Help! My Pet's Not Getting Better - What Should I Do? - CTV #40

If your dog or cat's treatment is not going to plan then what should you do?

It might be tempting to take them to a different vet for a second opinion. While this is certainly an option, it may not actually be the best idea…

What to do when your dog or cat's treatment doesn't work
My dog doesn’t want to move he’s yelping every time he moves I took him in and they think he just got ahold of something that made him sick but I don’t think that’s the problem I think it’s something more than that I think he’s in pain in his neck or back.
— Joseph
  • Important that if a problem isn’t resolving, or if there are unexpected changes, to revisit with your veterinarian. Record what problems you are seeing at home by writing down list and take video as often pets won’t “perform” during a consultation

  • If signs are non-specific and no particular issues are found on exam then we often start with a symptomatic treatment trial. Lack of response, or progression, will then trigger further investigations such as blood, xray, or urine testing

  • If you don’t feel that your pet is getting the care you expect then can consider getting 2nd opinion. It is important you have realistic expectations of your veterinarian. 2nd opinions definitely have their place but in my experience it is very seldom that I end up recommending anything particularly different compared to the first vet

  • The importance of having a relationship with your vet based on trust can not be overstated

  • For complex cases, especially where tests have been inconclusive and response to any treatment has been poor, being referred to a specialist may be best.

+ Full Transcript

If you know your vet, you know that there's someone who you get on with and who you trust, then you're going to be in a much better place to have your pet's illness successfully investigated, treated and managed. it's really important that this relationship is based on trust.

None of us like to see our pets in pain. And, if you've already taken your dog or your cat to the veT and they're not getting better, what are your options? Well, that's what I'm discussing today. But before we get into that, here's the intro.

And just before I jump into today's question, I wanted to remind you about my charity calendar. So, this is going to be a fantastic Christmas present for any pet-loving friend or family member in your life.

And to top things off, it also is going to support a really worthwhile charity. And the charity that I've chosen is the Tree of Life for Animals, which is a charity in rural Rajasthan in India that helps population control, helps rabies control and it helps provide a crucial pet health and animal health service to the animals in that region.

So, head over to to have a little look and see if it's something that takes your fancy, but with that's out the way. Here's today's question.

And Joseph asks today's question, which is, "My dog doesn't want to move. He's yelping every time he moves. I took him in, and they think he's just got a hold of something that's made him sick. But, I don't think that's the problem. I think there's something more than that. I think he's in pain in his neck or his back."

So, it sounds like Joseph's dog is really uncomfortable. It's not in a good way and it doesn't sound like he's getting better. It sounds more than just having got hold of something that's disagreed with him. Being uncomfortable and not wanting to move are just quite vague and nonspecific signs, though.

So, it could be any number of things, and it would be pure speculation if I went into detail about what I think it might be because there's just really no way I can know.

But, this is a really important question because I think it's not all that uncommon a situation to find yourself in as a pet owner. To have a pet who's unwell gets taken into the veterinarian. Treatment gets started. Maybe some tests get run and actually, your pet doesn't improve as you would like. You get frustrated, and you don't really know what to do.

I would say it's really important that if a problem isn't resolving or if there are unexpected changes in your pet's condition, if they start doing something else that they weren't before, they're showing a different symptom, then a revisit with your veterinarian is really important. That is definitely going to be the next step.

You want to record what problems you're seeing at home as well, because it's very easy when you're in a consultation to forget to mention something that could actually be the crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle that your vet needs to work out exactly what's going on with your pet or to work out what the next step that needs to be taken is.

So, write down a list of everything that you're seeing at home. Everything that you're concerned about. Everything that your pet isn't doing perhaps that they would normally do. And also, if they are doing something in particular, that could be they're coughing, they're sneezing, they're stretching out, they've got a limp or anything like that, actually just take a video on your phone as well to show your vet because very often the adrenaline is high when your pet is at the vet, and they don't do what they're doing at home. They don't perform so your vet can't see.

Whereas if you're recording a video, then that really is the case of a picture paints a thousand words in some situations. So, that would be the first thing that I would say.

Now, if signs are nonspecific and they're not particularly pointing to any issue in particular and the examination findings are all normal, then very often depending on how severe your pet's illnesses, how unwell they are, the treatment might start off with asymptomatic treatment trial. And that might be the case in Joseph's dog’s situation.

So, nothing specific has been found on the exam. It's postulated that they might've gotten hold of something and they try a certain treatment. Now, the lack of response here or a progression in that condition is going to trigger further investigation. And if the initial treatment trial hasn't worked, then you're going to need to have a little look at things much closer.

That could be blood tests. It could be x-rays. It could be urine testing. There's a whole raft of different things that your vet might want to do depending on your pet's specific problem.

Now, clearly, if they go to the vet and they're really unwell in the first instance, then those initial tests might be run. But again, rather than testing absolutely everything under the sun, we've got to prioritize tasks. And it might be that the initial test came back as normal or not particularly concerning, but equally then, a lack of response or a progression of the condition should trigger further testing to be carried out.

Now, obviously talking to your vet and going back for a re-examination appointment is very important. But, if you don't feel that your pet is getting the care that you expect, then the other option is to consider getting a second opinion. It's really important, though, that you have a realistic expectation of your veterinarian.

If diagnostics have been declined, if they've recommended that you do certain diagnostic tests and for whatever reason you've declined those because of costs or because you don't want to put your pet through a specific procedure or specific condition, or if you haven't followed the recommendations that your vet has actually made in the first time.

The bottom line is that you're actually limiting your vet's ability to make a correct diagnosis or to manage and treat your pet to the best of your abilities.

Now that said, second opinions definitely have their place, but in the vast majority of cases, my personal experience is that it's actually very seldom that I end up recommending anything particularly different compared to the original vet who saw her a pet. And so, you as a pet owner have spent an extra consultation fee catching up on your pet's condition with that new vet. So that's definitely something to think about.

And I think it highlights the importance of actually having a trusting and a working relationship with your vet before your pet gets unwell. So, before your dog suffers from a certain condition or your cat gets injured or whatever it would be.

If you know your vet, you know that there's someone who you get on with and who you trust, then you're going to be in a much better place to have your pet's illness successfully investigated, treated and managed. It's really important that this relationship is based on trust.

And then as well as second opinions for really complex cases, especially where lots of tests have been run and they've been inconclusive and the response to any treatment has been poor, then it may be best to actually ask for your pet to be referred to a specialist. And that's probably something that your vet may recommend as well.

So, referring to a specialist in that particular area. That could be a surgeon. It could be an oncologist. it could be an ultrasonographer. Whatever it is. They deal with that kind of case on a day in, day out basis. They may be able to perform more advanced tests, and they going to be more experienced in that particular area to diagnose any weird and wonderful conditions that might be going in your pet.

So, I know that doesn't give a specific answer for Joseph to what could be going on with his pet, but the bottom line is I don't know. He really needs to be going back to his veterinarian to be discussing what's going on, any changes, any lack of response. And if he really does have concerns that things aren't being managed as he would like, then considering a second opinion or considering that referral to a specialist.

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