Are you making the most of your cellphone? This may seem an odd question on a pet site, but these days, videos and photos are just part of how your phone can help both your pet and the vet.
I love it when a client pulls out a smartphone and shows me a video of a coughing dog or limping cat. And recently, with a collapsed Rottweiler, it helped immeasurably to see a photo of the lake of — sorry — bloody diarrhea on the kitchen floor.
Your smartphone is a wonderful tool, so here are some suggestions to make the most of it for your pet.
1. Take Videos
Has your cat got a nasty limp that magically disappears at the vet clinic? Or what about the coughing dog who stoically keeps their mouth shut in front of the vet? Or, indeed, the pet the vet is worried about because they breathe so rapidly in the exam room, whereas you know it’s just fear and she’s perfectly fine at home?
These are all examples of when a video can come in handy. It’s a well-known fact that adrenaline (as a result of fear) is a fantastic painkiller, so it’s common for a limp to vanish at the vet’s. If you take a quick video of the pet at home, this enables the vet to see firsthand what the problem is.
I know of a dog with a persistent cough prescribed several courses of antibiotics — only to have a video reveal the problem was an anatomical one with a long soft palate, not an infection at all.
2. Take Photos
I love clients who photo folders are populated with pictures of poop!
Full marks if you snap a pic of diarrhea. This gives wonderful information (OK, I do need to get out more) about the volume of feces passed, how liquid it is and whether blood or mucus are present. As the saying goes: A picture paints a thousand words.
Other opportunities to hone your photography skills include recording those strange things the dog coughed up, mysterious stains left by the cat and litter box offerings. It takes all sorts.
3. Download Health Tracker Apps
There are lots of fun pet apps available, but also some great medical ones. My 2 favorites are from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) London:
Both of these are free (yes, free) and offer a rich resource of all things to do with these 2 conditions.
For example, the epilepsy app can send you a reminder when the dog’s next dose of meds is due, record their treatment and log down any seizures. It also has information about what to do when the dog has a fit.
But better still, all your recorded information can be shared with your vet. Or you can export the data to the RVC, where it is used to further research into the control of epilepsy in dogs.
4. Use Health Tracker Devices
OK, let’s say your dog has a heart problem. As a vet, I’m alert for signs that the dose of medication might need adjusting or that the patient is getting worse. Two key physical findings that help me make this judgement are heart rate and respiratory rate (how many heartbeats or breaths in 1 minute).
The flaw in measuring the heart and respiratory rate in the clinic is the patient is often stressed. How much better it is, then, if these can be recorded remotely in the comfort of the pet’s own home. Pet health tracking devices slide onto a pet’s collar and monitor their vital signs along with activity level.
The readings are relayed to your smartphone and can also be shared with the vet. For a high-risk patient, this can give you great peace of mind because you can monitor them while you’re out. Plus, it builds up a wonderful backstory of the pet’s vital signs, which is so useful for the vet when making judgement calls about meds.
5. Make Notes
That little old notebook on a smartphone allows you to jot down observations about your pet, such as when a female dog’s heat started and stopped. Unlike a scrap of paper which is easily lost, your notes will stay put in one place and be there for ease of access at any time in the future.
Other events you might want to record are the dates of any episodes of illness or seizures, again so that you can keep across the bigger picture and see if any patterns emerge.
Check out these helpful pet apps:
6. Access the Internet
The dog just ate holly berries — are they toxic to dogs? You can get quick answers to problems when you have ready access to the internet.
There are some wonderful repositories of information (such as Petful, where health content is written by vets) for guidance, but know that not all sites are so reputable. When consulting the internet, stick with sites that are affiliated with respected organizations and have good reputations, such as Cornell University, iCatCare or the Merck Veterinary Manual.
7. Use Your Phone as … a Phone
And last, but certainly not least, use the phone to call your vet. Most clinics actively want to assist clients with health queries and are happy to guide you over the phone (and if they aren’t, it’s time to look for a new clinic).
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed Dec. 22, 2017.
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