How often do you think veterinarians misdiagnose their patients?
Diagnosis is a process, and sometimes it is not easy to peel the onion. However, sometimes a bad diagnosis is just that—a bad diagnosis due to a cock-up.
The most common veterinary mistakes involve:
- surgical mistakes
- drug-related mistakes
- diagnostic errors
Both graduate vets and experienced practitioners can cock-up the diagnosis, whether it is due to inexperience or cognitive bias one develops during practice.
You’d think that with the advances of diagnostic tools, getting the correct diagnosis should be straightforward. However, diagnostic tests are only as good as their interpretation.
Further reading: When Vets Make Mistakes: The Three Most Common Veterinary Errors
Loss of mobility in dogs
Mobility issues in dogs often have obvious reasons, but sometimes they do not. The list of potential causes is long. Arthritis and hip dysplasia are high on the list, whether the problem affects just one leg or both. However, bilateral weakness and loss of mobility have their own list such as:
- tick-borne disease
- degenerative myelopathy (DM)
- lumbosacral disease
- IVDD or disc injuries
- myasthenia gravis
Further, diseases that lead to overall weakness are most likely to show as hind end weakness. These can include:
- anemia from any causes
- significant organ failure
The above conditions will present with other symptoms depending on the problem.
Further information: 4 Reasons Your Older Dog’s Back Legs Are Collapsing
R.G., a German Shepherd, suddenly became lame on her rear end. She got an MRI and left with a diagnosis of a herniated discs of the lower spine.
A second opinion orthopedic surgeon confirmed the diagnosis and recommended surgery.
Because this kind of surgery is quite invasive and risky, R.G.’s parents decided to try conservative management first.
R.G.’s treatment included acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, and hydrotherapy for three months. Unfortunately, she continued to get worse and ended up in a doggy wheelchair.
A consultation with a neurologist
Her parents decided to get a consultation with a neurology specialist.
When the neurologist reviewed the MRI, it turned out that R.G. did not have a disc problem at all, but a cyst on her spinal cord instead!
Without surgery, the cyst would put increasing pressure on the spinal cord, and R.G. would continue to deteriorate. However, with surgery to drain the cyst, R.G. should not worsen and has a fifty percent chance of improvement.
In hopes of keeping R.G. from getting worse, her parents agreed to the surgery. Then, perhaps, R.G. could get some mobility back too.
The surgery went well, and R.G. regained some mobility!
She still needs a lot of physical therapy, but she started to walk without her cart! Hopefully, over time, she will keep improving.
How much shorter could her recovery have been if the veterinarian interpreted the MRI images correctly the first time? How much time and resources were lost, and how much suffering could have R.G. avoided?
What would have happened if R.G.’s parents did not seek a third opinion?
Misdiagnosis…Listen to Your Gut Instincts!