Diagnosing and Treating Your Own Pet: The Dangers of Dr. Google

I think we can all agree that the internet is an amazing resource, one that has completely transformed our lives. Do you remember having to actually step foot inside of a library to research a topic? Now, we just say “Google it”, and viola- we have instant answers. We have all been there- we jump on Web MD because we have a sore throat, and suddenly we are afraid we may have a life threatening illness.

The problem is, maybe we have too many answers, and from some unreliable sources to boot. If you were to Google “sick pet symptoms”, you would have 1.36 million results at your fingertips in 0.67 seconds. So where do you even begin?

Some websites are credible sources for pet owners, especially when it comes to wellness, training, exercise, and nutrition- and general pet health tips. The problem with diagnosing symptoms at home when your pet is ill- is that it is rarely as simple as some of these well intended web sites make it seem.

Sometimes a home remedy for one pet would be 100% effective and safe, yet for another it could be incredibly dangerous. Without a veterinarian looking at all factors of the situation, you could be doing much more harm than good. In fact, it is not uncommon that pet owners unintentionally cause a fatality by following advice that they find on the internet.

When is it a pet emergency?

One of the best tools you can have is knowing what constitutes an emergency. In other words, when it’s time to sign off of Google and contact your veterinarian immediately.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Bloat
  • Seizures
  • Collapse or profound weakness
  • Major trauma: After an incident occurs where you have reason to suspect hemorrhaging
  • Dog fight
  • Repeated vomiting or diarrhea
  • Struggling to urinate
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Coughing
  • Loss of use of rear legs
  • Signs of severe pain: restlessness, hiding, vocalizing, panting, limping
  • Known exposure to toxins

Also, if your intuition is telling you that something is just not quite right- go with your instincts and seek professional medical care immediately. For more detailed information about these emergency situations, go here.

Common at home remedies we see:

1. Induced vomiting

Your dog ate an entire bottle of medication or your daughter’s Easter basket full of chocolate- oh boy. What do you do?

Reality: Some of the methods found on the internet can be dangerous and make your pet even worse, or given certain conditions- can even be life threatening. It may seem like you need to get out whatever is in their system as quickly as possible; however, it is much better to contact your veterinarian or emergency clinic first.

2. Tea tree oil for hot spots

Your dog has irritated, itchy or infected skin- before you dowse on the tea tree oil,  you may want to think twice.

Reality: Any essential oil has the potential of being a skin irritant. A recent study, by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, has found that tea tree oil is toxic to both dogs and cats. Symptoms generally reported were depression, lethargy, incoordination, and excessive drooling.  

 3. Ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen for pain

“My pet seems to be uncomfortable and in pain, human medication should work just the same on my dog as it does on me.”

Reality: Dogs and cats liver can not process over the counter pain medications that are meant for human consumption. Drug companies have created canine and feline pain medications that are safer and more effective for your pet. Also, if you do give the human med first, it will conflict with the pet medication. It is important for your veterinarian to decide which pain medication should be used, and at what dosage.  

 4. “Natural” flea control remedies

“I want to use a more holistic approach to flea control.”

Reality: The truth is, citrus, essential oils, etc. are not an effective way of preventing a parasite infestation. We can completely understand and relate to not wanting to put chemicals on your pet, and we agree. We carefully select and recommend flea and tick medications that are safe and effective for cat or dog

Trusted Online Resources for Pet Owners

Searching the web can be a valuable resource for pet owners, but never a replacement for veterinary care. Here are some of the websites that we know and trust:

At the end of the day, your dog or cat’s veterinarian is their most valuable, and should be most trusted resource. No one knows your pet’s unique medical needs better, and will be able to tailor a treatment plan specifically made for their individual needs.

If you have any questions, please contact us! We are always happy to help. 

This blog post originally appeared on The Drake Center

Blog Category: