Chasing the Diagnosis

Whenever a pet develops a health condition, it can vary from concerning to downright frightening. Often we immediately want an answer for the expressed symptoms that our pet is showing.  Those symptoms may present as pain, cough, lameness, lethargy, inappetience, fever, vomiting and so on.  One of the most frustrating things I see pet owners experience is the lack of a diagnosis or “name” to their pet’s condition.  Sometimes it may even feel like you are “chasing your tail” for answers. The lack of a quick answer and a timely fix may cause animosity and frustration towards the veterinarian.  I believe the blame is often unwarranted.   


Let me give you an example.  Let’s say we bring our dog into our regular vet for a less than normal appetite.  Our regular vet runs blood work, does simple x-rays and a fecal and declares there is nothing obviously wrong.  He may try this or that medication over the next few weeks but our dog continues to wax and wane and now he’s now dropping weight.  More tests are run and maybe our veterinarian even recommends a referral for services he or she cannot offer.  We feel overwhelmed and upset. 

We continue down the diagnosis road and don’t get any farther along.  The ultrasound was normal and the endoscope was a waste of time.  None of the medications seem to help and none of the tests run are giving any answers. 

Suddenly to our surprise, the dog starts gaining his appetite again.  Maybe the neighbor had us try something that helped their dog once; a food, an herb, a supplement.  We don’t have an answer as to why our dog suffered and now have spent a lot more money on tests and medications than we feel we should have.  Sound familiar? 

I’ve often heard the complaint “I should have just tried what so and so said because I spent all this money and the vet didn’t fix my dog anyway!”  We tend to be happy with the last thing we tried and seemed to work but perhaps it was all of the steps together that got your pup back to wellness.  Please try to understand that often it is a process to get the pet healthy or at least to rule some more serious things out.

If you want to treat conservatively and try to avoid a large regrettable expense then let your vet know that from the start.  Clear communication helps to reduce frustration and anxiety. YOU are ultimately responsible for your pet’s health care.  Your vet is only PART of that health care team.

The point of this blog post is two things:       1.) Sometimes you just never get an answer.  Sometimes all the body is doing is expressing symptoms and no disease name will ever be found. Embrace the information given and understand that sometimes there is no name to be had.  2.)  Try not to publicly blame or badmouth the veterinarian.  If this is a doctor you like and trust they are probably doing the best they can.  If you do not believe that was the case, move on but take the high road unless you truly believe something damaging was done. 

Be responsible for your dog’s care.  Become the squeaky wheel.  Vets have many cases through the day and although he would love to concentrate on your one case, it is often impossible with his work load.  Take the lead as to what is done and how much money you spend.  Ask for quotes.  Work collaboratively with your veterinarian and take your time deciding on treatments or diagnostics whenever possible.  Ask for explanations if you don’t understand something.  If you feel more needs to be done, ask about a referral.  If you have a good relationship with your vet, the idea will probably be embraced as vets often can get frustrated or sad with how things go sometimes.   

I know from years of experience how scary owning pets can be at times.  Nobody wants them to suffer but the body is a complicated machine and often it can take several tries to get things running well again.  Try to remain understanding through the process. 


                      Remember, if you need help outlining a plan,                    Doggie Decipher is here!