Dark Side of Dr. Google

Picture this: It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and you take your best friend for their normal stroll in the park. Your best friend also happens to have four legs, an excellent nose, and a love of eating all that they find outside. A few hours later she starts having diarrhea, and being Sunday your regular clinic is not open for appointments.

Naturally, you reach for the internet and begin to Google things you can do at home to treat diarrhea and find a website that has a few recommendations. Luckily, it seems the recommendations you tried worked well, so two months later when your cat develops diarrhea you try the same tricks you did for your dog.

This time, your cat gets worse instead of better, and at a trip to the vet clinic, you discover that one of the remedies you used is actually harmful to cats, which was not mentioned on the web page that you read. Thankfully, the cat is able to be treated and recovers, but it brings to light an important problem that is on the rise amongst the pet owning population: the use of “Dr. Google” to diagnose and treat problems at home.

While not every suggestion you find on the internet will be a bad suggestion, there is also a prevalence of misinformation at the click of a button. A quick google search for at home remedies may save you an initial trip to the vet, or it may prove to be a life-threatening decision.

The problem with using websites to take your information from is that in the vast majority of cases these pages are published by members of the general public who have not studied veterinary medicine or the medications used and are not aware of possible interactions both within the body and with other treatments your pet may be using.

In addition, every patient is an individual- different breeds, different medications they are on and so forth. Sometimes we will see patients that owners assume have a certain issue, when in fact, there may be something completely different going on. While using the internet to search remedies for what you believe is wrong with your pet might turn up some suggestions, it may also lead you to treat a problem your pet is not currently facing.

The best course of action if you are unsure whether or not a medication or at home treatment is safe is to contact your veterinary office for advice. In certain instances, from the history, we get while listening to you over the phone we can help determine if there are things you can try at home that will help and are safe before you give them. If your veterinary office is closed and you are not certain, we advise trying to contact the nearest open or emergency veterinary clinic. Here at Mayfield Veterinary Clinic, if we are not open, a veterinarian can always be consulted for advice through our emergency services.

Written by Sarah Fillioe, DVM