I take it as a compliment. People consult me all the time, especially about their cats and occasionally dogs, wondering if I can tell them what ails the critter in question. Or whether there is something they can give – holistic, herbal, OTC stuff, whatever – that will solve the problem they’ve self-diagnosed their pet with. (Bless Dr. Google.) I do know more than the average pet parent because of all my years of care for my own animals, for people’s pets, and with the trap-neuter-return program. But what I have learned repeatedly is this: I am not a vet. I’m not even a vet-tech. And those folks are far more qualified to give advice when it comes to health issues for pets.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as guilty as the next person of consulting Dr. Google. I’ve just learned to take that with a very large grain of salt. At best, I’m coming up with a guess, and I’m wrong as often as I’m right. Whenever I’m talking with a vet about a sick animal I try to make sure that they know that my Dr. Google search was just a starting place, that I’m not married to whatever I happened to find. Is that blood in the cat’s urine a urinary tract infection, a problem with the bladder or kidney, or maybe stones or crystals, or something else entirely? Beats me. That’s what the various blood/urine/x-rays are for, and only the vet can order and read them.
My best advice when your pet is sick: pay attention. That’s what I try to do best. That’s what your vet needs from you too. Is the animal acting differently than usual, and if so, how? What about the four biggies: are they eating, drinking, peeing, and pooping? Has anything changed about any of those four basics? Has anything changed in the pet’s environment recently that might be affecting the situation – new people, new food, people leaving, new pets, change of furniture, anything! Does the pet seem to hurt anywhere?
Don’t get me wrong. I am truly flattered when folks consult me about health issues, but I almost always start the conversation by saying I am not a vet! I’m likely to ask the questions above, and suggest they share that info with their vet, who knows a whole hell of a lot more than I do.