Gut Feelings and Second Opinions

I am a “regular” at the local corner coffee stop, so much so that my drink is often ready for me before I’ve had a chance to order it.  Amongst the eclectic group of shmoozers gathered most mornings are the schmoozers’ dogs.  This morning while waiting for my coffee, Molly, a massive Rottweiler mix, greeted me.  As usual, her voice and body language told me in no uncertain terms that she expected me to toss her a cookie (a bin full of dog biscuits resides beneath the shelf holding Half-n-Half, sugar, and other coffee accoutrements). Today, I noticed that Molly’s demands were less vigorous than usual.  My veterinary antennae began to quiver and I paused for closer inspection.  I was aghast to see one of Molly’s eyes almost closed and filled with pus; the other had a completely cloudy cornea.  Jill observed my startled expression and explained that she had taken her darling Molly to see the vet three times in the past couple of weeks.  In spite of treatment with various ointments, her eye problems were clearly worsening. 

I bit my tongue for approximately one millisecond before my concern for Molly forced me to question, “Have you considered getting a second opinion?”  Jill responded that the thought had crossed her mind, but she’d not acted on this impulse- she didn’t want to hurt her veterinarian’s feelings.  After some serious coaching-  “A second opinion results in a new diagnosis as often as 30 percent of the time.” “Veterinarians are used to people desiring second opinions.”  “What’s more important, Molly’s health or your vet’s feelings?”- Jill agreed that it was time to contact our local board certified ophthalmologist. 

Is Jill’s story unusual? No, but I wish it were. When it comes to our own health issues or those of a beloved four-legged family member it’s not uncommon that, even when our gut tells us it’s time to consider a second opinion, we ignore the feeling.  I believe that this gut feeling, sixth sense, intuition, or experiential wisdom- whatever one chooses to call it- is a true gift.  In fact it is one of the few things that actually seem to improve as we age. All we need to do is pay attention to this gift rather than ignore it.  Second opinions are invaluable for our health and our peace of mind.  

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Molly and her eyes will be sparkling and bright the next time I see her.   

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health, 

Dr. Nancy Kay

Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

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Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross –

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