The risks of pet-diagnosing

The dangers of pet-diagnosis

Dr Matt Spiegle, Medical Director at Vetster, has warned pet owners against ‘pet-diagnosing’ at home…

We know that the biggest concern for pet owners is for their animal’s health. As humans we often turn to self-diagnosing our symptoms. With the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and breadth of information available online, pet owners may be tempted to treat their pets the same way and try to tackle issues at home.

Animals cannot communicate how they are feeling to their pet parents and this can often result in confusion, missed signs, and misinterpreting what their pets are trying to tell them. Not addressing your animal’s needs or misdiagnosing the issue can potentially lead to worsening their discomfort and more serious issues.

For example, many human medications are toxic to our pets, must be given in different doses or are used in different circumstances, so self-prescribing at home can also be very dangerous. When your pet is showing signs of discomfort, it is imperative that you contact a vet as soon as possible to start a treatment plan or rule out any serious conditions.

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Some of the most common ‘pet-diagnosed’ symptoms include…

Gastrointestinal Upset

Pet owners may attribute vomiting, diarrhoea, lack or decrease of appetite to a simple stomach upset. However, there can sometimes be potential underlying causes that need addressing by your vet, such as parasites, dietary concerns , infections, or more serious health conditions.

Skin Irritations

Owners might try to diagnose and treat skin issues like itching, redness, or rashes as allergies, fleas, or dry skin. It is important to note that skin treatments used on adults are often unsuitable for pets and that these symptoms can sometimes be due to more serious  infections or illnesses autoimmune disorders that require a proper treatment plan. Many cases of allergies are due to a variety of factors and require specialised medications, shampoos, diets and ongoing vet care.

Respiratory Problems

Coughing, sneezing, or difficulty breathing can commonly be misdiagnosed at home as simple allergies, but these could be signs of more serious conditions like pneumonia, heart disease, or asthma, which need long-term treatment plans.

Joint and Mobility Issues

Owners may attribute their pet’s limping or reluctance to move to simple muscle strains or arthritis. Whilst this is often the case, there is always the chance your pet is experiencing a more serious issue like a ligament tear or neurological disorder, which are important to be ruled out by a vet. It is also important to note that if your pet is limping, it means that they are in pain and limping is not normal.  Many human pain medications are toxic to pets as well so always speak to your veterinarian before giving any medications to your pet.

Urinary Problems

Pets exhibiting frequent urination, accidents, or blood in their urine may lead owners to suspect the animal has a simple urinary tract infection that will go away on its own. However, these infections could become more serious if left untreated and these symptoms could also indicate other conditions such as bladder stones, kidney disease, or metabolic conditions like diabetes and Cushing’s disease.It is especially important with males cats who are struggling to urinate as this can be a medical emergency since they could have a blockage in their urethra.

As soon as your pet shows any signs of illness or discomfort or any changes in their normal routine or behaviour, including changes in energy, appetite, social behaviours or bathroom habits, speak to  a vet. Your vet will quickly be able to advise you on whether or not your animal’s condition is potentially serious and help advise you on the next steps. For peace of mind and to avoid making the situation worse, always consult a vet before treating the issue yourself.

This is a guest post by Matt Spiegle. Want to write for us? Visit or email


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