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How to Say No To the Veterinarian

Last updated on December 18, 2014

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One of the most stressful things a dog parent can say to a veterinarian is no.  The vet is a trusted source who holds your dog’s life in the palm in their hands: At least that’s how I view our dog’s veterinarian.

No matter how much your dog’s veterinarian rocks, how much you love them, or how you completely do not want to say “no,” there may come a time that it has to happen.  Here’s how to handle it with grace, ease, and in the name of being your dog’s advocate:

 Second Opinion

Imagine this scenario: You are at the veterinarian with your dog because the dog has bloody diarrhea. Despite all the best efforts, medicines of the traditional and non-traditional variety, and testing the vet can do in office, things just don’t seem to be changing for the dog.

Which of the following would put you more at ease and help your dog in the long run:

A veterinarian who does not take offense to a second opinion requested by the client;

A veterinarian who suggests the client get a second opinion and/or refers to the client to a specialist;

Both of the above are correct with the dog’s best interests in mind.

A second opinion happens when seeking medical advice from an equally credentialed vet while a referral deals with sending the client to a specialist. It is incredibly scary to ask for a second opinion if you believe your dog’s regular veterinarian will be offended or get upset.

Some veterinarians will help clients make the second opinion visit or you may choose to do it yourself.

dog vet

In Your Dog’s Best Interest

Never second guess your gut feeling. As a dog mom first and foremost, that inner feeling that says, “I have to do more” or “something isn’t right” has never failed me. From a professional journalistic perspective, put your dogs needs ahead of your own anxieties. The best way to tackle fear is to face it and realize you can survive.  I know: I’ve been there. The worst a veterinarian can say is “No, I can’t help you  get a second opinion or a specialist” and that’s not the kind of vet you want to visit anyway.

When to Say “No” or Seek a Second Opinion

You have every right to say no if you do not want your dog to receive treatment or disagree with the course of action. Consider though, that a caring veterinarian with whom you have developed a relationship isn’t likely to recommend treatment for the “heck of it.”

Say “no” if:

You are confused about the treatment that is about to be performed;

You feel pressured into doing something that you want to learn more about;

You don’t want to buy food or medications at the veterinarian. Keep in mind not all sources of pet food and/or medications are created equally, so I tend to just get my dog’s medications from the vet’s office;

You want a second opinion or a referral to a specialist;

Politely say:

“I’d really like to know more about the tests you are about to perform. Can you please explain them?”

“I’d like to purchase the food elsewhere, so can you please let me know the name of the brand and type I should buy?”

“I trust your expertise but I’d really like to seek a second opinion. Is there someone you can recommend?”

“Is there a specialist you can recommend to help my dog with this issue?”

Why Does No Feel So Wrong?

As a species, we want to please: I totally get that. I worship our dog’s veterinarian. Like any good relationship, however, I respect my dog’s vet enough to know he wants me (the one who pays the bills, who cares for my dog, and who has to close her eyes at night with a clean conscience that I did everything I could to help my dog) to feel that every stone has been turned over when it comes to helping my dog . He doesn’t take offense to my wanting a referral and has actually sent me and my dog on our merry way when his expertise reached its limit. He is a bright and skilled man whose thinking is progressive and caring enough to say “your dog needs care outside my realm.”

No feels wrong because we want to please and we want our dog’s veterinarian to treat our dog as if though that dog were his or her own.

If you have that veterinarian, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If you aren’t sure if you have that veterinarian, take some time to ask questions on the next visit.

Want to hear the vet tech perspective of this situation? In an effort to give our readers a full and balanced view, Fidose of Reality has teamed with My Kid Has Paws for the twice-monthly series, Medicine Versus Mom. Check out Rachel Sheppard’s take on getting a second opinion here.

medicine versus mom

QUESTION: Did you ever say have the need to say “no” to a vet and/or a need for a second opinion? How’d it turn out?

Catch up on the Medicine Versus Mom series with these hot topics:

When Dogs Undergo Surgery

Why Does My Dog Need a Muzzle

 Does My Dog Really Need Vaccines

Comments

  1. Amy Shojai, CABC says

    This is such an important message for pet parents. I think we’re raised to “be polite” and it feels disrespectful to question an “expert” about such things as medical issues. But our fur-kids are counting on us! Thanks for publishing this, I will share!

  2. Emma says

    Having a vet you trust that really knows pets is so key. We never ask about second opinions. If we don’t thing the vet knows what the problem/solution is, we simply go to another vet. We can always go back. We burned through lots of not real good vets before we found our current clinic that we love. They are the type to actually suggest a second opinion if it is something big. We fully trust them. We learned, if your gut says the vet just isn’t helping or on the right track, they probably are not and you need to find a better vet.

  3. Mary @ Stale Cheerios says

    Great post!

    I think it can be hard for some people to ask a vet (or trainer or other animal professional) for a second opinion. I guess people worry about offending their vet. But, sometimes we need to follow our gut and do what’s best for our pet.

    I’ve run into this some personally. Many dog / cat vets do not have the knowledge and experience to treat rats, especially when it comes to surgeries and things like that. Ratties (unfortunately) have quite a few health problems and their health issues are a bit different from dogs and cats.

    Luckily, I have an awesome vet now, who I found a couple of years ago. But, I did go back and forth between a handful of different vets for several years because I couldn’t find one that really knew enough to help my animals.

    • Carol Bryant says

      We travel to see our vet, and it is a bit of a distance. It can be so rough, and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Just hard to find someone who “gets it” locally and we have been with our dog’s (and previous dog) vet for goodness, over 15 years come to think of it. Happy Holidays!

  4. Connie says

    I grew up in an environment that encouraged second opinions, so I never thought twice about if my vet would be offended if I went and got another opinion. Both times I did it I got the exact same answer as my original vet, and I felt better for having done it because it was an assurance to me that I was doing everything I could for my pet. I continued on with my original vet until he ticked me off and I fired him and went and found a new vet.

    I just wish I had an awesome vet around me.. sadly I don’t, so I have a vet I make do with..

  5. June Myers says

    You have to think what is best for my pet, if you don’t feel they are getting the correct treatment, I feel it is fine to get a second opinion. If your vet is a good one, he will understand. If not then time to change vets.

    Good article as always, Carol.

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