Many people, in effort to save money, often turn to the Internet for free veterinary advice. You will often see the comment in forums “I cannot afford to take my pet to the veterinarian…. Please help.”. My immediate response is “If you can afford a computer and Internet, you can afford to go to a vet, you just selected to spend your money elsewhere.”. As a person who kept 4 cats while working only part time on minimum wage, I see no excuses other than choice (I had no Internet, no cable TV, and no cell phone, but my cats where healthy and my vet bills were paid).
Similarly, no self respecting veterinarian would offer a diagnosis over the Internet without seeing the pet in person. It would be like a person trying to get a medical diagnosis for cancer without seeing a doctor. Not only is it irresponsible but also means they are giving away their knowledge and training for free.
There is no substitution for a visit to the vet. Here are some common pet health concerns and tips to help you decide if your pet needs a vet. You can see that this poor dog clearly should have seen a vet long ago.
Failure to use the Litter Box (Cats)
This is one of the most common searches for free veterinarian advice in cats. There are many causes, from human error to health. For more information on solutions click here, and if the link fails to offer a solution, please see your veterinarian.
Itchy Skin (Dogs)
A lot of dog owners fail to recognize that obsessive itching may be a sign of a problem. One of the biggest causes is poor ingredients in food, or food allergies. To learn more about what ingredients cause problems click here. Itchy skin might also be an indication of fleas, mites, ringworm, or ticks. Fleas and ticks will be visible, but mites (mange) and ring worm may require a vet to diagnose through a skin sample. If the link on food does not suggest a problem ingredient, an owner is wise to take their pet to the vet for proper diagnosis.
Smelly Ears (Dogs)
Ear infections can have many causes, and therefore many different solutions. An odor coming from the ear is an indication of a problem. Infections may be yeast, bacteria, or a combination of both. Ear mites generally do not cause oder and are often misdiagnosed by owners. Only a vet can tell you for certain.
Click here for more information on smelly ears in dogs.
These should be diagnosed. They may be an infection, injury, or cancerous growth. Below we see a horse with a Bowed Tendon. Your pet might be tender when the bump is touched, or might not be sore at all.
Sometimes people do nothing more than make fun of a pet with an odor problem, but abnormal gas can be a sign of a health problem or low quality food. Switch to a food gentle on a pets stomach, and if the problem persists, see a vet. Here is a link on help for cats with gas.
Bad breath can be a warning sign of many problems. Often it is an indication of poor teeth. It must be noted that if a pet has a rotten tooth the infection can spread to their brain, as such treatment is important. Bad breath may merely indicate the food is not agreeing with the pet, or be a sign of an internal health concern. You guessed it… see a veterinarian.
The cause of stomach pains is hard to diagnose without veterinary help. Pets may stand hunched, horses may roll and kick at their stomachs. Usually though, pets with upset stomachs may try to vomit (note that horses cannot vomit) or will refuse to eat. Stomach pains can be mild to severe, non-concerning, to dire emergencies. Horse should be kept moving and not allowed to roll, a vet should be contacted at once. In other pets a person needs to access the situation. Did the pet eat poison, rotten food, or swallow a toy? Call a vet!
This can be a simple reaction to eating the wrong thing, or may be a sign of a huge problem. Bloody diarrhea can indicate worms or a bacterial infection. Dark or extra smelly stool in dogs can indicate Parvo, a quick and deadly virus. Please note even vaccinated pets can have health problems.
Dog owners probably think that coughing may just be kennel cough, but heartworm (a deadly problem) often shows coughing as an early symptom, particularly after exercise. If an owner cannot attribute an occasional cough to dust, or something normal, they should consider a visit to their veterinarian.
Few people even know what they are getting into when they allow their pet to get pregnant. Most fail to get a veterinarian to look at their pet at any time throughout the pregnancy. Some owners do not make correct changes in a pets diet to help the pet produce enough milk following the birth. For the record, here is link on how to care for a pregnant pet. As an added note it is possible for a veterinarian to spay a pregnant animal (thus aborting the litter) although some will not do this if the pet is in the advanced stages of pregnancy. Also it is important to get a vet to help immediately if the delivery goes slow. If you are concerned you can always call them and they will tell you how much time to wait before bringing the pet in if nothing changes.
Here is a link on help with pregnant pets.
My pet has been hit by a car… what should I do? Go to a VET! Internal injuries are hard to spot, internal bleeding can be a slow killer. Neglecting possible bone fractures may result in permanent pain for the pet as the bones may not heal properly on their own. If you hit somebody else’s pet, that pet should be taken to a vet. If you do not know who the owner is or feel unsafe about approaching an injured animal (they can be dangerous), call the city police and/or local animal shelter/rescue. If the pet is not your own you are generally not responsible for the vet costs unless you offer to pay.
Facts to Remember
Most veterinarians have a 24 hour emergency service. Yes, they charge more after hours, but failure to call could mean life or death to your pet, or may mean they are far worse off when you do finally call, resulting in higher veterinarian bills. You can always call them and tell them the symptoms and decide if you want to bring the pet in at that time or wait until morning.
If your vet knows your pet from regular visits, you will get better help in emergencies as they will know your pets history, particularly its vaccination records.
Be aware that in some areas not talking a suffering animal to a vet may constitute neglect, a criminal offense.
Veterinary expenses can be high. Insurance is available, but an owner can do many things to prevent visits to their vet through proper feeding, vaccination, and keeping the pet indoors or in a secure yard. Additionally it is up to a person to decide to put money aside, prior to getting a pet, for emergencies.
Use common sense, thinking you know what is wrong with your pet is not the same as knowing what is wrong with your pet.
Very few people give their labor/knowledge/time away for free, so why expect that from a vet?
The Internet is a place of anonymity, any one can say they are a veterinarian and offer free advice.
For the record, I am not a Veterinarian.