In the age of information and with Google at our fingertips, many of us opt out of taking our pets to the vet at the first sign of an illness. When all the knowledge and wisdom of the world is at the click of a mouse button, why not type in a handful of keywords and answer your worries from the comfort of your couch?
Ask.Vet, an online service that allows you to text in your concerns to a “virtual vet” for quick answers to your animal healthcare questions, explains that 75 percent of people choose to turn to the internet due to the price and inconvenience of going in person, and 21 percent only go for emergency situations.
Before you decide to skip the drive and pull out your smartphone, here are a few things to think about before going to Google for the answers.
1. You’re not a veterinarian
Most of us probably didn’t go to veterinary school, so what makes us qualified to diagnose our pets? While the information is definitely out there on one of the millions of websites that make up the internet, the chances of you finding the correct one—even when you know what you’re looking for—are slim. Add in a severe lack of experience to the mix and sorting through all the possible options from a Google search is nearly impossible.
Veterinary School is a long hard four years—after another equally-as-taxing four years of pre-veterinary school—for a reason. There’s a lot of information, and a lot of practice that comes before calling yourself a veterinarian. Much more than most can absorb from a couple hours surfing the web. It’s much more likely that you will pick the wrong diagnosis for your furry friend.
2. Time is of the essence—for ‘Spot’ and your wallet
With the average visit to a vet clinic ranging between $35-$145 just to walk in the door, it’s understandable that people are hesitant to go when there might be nothing wrong. But, when it comes to any form of medicine, the sooner you treat the better—and the less it will cost in the end.
With so many illnesses sharing so many of their symptoms it’s impossible for the average pet owner to distinguish the difference between their pet being tired from heart disease and organ failure versus if Spot is simply getting old. In one of these examples it is perfectly fine to stay home and wait. It costs nothing and there isn’t actually a problem. The other is a worst-case scenario where every second counts for you and your pet and you won’t care how empty you wallet looks when you’re done as long as both of you get to go home.
3. You can’t have a conversation with Google
Any time you go to the doctor they ask you a multitude of questions. Some seem relevant, others not so much. They get your weight, they measure your height, take multiple vital signs and compare those to your last visit. The process is far more complex than simply asking a single question and walking out cured. Why wouldn’t the same be true for your animals. Part of any vet visit is a conversation between you and the veterinarian. The vet needs to know how your pet has been eating, your pet’s energy level since you started noticing symptoms, etc. The list goes on and on.
On the other hand, there is no discourse with Google when searching why Spot has seemed extra tired as of late. The internet can’t ask how long the problem has been going on, or tell whether or not your pet has gained or lost an unusual amount of weight, or compare their health with your last visit. Instead, only knowing that he’s been tired, Google will give you a website with a list of diseases that have that one symptom on their list, which leads us to the first two points.
In the end, the best thing you can do if you think that Spot is sick, is go seek professional advice. To spare yourself wasted time, money and potentially the loss of a part of your family, it’s best to avoid using the internet to find quick fixes and advice and seek guidance from a professional veterinarian for the proper care and answers.