The 5 illnesses only your vet can diagnose

Working in the veterinary industry, I know the importance of taking my pet to an AAHA-accredited veterinary practice — whether he is exhibiting symptoms or if it is simply time for a preventive care checkup.

Unfortunately, due to the current state of the economy, many pet parents are trying to save a few bucks by searching the Internet when their pets seem to be feeling under the weather. Saving time and money by searching the Internet first seems like a good idea, right? I asked Dale Paley, DVM.

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The Internet has had a huge impact on society. How has it impacted the veterinary industry in particular?

Dr. Paley: The Internet has, in many ways, complicated everyday veterinary practice. There are so many sites about pet health care that have poorly researched and even erroneous information; veterinarians often have to spend a lot of time correcting misconceptions.

Many clients use Google to diagnose their pets before visiting their veterinarian. In some cases, the pet parent begins treatment using over-the-counter medications or supplements that may complicate the problem rather than help. This “home therapy” may allow disease to become so advanced that the final outcome for the pet may be jeopardized.

What are some common issues only a veterinarian can diagnose?

As with humans, many pet health conditions require a thorough history, physical exam, and diagnostic workup to accurately diagnose. Specifically:


1. Eye problems:
Many eye problems can present with a red eye. A veterinarian will need to measure eye pressures, stain the cornea, and perform a thorough eye exam to differentiate conditions such as uveitis, glaucoma, or a corneal ulcer.

2. Respiratory problems: A pet who is coughing could have anything from heart disease to bronchitis to lung worm, just to name a few.

3. Cancer: Many lumps and bumps present similarly and may be benign growths or significant cancer lesions.


4. Heart problems:
Two common symptoms of heart disease, coughing and fainting, can also be present with other problems, like respiratory and neurological conditions. A visit to a veterinarian is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

5. Toxicities: A pet can get into a human’s medication, causing vomiting, seizures, kidney failure, and more. This type of incident should always be reported to your veterinarian.


Have you witnessed an unfortunate outcome that resulted from an owner’s misreading of their pet’s condition?

Sadly, I believe all veterinarians have encountered this. The well-meaning owner may misinterpret the severity of their pet’s symptoms and seek veterinary intervention too late. Pet parents need to realize that dogs, and especially cats, are often subtle in their demonstration of illness until they are really quite sick. For many conditions, delaying diagnosis and treatment can cost a pet parent a lot of money, and a pet its life. Having a good working relationship with your veterinarian helps to keep your pet healthy, and provides you with peace of mind.

Sarah Rumple is a Denver-based freelance writer and editor, and the marketing copywriter for the American Animal Hospital Association. Her work has been published in Denver’s 5280 magazine and on various websites. As a mom of both a 3-year-old boy and a 5-year-old Schnauzer, Sarah enjoys writing about parenting and pet issues, as well as fitness and nutrition for busy moms.