How Videotaping Your Pet for Your Vet Can Help Get the Right Diagnosis

Taking photo of a dog

When my clients answer their ringing cellphones while we are in the midst of discussing their pet, I admit to feeling a bit peeved. So why then do I sometimes ask my clients to whip out their smartphones during an office visit?

That's because I want to see the video clip they have recorded for me of their pet doing something abnormal or unusual at home.

Seeing What Happens at Home

Unless an odd behavior or new symptom is occurring around the clock, the chances of its happening in your veterinarian's office are slim to none. From coughing to limping, you'd be surprised at all of the abnormalities that magically disappear when animals are under the influence of adrenaline in the exam room. Without a clear picture of the troubling behavior or symptom, however, developing a diagnostic direction can be a challenge for your veterinarian — not to mention more expensive for you.

So, if your dog or cat is doing something bizarre at home that you think would be difficult to describe or imitate for your vet, I encourage you to grab your cellphone and shoot some video (feel free to include some Jacques Cousteau narration if you like). The clip only has to be long enough to fully capture the strange behavior. If a weird noise is part of the symptoms, try to record audio as well.

Here are some behaviors and symptoms your veterinarian will thank you for recording:

Reverse Sneezing

It can sound awful, but this is nothing more than a dog's attempt to clear his nose throat, most commonly in response to irritation or mucous accumulation. Reverse sneezing can appear dramatic and scary: The dog assumes a stiff posture, with head and neck rigidly extended, and forcefully and noisily inhales and exhales for several seconds. Afterward, the dog appears completely normal. Dogs rarely "reverse sneeze" in the exam room and, try as they might, their humans are unable to mimic the behavior (although attempts to do so are often quite comical). Observation of reverse sneezing on video can immediately put a name to this rather bizarre but routine symptom and can put everyone's mind at ease.

Collapsing Episodes

The two most common causes of a pet suddenly collapsing to the ground, with or without complete loss of consciousness, are heart disease and brain disease. The workups that delve into these two different organ issues are vastly different. Recording some video of the event can be invaluable for pointing your veterinarian in the right diagnostic direction.

Abnormal Movement

Moving with a hunched back, circling in one direction and limping (particularly when mild or intermittent) are all symptoms that often completely resolve the moment you and your pet step foot into the exam room. Take a few minutes to video the abnormality you are seeing at home — ideally viewing your pet's movement from both sides as well as walking toward and away from you.


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