With more information available online, owners are diagnosing their pets at home

By Jenisha Watts
Updated April 07, 2011 11:45 AM
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Some pet owners are no longer relying on veterinarians to diagnose their furry friends, but are instead turning to the Internet for help.

Take David Gilmore, the owner of a rescue Shih Tzu-Pekingese mix who started acting “very strange” one day. “She wouldn’t use the bathroom as frequently,” Gilmore tells PEOPLEPets.com. “I Googled some of the symptoms and found out that she was going into heat.” After reading the results online, Gilmore opted not to take his pooch to a vet clinic.

Depending on the Internet to explain usual behavior in their animals is a new trend among pet owners, who usually end up avoiding a general practitioner altogether, according to a Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study.

“It is what we call Doctor Google,” says Dr. Cristiano von Simson, Director of Veterinary Services at Bayer Animal Health. “[Some pet owners] do searches for symptoms or look for advice on demand. It is a problem if they substitute doctor visits when they get too comfortable with the information.”

Still, Gilmore is adamant that there’s no harm. “Even with humans, they diagnose medical symptoms online,” Gilmore says. “We didn’t take her to the vet then because I knew that it was a temporary situation. We used Google to verify what she was going through.”

Simson says it is important for clinics to have a web presence to share health tips with pet owners. He even suggests sending personal messages like, “It’s time to bring Fluffy in for a dental check-up.”

For Gilmore and Sasha, going to the vet for an annual exam is a must. But, Gilmore isn’t feeling guilty about relying on an Internet search when something comes up.

“I’m not eliminating the veterinarian,” he says. “I just strongly believe in using Google.”