This is a dilemma that many pet owners face. Unfortunately there is no clear cut answer. Instead, I will offer some guidelines for different scenarios. This may involve some difficult discussions with your veterinarian. Remember that you are the best advocate for your canine or feline.
If there is minimal improvement within a reasonable amount of time. Depending on the comfort level of your companion, the nature of the health issue, and the severity of the problem, this time period can range from 7 days to 60 days.
There is not a diagnosis, or a list of potential causes for a malady. If there is not a suspected illness or illnesses, then there is no clear pathway of testing or treatment to determine what the underlying problem is.
The list of treatment options has been exhausted. If your veterinarian has exhausted all of the treatment strategies that they are able to offer, and there are lingering problems, then a second opinion should be sought.
Your buddy's quality of life is diminishing despite treatment. There is no clear cut way to measure this, but I encourage clients to look at several parameters such as their companion's energy level, appetite, interaction with them, and ease of motion.
Your pet's pain is not being adequately addressed or controlled. This can appear as difficulty moving/getting up or down, panting, pacing, tenderness when touched, grumpiness, groaning, and in extreme situations, crying out.
You have not been offered a referral to a specialist if there has been poor response to treatment. There is no excuse for this given that veterinary specialists exist in a multitude of fields, and there are many within an hour's drive from Stockton. This includes recommendations to a 24 hour care facility for patients that are critical and need continuous monitoring. Alternative treatments such as homeopathy, acupuncture, laser, and chiropractic can also be considered.
You don't feel that medical issues are clearly explained in terms that you understand. You veterinarian should be willing to answer you questions and provide guidance so that you can make educated health decisions for your pets.
Be aware that your veterinarian is required to provide a written medical history to you at any time. A second veterinarian can request lab work, radiographs, or diagnostic results from the initial veterinarian. Often it is less stressful for you if the request comes from another veterinarian.
Before you seek out a second opinion, please express your concerns with your veterinarian. They may not be aware of your unhappiness, and may be very willing to offer other treatment options or a referral. Please realize that not all medical maladies can be treated, and that advanced care may cost more than you are willing to pay. Payment options such as Care Credit can help you pay for treatment over time.