Can googling cat health symptoms make them worse?

Can googling symptoms general make them worse? YES, is the easy answer. But it depends on who is doing the googling. If an inexperienced cat owner is googling their observed symptoms suffered by their cat because they are clearly unwell it is entirely possible – perhaps likely – that the owner will misdiagnose the illness. There may be other symptoms which they’ve missed. The treatment will be incorrect and the illness will become more acute and the symptoms will get worse.

Googling pet health symptoms
Googling pet health symptoms can lead to misdiagnosis. Image: MikeB.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

If a veterinarian looks up something on google, which is perfectly acceptable, their training enables them to filter out the irrelevant stuff. They can add their knowledge to the information provided by a Google search and hopefully make a correct diagnosis. The treatment will be correct and the illness cured. The symptoms will disappear. The end result is the exact opposite. Note: some illnesses are asymptomatic (no symptoms). And some symptoms are obscured.

The lesson of the comparison is that Google can mislead because all it can do is respond to the information entered into its search box. If that information is incorrect the search results will be misleading.

There is an intermediate category; very experienced cat and dog owners who are able to make good use of Google and they know their limitations.

Fortunately, nowadays, there are a plethora of online veterinary websites. Years ago, that was not the case. And there is also Google Scholar which can be useful if a bit too technical.

The problem with veterinary websites is this. In general, they are written for the general pet owning public. Are vets being responsible in doing this? They are providing information without seeing the patient knowing that it might be misinterpreted by pet owners.

Vets build websites to promote their businesses. In doing so they may be contributing to a lower level of health in pets both for the above reason and because pet owners who are financially stretched think that they can avoid seeing a vet and self-diagnose and treat their feline’s illness using a home remedy.

There are lots of home medical treatments online. I am not decrying them. It is just that between cat and dog owners, the former tend to avoid taking their companion animal to the vet. This is not because cats are healthier than dogs (my view) but because they are taken to the vet less often than they should be.

Humans – trends in using Google

Regarding using Google for diagnosing human health problems the information I have is that a growing number of people are wrongly believing that they have gluten intolerance after eating pasta or bread according to the British Dietetic Association. The problem is as stated above. People google questions about digestive symptoms such as bloating which can be caused by a variety of reasons e.g., cow’s milk.

A person self-diagnoses gluten intolerance when it might be something else. Twenty percent of people in the UK believe they have irritable bowel disease (IBD) based on Dr Google’s diagnosis! They think they can fix it by cutting out gluten. But cutting out gluten is only necessary for those with coelic disease affecting 1 percent of the population. That’s a good example.

Misdiagnosis by Dr Google can lead to unnecessary anxiety and disruption to the people’s lives. It can lead to children and adults developing a deficiency in essential vitamins and nutrients.

Lesson!? Beware of Dr Google. Don’t try and circumvent what is necessary which for a serious or persistent cat illness nearly always means a vet visit.

Here are two links on ‘home treatments’. There are more on this site BUT please use with caution. There is no beating a good vet.

Cat diabetes – home treatment – first hand experience

Home treatment for cat constipation

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