Why You Should Never Self-Diagnose Your Pet

Why You Should Never Self-Diagnose Your Pet

Something is wrong: Your pet isn’t eating or has loose stool or is acting just plain strange. Is he or she feeling well?  Many pet owners can immediately tell if something is a little off with their furry friends. Symptoms do sometimes take a bit longer than usual to appear but owners should be able to spot signs of illness. Veterinary visits can be expensive, prompting some pet owners to try to self-diagnose their pet’s symptoms. Should you do the same?

Delay in Treatment

Self-diagnosis can cause a delay in vital medical treatment for your pet. Certain issues in dogs and cats such as flu, liver failure, or other serious conditions require immediate veterinary attention. Neglecting medical care while consulting “Dr. Google” puts off diagnosis and treatment, forcing your pet to spend more time in pain.  Search engines can produce hundreds of diagnoses from one set of clinical signs. It’s extremely difficult for the average pet owner to determine which of these may be correct.

Easy Fix

Occasionally, self-diagnosis can be accurate and alleviate your pet’s symptoms. It is most useful for simple things such as the introduction of new food or a broken toe nail. A call to your vet can show you some useful suggestions for similar situations as well. Your veterinary office is a good source of reliable advice and if they do not think the problem is serious, it probably isn’t. If the problem persists, however, don’t wait too long to get your pet to the veterinarian.

Wrong Issue

Self-diagnosis can also lead to the wrong conclusion. Inexperienced pet owners may think that their pets’ symptoms are caused by one problem when in fact it is a different ailment altogether. Treating one illness as if it were another has the potential to only make your pet feel worse. Talk to your veterinarian or schedule an appointment for an accurate diagnosis.

Emergency Care

If your pet seems critically ill, the next move should always be a trip to the vet. Signs of critical illness include loss of appetite, refusal to drink water, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or a severe wound. In these cases, it is best to seek proper care and not waste time searching for answers.  Most owners can tell if their pet needs emergency care and know to act quickly in these situations.

Online Pet Symptom Checkers

There are several websites that offer symptom checkers for cats and dogs.  Many of these sites give you possible diagnoses based on which body part is involved. For example, if your cat has eye discharge, it could be an eye infection, allergies, etc. These sites will usually recommend a veterinary visit depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Education and Awareness

Knowing your pet is a major factor in identifying health issues. In most cases, pets will display some sign that they are unwell. If there is a change in your pet’s eating habits or he or she is lethargic, unhappy or just acting strange, there is a good chance your pet is ill. As a caring owner, it can help to know your pet and be familiar with basic health issues that can plague cats or dogs.  Watch for obvious signs of health problems, but try not to arrive at your own diagnosis. It is best to allow a veterinarian to isolate the issue before determining a treatment plan.


While many pet owners may be tempted to work out their pets’ issues on their own, the safest solution is to not do anything until you call your veterinarian. Yes, the Internet has become very helpful for countless problems but it was not designed to be your go-to, DIY pet treatment. Some of you may feel that veterinary care is an unnecessary expense, but it is important to remember that as a pet parent, you are responsible for a living being. Your pet is a toddler that never grows up and therefore needs special care every time he or she feels sick.

Do yourself and your dog or cat a favor by not attempting to diagnose whatever it is you feel your pet is experiencing.

As painful as it is to see a pet suffer, it would be much more painful not to see them get better because you decided to base your treatment on the opinion of the Internet.