Second Opinion Etiquette

By Nancy Kay, DVM

When paying a visit to a specialist for a second opinion, here are some suggestions for serving your dog’s best interest as well as maintaining harmony between you and the rest of your dog’s health care team.
-Let your primary care veterinarian know what you are doing.  How else will the specialist have access to all of your dog’s medical records?  Avoid the impulse to “sneak out” for a second opinion for fear of hurting your vet’s feelings.  Unless she is fresh out of school, this won’t be the first time a client has requested another opinion, and it won’t be the last.  Remember, your vet’s primary concern should be your dog’s health- not her own feelings.  This is part of the professional oath of office we all take when we enter the profession.
-Arrive a little bit early for your appointment with the specialist as there will be paperwork to complete. This can be a 10 to 15 minute process, even longer if the receptionist is busy.
-Bring along a legible copy of your dog’s recent and relevant medical records including all laboratory data, imaging studies (X-ray’s, ultrasound evaluations, CT and MRI scans), ECG (electrocardiogram tracings), and doctor’s notes.  It really helps if all of this material is arranged in chronological order.  Icing on the cake is a legible summary prepared by your family vet.  Remember, a stack of invoices is not a substitute for your dog’s medical record.
-Bring along all of your dog’s current and recent medications so the specialist can read the actual prescription labels.  Just like human doctors, vets often have lousy handwriting, so details from a printed label are often more reliable.
-As tempting as it may be to tell the specialist everything your family vet has told you, hold back and try to give the second veterinarian a chance to draw her own objective conclusions by asking her own questions.
-Don’t be critical of your family vet.  The specialist might get the notion that you are a natural born complainer and might anticipate that you will be complaining about her next week.