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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Catch-up Blog #4: Don't Use The Internet For Emergencies

Since I'm open about being willing to take emails and questions from readers, I will from time-to-time get someone asking about a sudden problem with their pet.  Here is an actual question (name withheld):

My houndog was chewing on a medium sized rawhide strip, she choked on it and then swallowed it ( about half of it) before I could get it out! Will it hurt her??? What do I watch for? Bloating? I'm worried!   Thanks for your time! 

I am very careful on my sidebar and disclaimer to note that my advice or comments do NOT take the place of a veterinary visit, and that any response I make can be very delayed.  Yet I still have people contacting me during a possible emergency.  I know that this is because people want free advice and don't want to have to pay for a veterinary visit.  I know that people like me are partially to blame for the "Dr. Google" phenomenon so common nowadays.  But I still don't get the lack of urgency and common sense in sending a small-time blogger like me an email.  

In the time it takes someone to do an internet search, find my blog, read a few posts, discover my email, and send me a message, they could have already been on and off the phone to their local veterinarian or veterinary emergency clinic.  And they could have spoken to a real person.  Now, that person would likely have told them that a diagnosis could not be made over the phone and the would need to bring their pet in, which would have cost money.  But you know what?  That's what I would say also.  If one of my readers were able to get me immediately and chat with me online, my response would be "Call your emergency vet."  I would say that every single time.  I've even told friends that over the phone, since I can't be there to see their pet.  

Does that mean that sometimes you're going to pay the vet and it turn out to be a minor issue?  Yes.  But there's no way to tell if it's a major or minor issue without the exam.  I know that personally from a few days ago when I had to have surgery for acute appendicitis.  I thought it was just gastroenteritis, but I ended up at the ER and in surgery within a few hours.  There is no way to know what's going on without an in-person visit.

So here's the bottom line.  If you have a simple question, it's okay to look on the internet.  But if you have a possible emergency, call someone.  Don't take the chance of waiting for a reply online that may or may not come, as a delay could result in a health risk for your pet.  It's worth paying a little money to have the best possible outcome.  And when you're contacting someone on a blog, read ALL disclaimers and don't expect to hear back right away.