What do you do when your veterinarian can’t figure out what’s wrong with your pet? Most of the time, with excellent veterinary medical training and state of the art diagnostic tools, veterinarians can accurately diagnose pets when they experience ill health. But that isn’t always the case.

Some medical issues are complex, or they masquerade as another similar disease or condition. The same symptoms can be due to multiple health issues, and narrowing them down to the right diagnosis requires time and a greater measure of expertise. Humans aren’t always easy to diagnose and neither are our furry family members.

If your veterinarian can’t figure out what’s wrong with your dog or cat, your friends at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services may be able to help. Let’s take a closer look at what you should do to get your furry friend an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment.

When the Diagnosis Is Unclear

Just like in human medicine, some illnesses in pets can be challenging to pinpoint. Pet owners become concerned when they know something is wrong with their pet, by observation or by intuition, but they don’t yet have a clear diagnosis or the one they have doesn’t feel right. Because pets are family, you don’t want to accept a diagnosis that doesn’t feel right to you.

So, what do you do?

  1. Get a second (or third opinion) – Veterinarians can occasionally misdiagnose a health issue – not because they aren’t good providers but because they are human, and it may be a tricky diagnosis. If you feel uneasy about your pet’s diagnosis, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Let your veterinarian know why you think they may have missed something. Let them know what you found on Google or observed, and your concerns. If that doesn’t help, we recommend that you seek another opinion and have them examined elsewhere. Make sure that you provide your pet’s medical records and test results to the veterinarian. If that doesn’t help…
  2. Seek out a specialist Veterinary Internists and other specialists have additional education and knowledge in complex illnesses and diseases. Just as a human cardiologist will have more specialized training than your primary care doctor, specialists like those at OVRS have completed additional training in areas of oncology, ophthalmology, endocrine disorders, and a wide variety of specialized veterinary medicine. They can work with your veterinarian to help find the right diagnosis. If your vet doesn’t refer you for some reason, see a second veterinarian or come into our emergency service if urgent.
  3. Make note of symptoms and timelines – Your observations can be a huge help to your veterinarian. Write down symptoms, when they started, and any unusual pet behaviors or changes in the household. These notes can aid in figuring out the correct source of the problem. Also make note of your pet’s response to treatment. If your pet is having an unusual or unexpected response, it can provide additional information about the health issue.
  4. Agree to further diagnostic testing – Many times, a veterinarian can’t come to a precise diagnosis due to cost concerns on the part of the pet parent. If your veterinarian suggests additional tests, it is because it is in your cat or dog’s best interest and yours to better understand what’s occurring in your pet’s health. While some tests may not provide answers, others may offer exactly the information that your veterinarian needs. Additional lab testing, X-rays, ultrasound, and other advanced diagnostics can be pricey, and we understand. But the veterinarian is then expected to make an accurate diagnosis with only partial information. It doesn’t make sense to seek a second opinion if you haven’t first completed the recommended tests.
  5. Seek out a veterinary school – If you cannot afford to see a specialist directly, many veterinary colleges have lower cost clinics. They have veterinarians who are training to become board certified. They are also well-equipped with the most up-to-date technologies and equipment, which is essential in diagnosing medical problems that are difficult to understand.
  6. Certain diseases are hard to detect – Before throwing in the towel, some diseases are slow to progress and show minimal or elusive signs in their early stages. This is why ongoing wellness examinations are crucial in early diagnosis. Diseases like heart disease and renal diseases are hard to detect and require extensive testing to determine their presence, often through the help of a board certified specialist. With issues like allergies, it can take time to zero in on what is triggering your pet’s reactions and the best way to treat their allergy symptoms.

When Your Vet Can’t Figure Out What’s Wrong…

When your veterinarian can’t figure out what’s wrong with your dog or cat, please have patience and talk to your vet about a referral to a veterinary specialist. There are several conditions that require more advanced or specialized testing or treatment that cannot be addressed by standard veterinary medicine. This is why OVRS and veterinary specialists see many referrals on complex medical cases. We welcome your questions should your pet have a condition that remains undiagnosed. Please contact us.