Don’t be a “Dr. Google”: The doctors at Leesburg Veterinary Hospital are here to help and answer your pet questions.
The following post was written by Dr. Jennifer Boyle with contributions from Dr. Lauren Kloer:
I am writing this blog as a cautionary tale for all pet owners out there. Please avoid searching the internet (or opinions of well-meaning friends) to diagnose what is wrong with your pet. While there is good information online, there is equally if not more misinformation out there, and only a trained veterinarian can truly assess your pet’s condition.
We encounter cases at LVH where well-meaning pet owners attempt to diagnose their pet via a “Dr. Google” search, and because of this, there is often a delay in a proper diagnosis. A recent, very sad situation occurred where an owner thought their pet had a collapsing trachea based on internet research (collapsing trachea can cause a cough, and their dog had been coughing for a few weeks) however the pet was actually in congestive heart failure. The diagnosis was delayed so much that by the time the owner brought their beloved pet to our office, he was so sick that he went into cardiac arrest and sadly could not be saved. The outcome likely would have been much better had we seen this dog sooner.
Nothing can replace an exam and evaluation by a trained veterinary professional. Sick pets are not easy to diagnose – they cannot tell us what is wrong, or where it hurts, or that they ate that funny looking plant two days ago and haven’t felt quite right since then. Most pet owners know their pets very well, and if they feel that something is wrong with their pet, then chances are that they are right. At this point, it is up to a veterinarian to carefully examine the pet, listen to the history, form a list of differentials, and then work through that list to figure out what is wrong and what course of action should be taken. This is not a task that one should take for granted; it takes many years of studying medicine and performing thorough physical exams on countless animals in order to properly diagnose and treat a medical problem.
Please realize that just because a friend of a friend’s pet was doing the same thing and then was diagnosed with a certain problem or was fine after a few days without treatment does not mean your pet with similar symptoms has the same diagnosis or outcome. In some situations, this can mean life or death if treatment is not sought. Thus, we encourage you to seek veterinary consult for any problem your pet is exhibiting.
If you are ever not sure your pet should be seen by a vet, if you should rush in as an emergency or if you can wait until the next day, please just call your veterinary office and speak with them. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that or feel that your vet doesn’t have your pet’s best interest in mind then I encourage you to seek out a new veterinarian with which you are comfortable. High-quality veterinary medicine can be expensive, however, if you can’t afford the full workup, and your pet is stable, then your veterinarian will help you come up with a step-wise plan to try to limit the expense.
Please don’t avoid an exam at the veterinarian’s office because of concern with the expense. A skilled veterinarian can work within a reasonable budget. Here at LVH, we can help with this. I am always honest with my clients about a plan “A,” and then there is a “B” plan, and sometimes even a “C” plan. The only times that this is not a reasonable approach is if the pet is suffering or may suffer negative consequences from a delayed diagnosis or suboptimal treatment, but this is a conversation we can have so that you can weigh the options and cost and tell us what works best for your family. Waiting until your pet is really ill only increases expense and makes his or her prognosis poorer, and your pet may likely have some degree of unnecessary suffering. (Most animals hide pain and discomfort very well, so even if they don’t seem to be in discomfort doesn’t mean they are not in pain or are not suffering).
It is our goal at LVH to provide the best care possible for your pets and to be sure you are always well informed about recommended diagnostics and treatments. We focus on high-quality care, preventative medicine, and client education.
For more information about our practice, services, or to contact us, please visit our website.