In human medicine there is a term called “shared decision making.” It means that the patient is provided with the best available evidence about a medical situation and is encouraged to weigh in on the diagnostic and treatment options instead of leaving all the decisions to be made by the physician in top-down fashion.
We believe strongly that the same should be true for animal medicine. Your knowledge about your pet qualifies you to collaborate in the process of how best to diagnose a healthcare problem based on your cat’s symptoms in addition to choosing from among treatment options once the cause of the problem has been identified.
It doesn’t mean you have the medical knowledge of a vet, but you do bring things to the table that a vet does not. A case in point:
We knew of a woman who took her cat to the vet because he was clearly having stomach pains, hunching up, going through intermittent bouts of both vomiting and diarrhea, and crying loudly in the process. She brought him to the doctor, who told her that because she let the cat outside, it was clear he had eaten something poisonous.
She didn’t have the confidence to tell the vet that while she did let her cat outdoors, she never took her eyes off him and knew that he had not eaten something he shouldn’t have. But she let it go because the doctor prescribed opioids, and that quelled the pain.
The same thing happened again a few months later, and again the woman was told it was something the cat ate. She held her tongue a second time, but the third time, her pet was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. It was at that point she insisted on a further work-up, and it turned out his bladder was riddled with cancer. He died soon after, and she blamed herself for not speaking up sooner.
She was not guilty. It can be hard when you’re not the one in the lab coat. But it’s okay, and even desirable, to speak up. A good vet wants all that you have observed about your cat and all the facts in order to go down the right diagnostic path.