Dr. Google: Why Depending on The Internet For Veterinary Advice is Dangerous

Maybe your cat has just vomited and appears restless. Or your dog has some sort of skin irritation. Or perhaps your pet has been coughing for a few days. What’s the first thing you’ll likely do? Be honest! 

If you said “Google your pet’s symptoms”, you’re not alone. And while health information online can be informative, there are so many problems with relying on the internet for veterinary advice, and they put your pet’s health at serious risk. Read on to learn how relying on the Internet for veterinary advice can be dangerous for your pet.

Dr. Google’s Imaginary Veterinary Expertise

Pet health websites have exploded over the past decade. Some of these are credible, such as the AAHA and AVMA websites, for example. These may provide pet owners with accurate information about at home pet care. However, trying to make a diagnosis or decide on a treatment for your pet based on an internet search can be dangerous. 

In order to diagnose a pet’s symptoms, a veterinarian has to look at many factors. Important components are a physical examination, your pet’s medical history, your input about any household changes or diet, and blood tests, among other things. Through a scientific process, variables are eliminated one by one until a diagnosis is reached. Then, the appropriate treatment can begin.

Another problem with using the internet for veterinary advice is that many symptoms are indicative of several different illnesses. For example, vomiting is often a sign of gastric upset, which can be caused by a diet change, a foreign body obstruction, or a pet poisoning. Because the variables are too numerous to address with online information alone, a visit with your veterinarian who can utilize advanced veterinary diagnostics tools is the way to get your pet the help they need. 

Using the Internet For Veterinary Advice

Even innocuous online tips about how to treat your pet may result in:

  • Causing a delay in your pet receiving the proper care (this could result in your pet suffering with the condition for longer and even worsen their prognosis)
  • Wasting money
  • Interfering with our ability to make a proper and correct diagnosis 
  • Limiting our ability to prescribe or treat as we need to
  • Unintentionally poisoning or causing harm to your pet

While you know your pet well, examination by a licensed veterinarian is the best way to ensure a proper diagnosis. We care about your pet, and allowing us to intervene early is the most cost conscious and effective way to help your pet feel better. 

There are some advantages to online pet health information, such as finding the nearest emergency clinic or the phone number for the Pet Poison Helpline. And, there are some great pet first aid resources. One of our favorites is the Pet First Aid App from the American Red Cross. But if your pet is experiencing an emergency (or if you’re unsure!), the safest approach to diagnose and treat is via professional veterinary care. 

For non-emergency pet health information, Harpeth Hills Animal Hospital has a wealth of articles on improving your pet’s health and well being. Check out our online blog articles about pet nutrition, exercise, parasite prevention, and many more empowering topics. We hope you’ll explore this extensive resource. 

If you have any questions about your pet’s health or using the internet for veterinary advice, please give us a call. We are on your team!