I learned this the hard way when my Maltier developed a watery eye. After multiple unsuccessful trips to the vet plus numerous lotions, potions and medications, I was referred to a doggy ophthalmologist.
After the first visit I could 'see' we were finally on the right track. A small procedure using specialist equipment was performed on the day, some drops were dispensed and we were sent home with an Elizabethan collar (commonly referred to as a 'bucket") with a follow up appointment in 2 weeks. Our eye doctor also flushed out a blocked tear duct in the other eye - something I didn't even know was needed - which stopped the weepy brown stain.
Not only did I have two problems solved the cost was less then all the previous visits to the GP vet.
This experience lead me to seek advise from other specialists for an assortment of complicated issues, again providing a cost effective and more definitive solution.
It is true some diagnostic testing can be expensive (scans and blood tests) but again, the difference between trialing different things and starting a pet on the most appropriate remedy immediately, was not enormous and certainly had a better outcome for my pet. If your pet is insured the cost could be zero.
I have witnessed the slow decline of a dog due to what we now know was heart failure. The indecision of numerous GPs added to our anxiety as we desperately searched for guidance (I understand now because the situation was beyond the scope of expertise of these well meaning GPs). The matter escalated and our cherished pet was eventually euthanised in the middle of the night, involving an immeasurable amount of stress, shock, and trauma. I would have preferred to have known things were deteriorating and put her on medicine earlier because apparently the signs were all there. Most of all we were robbed of the option to choose a time to let her go in a peaceful way. The specialist scan we needed was not recommended until it was far too late.
Specialist areas include, but are not limited to:
Pets usually need a referral from their GP and it may take a few weeks to get in. However, based on my experience, I strongly recommend pet owners consider this option for complicated medical matters or even if they want a second opinion. You GP shouldn't mind, and will probably welcome your request because after all, they want what is best for your pet as much as you do.