The Danger of At-Home Diagnoses

The internet is an awesome thing.  The amount of information one has access to is staggering, and I must say that it is a great idea to educate yourself on whatever catches your eye – including your pets.  Where we can run into trouble is reading other owners’ stories and diagnosis of their pets who had never actually been truly diagnosed by someone equipped to do so or on pages like Wikipedia, where anyone from anywhere can write articles about a topic on a whim.

This keeps me up at night.  I think about all of the animals being “diagnosed” for this problem or that, then treated with things people online told them to.  Two things are wrong with this.   One, the diagnosis is probably wrong but even if they aren’t, at home treatment with things you don’t know the risks of is  not only reckless but risking your animal’s life.  You shouldn’t go online to diagnose yourself and your pet is no different.  Just like a visit to WebMD is usually a death sentence just because you sneezed twice, the internet can blow things out of proportion or conversely minimize the risks involved in your animal’s condition.  Either way the assessment is wrong, and you need to get a professional’s opinion already.

From: Somewhere on Pinterest

People like to avoid going to the vet for myriad reasons.  Number one, from what I have heard, is to save money.  I can relate.  I save money wherever I can, just trying to make every dollar go as far as possible.  Your pet’s health is not the place to do this.  These creatures depend on you for every conceivable facet of their lives from physical health, to mental health, and any other kind of health or well-being you can think of.  If they could, they would go to a doctor when they feel crappy but unfortunately for them they need to depend on you to take them.

Imagine a baby who has some disease or another.  They can’t tell you what is wrong or where it hurts, and similarly neither can your pet.  You wouldn’t attempt to diagnose your kid if they spike a fever and vomit/defecate profusely for an entire day.  You wouldn’t just Google it and hope you find the right answer to make your baby feel better.  Why is it OK for us to do so with our pets?  Here’s a concept not many people seem to understand – your pet can be in pain, they can be uncomfortable, and they can be sick.  It is not OK to just let them continue being these things while you do “extensive” research online where some moron tells you to just give them an Aspirin and be done with it.

By the way, Aspirin really blows as a pain reliever for dogs and it’s very hard on their system.  Stop being so silly and get them something that’s actually going to do more good than harm.  Moving right along…

Another reason people avoid going to a vet is they are under this ridiculous assumption that their vet is going to do all kinds of “useless” tests just to rack up a bill before giving the animal their treatment.  Again, this is stupid.  They aren’t hiding the answer from you, they’re trying to find it.  You may not think radiographs, bloodwork, urinalysis, or a fecal flotation is helpful, but they can be very useful tools.  They may not tell us the precise problem, and many times they won’t, but they will rule out other problems and subsequently narrow down the list of things that could be the issue.  Most will do so within a budget the owner consents to.  They will do the ones they think will give them the most information because let’s face it, most people don’t have the funds, or aren’t willing to part with them, to do an intensely thorough work-up, and that’s OK.  Many vets will work with you to find a solution that fits your budget.

Veterinarians don’t run tests for funsies, okay? Tests cost money to run and the equipment costs many dollars to buy.  They spend this money so that they can have as many tools available as possible to give them as much information as possible.  They want to get it right the first time, instead of having you come back again when “Fluffy” is still having projectile diarrhea all over your new rug.  You may think that just by walking in the door, the vet is going to magically tell you what’s wrong and give you a fantastical cure-all, but you need to give your head a shake and realize that the problem isn’t always that simple.  In fact, it rarely is.




One of the fastest-growing dangers to pets is people who post anecdotal evidence online that their idea of “medicine” works.  That their garlic supplement will ward off fleas, without bothering to take into account that garlic destroys your dog or cat’s red blood cells.  At least they won’t have fleas anymore right? Wrong.  Now your pet could be anemic AND flea-ridden and you’ll be right where you started plus a real, life-threatening condition.


The moral of the story is: do some real research, educate yourself with trusted sites that back up their information with real science.  But don’t let that information that you find replace the invaluable advice that your veterinarian can give you.


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