‘Should I Take My Pet to the Vet?’ – YES!
Ever visited an internet forum where someone asks 'Should I take my pet to the vet?', or 'My pet is acting strange, what should I do?'. You're not alone. I often come across these threads and it's quite worrisome. Not because the people offering suggestions are bad people, or even wrong, but because there's not enough information for anyone to reach an informed decision.
This also isn't an attack on the people that are seeking help for their furry companion. In fact, kudos to those who seek help for paying enough attention to their pet to realize something is wrong. BUT, even though everyone means well, following the advice of someone that doesn't know anything about your pet and can't properly assess them is dangerous.
Those who give advice probably aren't qualified to do so
Again, this isn't to insult people who are willing to give advice as I'm sure they mean well, but there's a reason the only people willing to give advice usually aren't qualified to give it - and it's not because veterinarians don't use the internet.
Trained professionals, such as a veterinarian, put their license on the line every single time they treat your pet, and giving medical advice is treatment. In a lot of cases the only way to determine what's causing a problem is through tests that most people don't have access to (blood tests, x-rays, etc), and these certainly can't be done over the internet. A veterinarian would be placing their license and livelihood on the line when they know they can't possibly have all the information needed to make an informed decision.
Similar symptoms do not mean same diagnosis
Symptoms are often similar with a wide range of problems, sometimes serious problems present in atypical ways, and sometimes symptoms will change as a disease/illness progresses. This is also true with humans, but the problem is magnified with our little buddies because they can't tell you what's wrong.
An example is noticeably low or decreased level of activity. There are so many things that could be causing this: Could be viral, bacterial, parasites, poisoning, hormonal imbalance (to list a few: diabetes, low potassium, hypothyroidism), cancer, malnutrition, or it could be that moving causes them pain. If it's due to pain, what is causing the pain? Great question! We've now added literally everywhere in their body that has or can effect nerves as the potential culprit. (This list of potential causes is certainly not all inclusive, and there are far more than I could include in this short article.)
So, just because Fido in Tennessee experienced low activity level that happened to be corrected with changing his food, that does not mean Muffin in California with the same symptoms won't have a tumor that will metastasize unless treated quickly.
Logical cause is not always the real culprit
Just because the culprit appears to be obvious does not mean it is. Underlying issues can be difficult to detect, and since you are dealing with everyone that has access to the internet even the most rare causes now become very real possibilities. Even if you were somehow able to follow your pet around all day and saw everything they got into, which you can't, you still don't know what's going on inside of them! Their body is just as intricate and complicated as yours and requires countless interactions among many different systems and networks.
So please, if you're seeking help through the internet and have to ask "Should I take them my pet to the vet?", the answer is always a resounding "YES!". And the next time you come across a thread where someone asks for health advice for their pet, just tell them the only correct answer anyone can give them over the internet: "Take them to the vet."
- This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute, or replacement, for advice or instructions from a veterinarian or other trained professional.