy Fatheree. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy's assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.