Seeking a Second Opinion for Your Dog

Choosing the right veterinarian and knowing when to seek a second opinion can be the difference between sickness and health, and sometimes the life and death of your dog.

If there is a single take-home point of my blog, it is this—your dog’s health is ultimately in your hands. Making the right decisions for your dog is your responsibility, and you cannot pass it onto somebody else and not regret it.

Yes, it sucks. It’s a lot of pressure and it involves a lot of homework.

Do you have to go to vet school just because you want to have a dog? Of course not. But there are things you better learn about. Not all vets were created equal, and even the best vet can make a mistake. So now what?

Seeking a Second Opinion for Your Dog

Seek answers and results

How often do we put our dogs at the mercy of an incompetent vet and question nothing? Or do we question things but do nothing about them?

During one of our conversations, hubby came up with a great idea to illustrate the importance of questioning things and seeking a second opinion.

If the situation you find yourself in feels wrong, you have the right to a second opinion!

And you owe it to your dog and to your own peace of mind.

Goal of getting a second opinion

Of course, when we say we want a second opinion—whether we don’t like the diagnosis or the proposed treatment—what we really want is a different opinion.

Well, you’re in luck.

With few exceptions, the chances that a different vet will come to the same conclusions—the ones you didn’t like in the first place—are really quite low.

When after she recovered from her ACL surgeries, Jasmine started limping on her hind leg again. We first took her to the main vet. He concluded that she had hurt her muscle.

When her TCVM vet examined her, he figured that it was likely a tendon injury.

When we took her to a chiropractor/physical therapist for treatment, she decided that Jasmine had a problem with her knee after all.

Three vets—three opinions. This happened last fall, and wouldn’t you know it, it happened recently again!

In case you’re wondering who turned out to be right, it was her main vet.

Pick your expert, pick your disease

Ten different doctors will come up with ten different diagnoses based on the same data.


How is it possible that you might get as many different opinions as many vets you consult? 

I am starting to question whether there is such a thing as an objective opinion in the first place. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that there isn’t. The meaning of the word opinion itself is inherently subjective.

Any conclusion is an interpretation of the available facts based on previous experience (or lack of thereof). 

Though it’s really the kind rather than the amount of experience that matters, that will determine where and how the vet will choose to look and how they interpret what they see.

There’s truth in the adage: “Choose your specialist – choose your disease.” It doesn’t work this way with specialists only!

Blind Men and the Elephant

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
” ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

I’m not going to quote the whole thing if you want to read all of it check it out here.

The bottom line is that if you desire a second (or even third, fourth, fifth) opinion, the chances that you will get them are good.

The catch

Here comes the catch though. Now that you have all these opinions, you still have to choose one!

So how do you do that?

After all this trouble you’re back to where you started – homework. 

There is no way around it. Whether it involves finding a vet so awesome that you take their word for it or researching all the possibilities that had been laid out for you, you still do have to do your homework.

You can go with your gut, that often works, but you still need to root it in some information.

Of course, you can always toss a coin. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe …

However, you decide to arrive at your decision, make sure you will be able to live with it afterward.

Related articles:
Before Getting a Second Opinion: Something Not Right? Speak Up

Further reading:
When to Get a Second Opinion from a Veterinarian

Categories: Dog health advocacyWorking with Veterinarians

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

  1. I heard something a while back when dealing with health issues myself that I believe can apply to veterinarians as much as it applies to doctors… Never forget that they are PRACTICING medicine. No one is perfect or without fault. That being said, their advice shouldn’t always be taken as gospel. If there is any part of you that questions whether the answer you are given is right, there is nothing wrong with asking for a second opinion. You have to do what’s best for your dog and, sometimes, seeking a different opinion is exactly that!

  2. Tiffany Smith

    We are very lucky in that my husband and I have worked with animals and vets for years. We are very comfortable asking follow up questions and giving the pertinent information to help reach a diagnosis. I love that our vet has no problem explaining how they came to their conclusions and seems to like that we are so involved. LOL

  3. It’s always worth getting a second opinion. You may be paying for a second vet visit and possible tests, but it could save you so much, even your pet’s life. I almost paid $4000 for a knee surgery on my dog be cause I was told he had the worst possible case of his diagnosis. Come to find out through a second opinion, he was in stage 1 and there was no cause for concern.

  4. I love that elephant story! I am all about getting a second or third opinion for both pets and people, especially if it’s entails a complex or costly treatment. Like they say medicine is still a “practice” and there isn’t always just one firm answer that all medical professionals will have. Doing your homework is essential so you know what questions to ask and you understand what is being proposed.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  5. I personally value a second opinion especially when dealing with terminal cancer when my cat Dusty was alive. I valued a second opinion as the veterinarian I saw at the time was younger and clearly not as experienced. She lacked compassion too. I insisted on a second opinion. Althought the diagnosis was the same the second vet was more compassionate, quicker as diagnosing straightway due to his 40 years of experience with cats. In the end, you are right about us making the final assessment for our own situation. It’s important to weight the pros and cons and the facts and science with what’s best for your pet.

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