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Getting a second vet opinion, courtesy/communication suggestions?

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  • Getting a second vet opinion, courtesy/communication suggestions?

    It appears that my pony has re-tweaked his suspensory injury from 2 years ago (hindlimb proximal suspensory desmitis). I'm feeling less than optimistic about him coming back easily and, at this point, would honestly rather turn him out for a year or two and let him heal properly before bringing him back into light work (he really does love to work, so I think it would keep him happy). My vet is an excellent lameness vet with great respect in the industry. He believes my pony can recover from this easily and while I trust his expert opinion, my gut just isn't so sure. My coach gave me the name of another very excellent lameness vet if I wanted to get a second opinion. This vet used to work in the same clinic as my current vet and left to start his own practice.

    I've never gotten a second opinion from a separate vet without my primary vet referring me to them. What is the best way to go about this communication-wise? I do not want to offend my current lameness vet or make it sound like I'm doubting his expertise, because I am not. I just feel that I could benefit from a fresh set of eyes and potentially different perspective. Is it proper to give my current vet a heads up that I am seeking a second opinion, or is that my own business? I don't want to seem like I'm being sneaky. I love all the equine professionals I use and I want to treat them with the utmost respect!
    "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"

  • #2
    Some veterinarians feel pretty threatened if you get a second opinion, especially if they feel like they're very right. It's an ego thing. They're human beings like anyone else. Some, especially in questionable situations are very much FOR getting another pair of eyes (or 2 or 10) involved.

    Depending on the nature of the split between your current veterinarian and the other who left, you may see more (or less) trouble with a second opinion using that new vet.

    The fact remains that it's your horse and you can do as you wish and if the current vet throws a tantrum, maybe that's worth noting.

    I worked with a veterinarian who did tend to get a little prickly at the idea of a second opinion unless he was the one who made the referral. Especially if he got a surprise request from another clinic for radiographs or labs or heard about it from someone other than the client. (like via a colleague) He'd get all butt hurt about it. Funny enough, most second opinions agreed with his and I can't recall losing any clients due to second opinions. The opposite really. It was just an ego thing, bless his heart (in the Northern way).

    Anyway. Were I in your shoes, I'd be proactive. I'd try to get on the phone with your current veterinarian and let him know that you trust his opinion but you are having doubts and before you invest a ton of time in rehab, would feel better going with his recommendation if you had a second opinion. That's true, right? And I'd ask him point blank if he would mind, as a professional courtesy, consulting with the other veterinarian should there be any questions about history, treatment, etc. You might also ask your current vet if he feels that this other veterinarian is reliable/qualified to make an evaluation or if he'd recommend someone else. That could get you some buy in to the whole process if you are feeling that he's a little on his heels.

    Good luck!

    My experience with a similar injury is that even with a lot of rest, the bringing back to work process can reinjure. If I had it to do over again, I would prefer to keep my horse up rather than give an extended off time and bring back. The first time she injured her suspensory, she was in good shape, took a short time off and then continued rehab. The second time, she got a LOT of time off. Was sound in the pasture. First day I got on her and was warming up at the walk, she took an off step in deeper footing in a corner and there she went again. Bringing her back now is just plain boring for both of us and it's hard to get motivated to do it so she's had even MORE time off.

    But that's my experience and my horse.

    Wishing you the best!
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


    • #3
      This can be a touchy subject depending on the ego of the vet. In the Human medical field I've had physicians get very upset when I told them I was taking a family member to a specialty clinic for further work-up.

      I've usually gotten second opinions for my animals if I felt I really needed it.
      I figure my money, my choice.
      I did not mention it to the vet I was using after my past experience w/ physicians.
      "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


      • #4
        How is the second opinion going to meaningfully change your intended treatment plan? If your decision is to turn the horse out for a year, then that is what you should do. An opinion from any medical expert is not a reason to change a strongly-held opinion of a patient (or animal), provided the opinion is not irrational or uninformed.

        No provider worth his/her salt should be even minimally offended or threatened by a client/patient wishing to have a second opinion. However, if the initial diagnosis or opinion is a good one and the reason for seeking the 2nd opinion is poor understanding or denial on the part of the patient/client, it is pretty normal for the 1st provider to feel frustrated because an ill-informed or irrational patient/client is highly unlikely to suddenly become well informed or reasonable just by seeing another provider! This assumes that there is a good relationship between both, which sounds like the case with the OP.
        Click here before you buy.