Billings_iStock_000016221968_LargeImagine this scenario: It’s midnight and your pet just vomited up who-knows-what and appears restless. What is the first thing you’ll likely to do? Honestly?

If you said search Google for sick pet symptoms, you would be one pet owner among many. And, while online pet health information can be informative, the problems of relying on online information to diagnose your pet are many and may put your pet’s health at risk.

Dr. Google’s Imaginary Veterinary Expertise

Pet health websites have exploded over the past decade. Some of them are credible, such as the AVMA and AAHA sites, and can benefit pet owners with practical at-home pet care; especially in the areas of preventative wellness, nutrition, exercise, and overall pet health tips.

However, attempting to make a diagnosis based on visible symptoms and online pet health information is a gamble.

In order to diagnose a pet’s symptoms, a veterinarian needs to look at several factors, via a thorough physical examination, inquiry into any household or dietary changes, your pet’s medical history, and blood tests, among other things. Through this careful screening process, the most likely or common health conditions are ruled out until a diagnosis is determined.

Another issue with attempting to diagnose your pet based on outward symptoms alone, is that many symptoms are indicative of multiple diseases or illnesses. For example, vomiting is often a symptom of a gastric upset; which can be a result of something as simple as a change in diet, or something as serious as poisoning. Because the variables are too numerous to address with online information alone, it’s safer and more effective to use veterinary medicine and the tools and technologies of advanced veterinary care to diagnose and treat pet illnesses.

How to Respond to a Sick Pet or Pet Health Emergency

One of the most empowered approaches to helping your pet during sickness or sudden illness is to know the red flag warnings of a possible pet emergency. In some cases, you simply have a feeling that your pet is in distress. In this case, go with your intuition and seek veterinary care immediately. Many quick-to-act pet guardians have prevented serious health issues from becoming fatal by following their intuition.

When it comes to a sick pet, we view any of the following symptoms as a pet health emergency:

  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop or bleeding from the mouth, nose, ears, or anus
  • Choking, gagging, or difficulty breathing
  • Heat stroke or hyperthermia
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Fall from great height or trauma from car accident or animal attack
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Refusal to eat or drink water
  • Signs that your pet is in distress or pain
  • Unconsciousness
  • If your pet experiences any of these emergencies, please, put down the Google and contact us immediately.

    There are some advantages to online pet health information, such as finding the Pet Poison Helpline number or the nearest after hours emergency veterinary clinic. There are also some incredible pet first aid resources out there – one of our favorites is the Pet First Aid App from the American Red Cross. But, when it comes to your pet’s health, the safest approach to diagnosis and treatment is professional veterinary care.

    For your non-emergency pet care needs, Billings Animal Family Hospital has a number of articles on improving your pet’s quality of life and health through nutrition, exercise, parasite prevention, and many more pet owner empowering topics. We hope you’ll take the time to explore our extensive Pet Education Library and collection of pet care videos.