Six years ago, our vet - new to us as we had just moved to the area - diagnosed our 12-year-old cat "DJ" with arthritis. I've enjoyed the company of cats for years, so something felt off about the vet's conclusion. Despite me asking about a lump on DJ's back leg that hadn't been there a week or so ago, she explained that his joints were inflamed, hence her arthritis diagnosis. She gave us medication and said DJ would improve within a week. When he had not, I called for a follow-up appointment and asked if it could be something more serious than arthritis. She bristled at my question and said the medication just needed more time to work. It was at that moment I decided to get a second opinion.
We saw another vet, and it turned out our kitty had bone cancer. I found out later this is one condition often misdiagnosed as arthritis, even Lyme Disease. The cancer was very aggressive, and the second vet said amputation would be the best way to treat it. After being told the procedure would be painful and might add only a month or two to his life, we opted to let our DJ go peacefully in my arms.
We lost DJ, but I am still glad we asked for a second opinion. I tell cat and dog people everywhere; that seeking out a second opinion is often a good idea. While some people see it as being disloyal to their vet, any doctor (for pets or people) worth their salt will not object, and many will refer you to another vet with whom they have good relations or at least one known to specialize in say, arthritis in cats.
PETMD.com says second opinions should be sought in cases of a poor prognosis, expected complicated or expensive treatments, an unfamiliar vet (like our situation), or if you feel something's off (also our situation.) You should NOT ask for another vet's opinion if you have an emergency. If it's life or death, you have to trust the care you have in the immediate.
If you decide to seek another opinion, present the new vet with all pertinent information about your cat, his issues, any lab work, or the results of tests already performed. This will save time and give the second vet a quicker, more complete look at the situation.
Remember, your cat cannot speak for himself. He relies on you to be his advocate. If you feel one vet isn't supporting your efforts, you have every right to ask for a second opinion. Once you've received both assessments, you can decide what makes more sense and what you can afford. Remember, you don't need your vet to make a referral for a second opinion. It is absolutely OK to seek one out on your own.
When to Get a Second Opinion from a Veterinarian
Can I get a second opinion from another vet?