Let’s say you wake up one morning and a muscle in your left thigh won’t stop twitching, to the point of extreme annoyance.
You do what any one of us would do. You Google “muscle twitch” to figure out what’s going on, relying on the infallible Internet to provide definitive answers.
Five minutes later, you’re convinced it’s the early signs of a fatal disease, and again, you do what anyone would do — blame the Internet for being a hypochondriac.
That’s all well and good when it comes to self-diagnosis. It’s not so good when it comes to diagnosing your pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association warns that unsafe Googling can seriously harm, if not kill, your pet.
Surveys show that nearly three out of four pet owners use the Internet as their first source of pet health-care information, citing the high cost of going to the vet.
Veterinarians say Internet-based misdiagnoses can hurt your pet and cause you to incur greater costs over the long term.
Maybe your dog has lost her appetite or started to urinate inside the house. Even minor symptoms may be the result of complicated medical issues.
Loss of appetite can signal anything from an upset stomach to heart disease. Excessive urination could be behavioral or caused by kidney or liver disease.
Owners also may be more likely to believe websites that tell them what they want to hear. If their dog isn’t eating, for example, they’ll provide the tasty treats that many websites advocate to enhance greater appetite.
Not that anyone will be discouraged from going to the Internet when something is wrong, as scores of people do when they notice an odd rash on their lower back. It’s become human nature.
That’s why the AVMA urges people to ask their vets for recommended sites.
It also suggests visiting the WebMD Pet Health Community, which AVMA members frequent to offer informed advice.
Another option is Ask.Vet, where you can pose one question for $9.99, with the assigned vet following through via text until the problem is resolved. You may also subscribe for $99 a year, which includes six phone calls with a vet and unlimited text sessions.
Better yet, seek professional help, whether your dog is excessively panting or that rash on your back is spreading.