what is the diy pet triage tool?
As a pet owner, especially when you are a relative newcomer to animal care, it can be very worrying when your pet is unwell. Many people rush to Google to find out what to do, but this does not work well at all. I know from experience: Google tends to come up with long lists of worst-case possibilities, and often the answers suggested are complex and pricey. Our aim with Petfix Club is to give you simple, trusted, safe advice about what you need to do.
It’s impossible to properly diagnose serious health issues without physically examining animals, and it’s important if your pet ever seems seriously unwell, you should take them to a hands-on vet without delay. However, there are often situations where your pet has problems that seem significant, but perhaps not urgent. Or perhaps you just know that something is wrong, but you really do not quite know what to do. It may not seem bad enough to rush down to the vet, but you just want more advice on what needs to be done, and when. This is where the Petfix Club triage tool comes in.
What is triage, anyway?
The word “triage” comes from the French verb “trier”, meaning “to separate out”. As far as vets and pet owners are concerned, triage means the process of sorting out what you need to do, and when. So does an animal need to see a vet immediately, or will tomorrow be soon enough, or is it OK just to keep an eye on them at home?
Why not just phone your local vet clinic?
Traditionally, if your pet is unwell, you might phone your local vet clinic, and the receptionist, nurse or vet at the other end of the phone would ask you a series of questions about your pet. After gathering this information, they give you advice on what to do: vet at once, vet tomorrow, just keep an eye on them.
In recent times, and especially during COVID, two issues have become apparent with this traditional system:
- Vet clinics, including vets, nurses, and receptionists, are busier than ever, and it may be more difficult than usual to reach them on the phone
- Computer technology has progressed, making it easier to gather and process information efficiently and intelligently without speaking to a human.
Computers and the internet can make it easier
The traditional on-the-telephone question/answer process can, to some extent, be done in an automated way using well-designed computer software. We are all familiar with the idea of chat bots when we visit websites, and it does not seem strange to have a “conversation” with a computer, which can even respond to us in a human-like manner.
It was from this starting point that we created the Petfix Club DIY Triage Tool.
The idea is simple: after adding your pet’s details (name, type, age, gender etc), we ask you a series of questions about your pet’s problem. Each of your answers prompts the next, relevant question. The logic of the system ensures an appropriate, intelligent, flow of questioning.
You are then offered a recommendation:
- Do you need to rush to the vet at once?
- Do you need to see a vet in the next few days?
- Can you, instead, just monitor the situation, perhaps using simple home treatment?
We have tested the Petfix Club DIY Triage Tool using imagined situations that are similar to issues that can arise in pets in real life. When comparing the results with the traditional method of phoning a vet clinic, the results correlated very well. We are confident that this offers a quick, simple, safe, effective way to help pet owners who are worried about their animal.
Many of you might remember the saga of Pete’s dog Finzi: nearly eight years ago, Pete found Finzi as an abandoned stray animal one Sunday afternoon. She was then just a five month old puppy who Pete, by chance, found in a collapsed state beside the road. As a vet, Pete was able to take the actions needed to save Finzi’s life, but what if a member of the public had found her? If they had used the Petfix Club DIY Triage Tool, what would have happened?
The first thing Pete did after finding Finzi was to literally pick her up, and put her on his children’s lap in the back of his car, taking her home so that he could carry out a full assessment. In the same way, if any member of the public finds any animal that’s unwell, the best approach is to catch them, restrain them, then take them somewhere safe, secure, warm, and well-lit so that you can carry out a full assessment. This applies equally to sick animals and to animals that have been injured: there’s a helpful video that discusses this first step to effective first aid on the Petfix Club website.
First step of triage
So in this trial, Pete first added Finzi as “My Pet” on the Petfix Club site. Members can add as many pets as they want, without paying anything extra, as the monthly €4.99 subscription fee is per person, not per pet.
Once Finzi’s details had been added, Pete clicked on the “Start Triage” button. The first question asked which part of Finzi’s body was affected. As Pete did this trial, he realised that there were different ways of explaining what seemed to be wrong with Finzi, so he took a couple of different approaches, to see if they ended up with the same outcome.
1) Finzi had collapsed
Pete pretended to be a member of public who had found Finzi, collapsed, beside the road. He clicked on the questions he was asked about a collapsed dog: was she fully unconscious, not responding to any stimulus (no), did she have any visible wounds (no), was she panting (no), was she alert with normal faeces and normal urine? (No, she was dull, and she had not passed any faeces or urine).
The recommended action from the triage tool was clear:
“This is possibly a serious condition you need to bring Finzi to a Vet immediately. Make an appointment with your family vet as soon as possible”.
Pete used the tool a couple more times, taking different views of how Finzi was that day.
2) Finzi had very pale gums
As soon as Pete found Finzi, he had lifted her lip to see what colour her gums were, and it was obvious that they were very pale, almost white. So in the DIY Triage Tool, he entered “Mouth”, then “Pale gums/tongue”, then “No vomiting or diarrhoea”, then he was asked “Is she sleepy and quieter than usual?”, to which he answered “Yes”, and the advice was then “Make an appointment with your family vet”.
3) Finzi had diarrhoea
As it happened, soon after Pete arrived home with Finzi all those years ago, she passed some blood-stained diarrhoea. So, to test the DIY Triage Tool in a third way, he entered in that detail. He was asked “Did the diarrhoea start more than 2 days ago?”, to which the answer was “No”. then “Does she have other signs of illness?”, to which the answer was “Yes” (she was very dull, obviously), and finally “Is she less than one year old dog?” (yes she was). The advice was clear:
This is possibly a serious condition you need to bring Finzi to a Vet immediately. Make an appointment with your family vet as soon as possible
There was also a link to a Petfix Club video about dullness and lack of appetite, some links to articles about diarrhoea in dogs, plus the “Ask a Vet” button, with a message saying “If you want extra information, you can send a message to a Petfix vet through the link below. We will get back to you as soon as we can.”
You can read the sequence of questions and answers on the screenshot below for yourself.
so what was wrong with finzi?
If Pete had been a member of the public, and he had done as instructed by the Petfix Club DIY Triage Tool, he would have rushed Finzi to the vet at once, even though it was a Sunday afternoon. As it was, being a vet himself, he was able to take immediate action on the spot. He did some blood tests, established that Finzi was anaemic and dehydrated due to the blood stained diarrrhoea, and he gave her a blood transfusion. He also gave her an effective worm dose, realising that worms are such a common cause of this type of issue in young dogs who have not been cared for properly. Within an hour, Finzi stood up and passed some more diarrhoea, and this time, it was laden with roundworms: this proved that her main problem was a massive worm burden that was causing serious damage to her intestines, resulting in the bloody diarrhoea.
What happened to Finzi next?
Pete kept her at home that night, giving her an intravenous blood transfusion as well as other medications. If she had belonged to a member of the public, she would have been in the intensive care department of the veterinary emergency clinic for this to be done. At first, her outlook was bleak. She was very seriously ill, and there was a high chance that she would not survive the night.
What was the final outcome?
As regular readers of this blog will know, Finzi made a full recovery, and nearly eight years later, she is still enjoying a full and active life as a healthy, cherished pet in Pete’s house. He never found out where she came from, but there was a sad PS: a few days after Finzi had been rescued, the dead body of a male dog of the same type and age as Finzi was found in a nearby ditch. He must have been Finzi’s brother, and he was not as fortunate as her: nobody found him and he didn’t get the help he needed.
Finzi is a good example of how, with the right care, animals can survive adversity and serious illness, and they can go on to have wonderful, happy, healthy lives.
How can people access the Petfix Club DIY Triage Tool?
The example of Finzi is an extreme one: far more often, people have simpler questions about more minor issues with their own pets, and the DIY Triage Tool has been designed to deal with these as effectively as it works for dramatic cases like Finzi.
How to access the tool? The simple answer is: sign up to become a member of Petfix Club.
The Petfix Club DIY Pet Triage Tool has a simple aim: to make it quick and easy for pet carers to assess an animal that they are worried about, and to help them make the right decision as to how to help them. The questions asked are quick and deceptively simple, but they have been carefully chosen, so that the advice at the end is appropriate and safe. And if you have any other questions about your pet, by clicking on the Ask A Vet button, you can get that extra assistance that you may need.
All Petfix Club members can use the Triage Tool as often as they want, and they can Ask A Vet as many questions as they want, about as many pets as they want. The first 30 days are free, and after that, membership will only cost you €4.99 per month. If it can help a dog like Finzi, maybe this innovative tool will be able to help an animal in your life one day?