Written by Gal Cohen-Chivvis, DVM

As an ER veterinarian, I have become quite skilled at quickly assessing an animal and coming up with a plan to begin patient stabilization. Unfortunately, this does not mean that I always know exactly what the underlying cause of each patient’s illness is. If a situation arises when a diagnosis has not been reached, it may be upsetting for the pet owner, but also affects me, the veterinarian.

Imagine the following scenario: Concerned owners bring a sick cat to the emergency room because she has been acting abnormally lately. Examination reveals a high fever and some lethargy but little else. We proceed with a blood panel, urine sample and X-rays and still, there is no concrete diagnosis. The owners have now spent hundreds of dollars and, while we have ruled out many possible causes for the cat’s fever, it feels to them like we have done nothing productive. How would you feel in this situation? If you answered annoyed, aggravated, frustrated, worried or any other synonym for just plain unhappy — I am with you! Welcome to the realities of medicine.