PET owners are being urged not to become ‘DIY vets’ as many are resorting to diagnosing illnesses or injuries online.

A recent survey found an estimated 40 per cent of people search the internet for advice before taking their pets to the vet.

But veterinary nurse Rachel Mulheron, who is also director of helpucover, says time spent diagnosing symptoms on the internet could be “completely redundant” if from an unreliable source.

“And if it does turn out to be an emergency situation, you could have wasted valuable time, which would have been put to better use at the vets,” she added.

A range of abnormal symptoms often have multiple possible diagnoses.

For example, a cat drinking too much water could be put down to chronic kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, or a urinary tract disease.

“These are all serious conditions, but in reality, increased water consumption may be down to crunchier than normal food, or even wanting a reason to be in the same room as their owner,” Rachel said.

“A quick urine test by a vet would be able to show if there was glucose present in the urine, and diagnose what was wrong with the cat – something the internet certainly could not do.”

It can often be more cost effective for owners to buy their pet’s regular medication from reputable online sites and this can also keep insurance claims for medicine down.

“However, as with any potentially lucrative business, there are always a few unscrupulous companies and individuals out there who will try their hardest to cash in on the concerns of anxious pet owners,” Rachel said.

“Watch for red flags, such as if the online pharmacy doesn't require a prescription. Check the site for accreditation, such as inclusion on Veterinary Medicines Directorate, and report suspicious pharmacies if you see any red flags.”

For times when a vet is not available, a well-informed owner can “rapidly ease the discomfort and distress of a pet, and potentially save its life, Rachel added.

“First aid courses for pet owners are now widely available across the country, and if you're a dedicated pet owner, they're well worth considering.”