In the first part of our multi-part series on "The Most Common Mistakes Pet Parents Make," Dr. Shadi Ireifej shares a quick rule of thumb to determine whether or not your pet needs immediate veterinary attention.
By Pet Pro Supply Co. Featured Veterinarian,
Dr. Shadi Ireifej DVM DACVS
Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer at VetTriage
Owning (parenting) a pet is difficult! It takes years of experience with owning many pets to get the hang of it. Husbandry, nutrition and medical issues are just some of the broad topics that are often a source of confusion and frustration for many pet owners. In this series, we will visit some of the more common mistakes pet parents make and present solutions for (and ways to entirely avoid) those mistakes.
To determine whether a situation is serious enough for medical attention, first just think of your pet as human.
Veterinarians receive numerous questions daily with regard to what constitutes an actual medical emergency. Seizures, vomiting, limping, bloody urine, ear infections, lethargy, and so forth are only a small number of clinical signs pet parents bring to the vet’s attention on a daily basis. Pet owners are (understandbly) not always sure about what constitutes an actual emergency. They’re not wrong to be confused - after all, most pet owners have no medical background. Even the pet owners who are medically trained dare not compare the clinical signs seen in their pet with the human counterpart in case differences exist (and they definitely do).
So, in the absence of being able to reach a vet during a potential medical crisis, what can a caring and responsible pet owner who is not medically trained do to "troubleshoot" how serious their pet’s clinical signs at home are?
I want to present to you a simple way of thinking that may help ease your mind as a parent: imagine that your pet were a human. In fact, imagine that your pet were a human that you care for deeply - a parent, a sibling, or a dear friend. Even moreso, imagine that your pet were not only a human you cared for, but your own human child.
Now ask yourself...
How many of us are likely to take our child to the emergency room if they weren’t hungry for one meal? Or if your child was a little less energetic that day? Or maybe your child felt a little feverish. Probably most of us wouldn’t even consult with a doctor at the onset of such mild symptoms in our children, much less take them to the hospital. We’d probably just troubleshoot the problem ourselves and observe the child more closely to see if the problem progresses, persists, or resolves.
In contrast, what if your child were having seizures? Or became paralyzed? Or had constant vomiting for hours or even days? The vast majority of us would seek emergency medical consultation immediately.
Believe it or not, veterinarians are constantly facing such issues. Clients either wait way too long with what should have seemed like an obvious medical emergency, or are way too reactive with the most minor of clinical signs. If more pet owners imagined that the illness their pet is experiencing was actually occurring in their child, then there would be a clearer logic dictating what step to take.
All too often veterinarians are confronted with illnesses and trauma that required more immediate attention earlier. This affects costs to the pet parent, viable treatment options, and the patient's prognosis. There is nothing more heartbreaking to a vet than giving a pet owner bad news about their pet, knowing that had the owner acted sooner, the discussion would have been different... and more positive. At the same time, constant seeking of medical advice for seemingly minor issues not only creates unnecessary financial burdens to the pet parent, but also takes an appointment slot away from a pet that may actually have a true emergency.
Note that this idea of thinking of your pet like a human child is not meant to replace sound veterinary advice from an experienced professional. After all, we are all aware that some of the most serious illnesses manifest themselves with seemingly benign clinical signs at home. But, when you as the pet owner are contemplating the next step and are unsure of how concerned you need to be, try to implement this thought process the next time your pet is ill or traumatized. This is especially useful during times where access to a vet is limited or not possible because the facility is closed or the vet is too busy to answer your call.
|Implement this simple thought process - ask yourself, "what would I do if these symptoms were present in my human child?" It may save you much in terms of avoiding unnecessary pet suffering, financial burdens, and concern surrounding your pet.|
"OK, but what do you do when you just aren't sure if it's serious or not?"
Veterinary Telehealth is an excellent compromise between making your own judgement and seeking a professional’s opinion in person. is the premier online veterinary telemedicine resource that does just that: a real veterinarian triages your pet. When you can't be sure about what to do, you get a quick answer to the question: “how concerned should I be with the signs my pet is currently displaying?”
The online vet will inspect your pet through proprietary video software in real time, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, while also collecting vital information from you regarding your pet’s history and current clinical signs. When it comes to medical conditions, time is of the essence - especially if it turns out to be a real emergency.
About Dr. Shadi Ireifej:
Dr. Shadi Ireifej DVM DACVS is the Chief Medical Officer at VetTriage. He holds degrees from SUNY Binghamton and Cornell University and has practiced as a veterinary surgeon all across the United States. Follow him on Instagram @dr.shadi.ireifej and subscribe to his YouTube channel (Dr. Shadi Ireifej).
VetTriage is the world’s foremost provider of veterinary telehealth services. With VetTriage, pet owners have immediate access to triage advice from licensed veterinarians. Follow them on Instagram @vettriage and Facebook (facebook.com/televeterinarian).