UK pet owners go online to seek advice on pet health

New research unveiled by Tesco Bank Insurance today has shown that 4 out of 10 cat and dog owners use online sources as their first port of call for advice about their pet’s health, rather than seeking a qualified medical opinion, and 77% say they don’t always trust the information they have found, and are worried that it is not reliable. Those who are uninsured are also more likely to have used online sources for help (64%). Of those who use online sources for advice on their pet, 1 in 5 state they go online specifically to avoid costly vet visits.

It is an increasing trend amongst pet owners to check their pet’s symptoms online rather than risk a potentially costly vet bill. But it could mean that the pet ends up paying the price, as online sources are not as reliable as a vet diagnosis. If an animal does have something seriously wrong, this delay in an accurate diagnosis could make a significant and potentially detrimental difference to their health.

According to the British Veterinary Association1, not only are pet owners misdiagnosing their pet’s illnesses, some are even going as far as buying medication online rather than seeking out medical advice and prescriptions from a vet.

In response to these worrying statistics, Carolanne Cicero, Veterinary Nurse from vetfone®, said,

"There is so much information out there on the internet, with perhaps five different answers for each problem, meaning a lot of the information is unreliable. At vetfone®  we often have people calling who have given human medication to their pets because they've read its ok on the internet, which we obviously wouldn’t recommend. It’s always best to get professional advice first, as every case is different and different animals with the same condition can show different clinical signs and have different levels of pain. Therefore pet owners can easily under or over diagnose their pet if they don’t seek appropriate medical advice first."

Karl Bedlow, Managing Director at Tesco Bank Insurance, said,

"It is worrying that so many people are turning to the internet for medical advice for their pet, as the reality is you can’t be sure the advice you are getting is correct, or that you’ve correctly identified your pet’s symptoms.  It is, however, understandable that pet owners are worried about the cost of unexpected vet visits, as the cost of an emergency vet trip can be upwards of £1502.

"Our customers have told us that this issue concerns them, which is why we include the vetfone® service in every pet insurance policy.  This service lets pet owners speak to a qualified RCVS veterinary nurse 24/7, without incurring any additional costs. Many of the most common concerns, such as diarrhoea and sickness, are actually things that can be managed at home, if the owner is given the right advice and knows what to look out for.  So we hope that the vetfone® service will help give our customers’ peace of mind, while also saving them unnecessary vet bills."

Vetfone® is a 24/7 helpline that provides expert advice from nurses qualified with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. The phone line provides advice about pets if they have a medical emergency, or just if the owner needs reassurance about grooming, feeding or general care advice. Additionally, customers with a pet insurance policy can call about any animal they own – not just the one insured. Tesco Bank pet insurance customers get unlimited freephone access to vetfone® included as part of their policy.

More information about Tesco Bank Pet Insurance and vetfone® can be found at;


For more information and media enquiries please contact:

Tesco Bank press office

+44 (0) 131 274 3630 

Notes to Editors:

Tesco Bank Pet Insurance is arranged, administered and underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc. The vetfone service is provided by Vetsdirect Limited.  Pets must be at least 8 weeks old when cover starts and pre-existing medical conditions are not covered.  Certain breeds of cat and dog are also not covered.

Research undertaken by eDigital Research on behalf of Tesco Bank. Data generated on 15th October, 2014, (1003 respondents) and data generated between 21 and 24thNovember (1020 responses)


2MoneySupermarket estimates if your animal is injured in a road accident at night or at the weekend, you might have to pay a supplement of up to £150 for emergency treatment – and if it involves an overnight stay at the practice, the bill could run to £500. The average cost of surgery is £1,500 and an ongoing treatment such as chemotherapy could come in at £5,000.

About Us:

Tesco Bank’s goal is to make banking and insurance easier and better value for people who shop at Tesco. We’ve been around since 1997 and today we help more than 5 million customers manage their money every day. Our 4,000 colleagues serve our customers seven days a week from our three main centres in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle, and we are also available through online and mobile banking 24/7. Tesco Bank participates in the Chartered Banker Professional Standards Board.

Tesco Bank is a trading name of Tesco Personal Finance plc. Registered in Scotland No. SC173199. Registered Office: 2 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9FQ

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