Sunday, January 10, 2016

The "Misdiagnosis"

Our living, breathing pets have as complicated a physiology and anatomy as we humans do. Because of this complexity, Veterinarians are not always able to come up with an immediate answer as to what is wrong with a pet at the time of an initial visit.  No matter how well trained or how experienced the Vet is, if a serious problem arises, it is rarely the case that a diagnosis can be made on the spot. Typically, if a serious problem arises in human medicine, the family physician examines the patient, refers them for blood and urine testing, EKG, Xrays, Ultrasound, MRI or any other countless number of diagnostic tests and then sets up the appointments for the specialists to step in to try to get closer to the diagnosis.  The need for testing and further investigation is the exact same in Veterinary medicine for complex medical problems especially because our patients can’t talk to us and answer questions related to how they are feeling.

One of the more common complaints voiced on review sites is "the Veterinarian made a misdiagnosis".  The reality is often that a diagnosis was never made to begin with.  Many times the Veterinarian has not had an opportunity to make a diagnosis for reasons, such as: (a) the disease is in its very early stages and with time the symptoms become more evident and the issues more recognizable (b) the pet's owner has declined the necessary diagnostic tests that were recommended (c) the owner has decided not to follow through on a suggested referral to a specialist or (d) there is no diagnosis able to be made by anyone despite attempts to do so.  Some diseases (especially those developmental in origin) can only be diagnosed upon detailed autopsy examination and therefore questions remain unanswered if the pet's owner declines such tests at the time of death.  

Reviews only provide a snippet of a complicated story and can often be grief and anger misplaced.  Sadly not all medical issues are treatable. Some have poor outcomes or are outside of any practitioner’s ability to heal. These cases are most disheartening for Veterinarians and their staff.  The goal is always to help and heal pets in the most caring and compassionate way.  

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