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The UK’s most common pet health queries

Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS

For many pet parents, their pets’ health is at the forefront of their minds. And lots of people turn to ‘Dr. Google’ for answers when their four-legged friend is acting unusually or seems unwell. But what are the most common searches for dog and cat owners in the UK?

In our study of the most commonly searched pet queries, we delved into the top 100 health questions asked by UK pet parents. From there, we narrowed the list to the top 10 for cats and dogs and answered some of them below.

Expert vet Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS has also explored what may prompt these queries and shared answers for concerned pet parents.



The most commonly asked dog health queries

A picture of a Corgi chewing grass

> ‘Why do dogs eat grass?’

Have you ever caught your pup munching on grass and wondered why they’re doing it? You’re not alone – over 132,000 people in the UK ask Google this every year. Unfortunately, scientists don’t yet have an answer – although they’re fairly sure it isn’t because dogs know they need to be sick.

  • It’s possible that grass eating is a natural instinct to reduce potential worm burden. This theory is based on studies in primates, who eat undigestible leaves as a way of scouring the gut.
  • If your dog lacks mental or physical stimulation, they might turn to grass-chewing to pass the time.

While grass itself is usually safe, it’s best to be cautious. Pesticides or parasites lurking on the blades could pose a health risk.


> ‘Why is my dog shaking?’

Dogs might shake due to:

  • Regulating their temperature
  • Excitement or anticipating something fun like walkies or dinner time
  • Stress, anxiety or discomfort
  • Some diseases, especially Cushing’s

Understanding the context of your dog’s shaking can help determine whether it’s a normal behaviour or a pre-existing medical condition needing attention. Keep taking them for regular check-ups and paying close attention to their overall behaviour and health.


> ‘How many teeth do dogs have?’

Questions around dog dental health are popular – 48,000 searches each year ask about the number of teeth our four-legged friends have.

  • Puppies begin with 28 baby teeth which come in around three to four weeks old.
  • By six months, they start losing these teeth as adult ones replace them, totalling 42 adult teeth.

Maintaining good oral health is key for your dog’s dental and overall well-being. Brush their teeth daily and take them for annual check-ups to spot issues early.

Tooth loss in adult dogs could signal dental disease, injury, or ageing. Remember to check if your dog insurance covers dental accidents and dental illness.


> ‘Can you give dogs paracetamol or ibuprofen?’

Paracetamol and ibuprofen are often stocked up in UK home cupboards. But though your dog may be in pain, human medications may not be safe.

Painkillers given incorrectly to dogs can be toxic and cause:

  • Vomiting (often bloody)
  • Diarrhoea (often bloody)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Kidney failure

If your dog is in pain, go to your vet as soon as possible so they can give them appropriate treatment.


> ‘Why is my dog panting so much?’

Heavy panting is a common concern for UK dog parents. Dogs pant primarily to regulate their body temperature, although stress, pain, and various health problems are also associated with increased panting.

Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat much through their skin. When they pant, moisture evaporates from their tongue and mouth, which helps to cool them down.

Be mindful of excessive panting in hot weather as this, along with other symptoms like vomiting and drooling, can be a sign of overheating. Ways to help a dog stay cool in the hotter months include bathing them in cool water with a sponge.

If your dog hasn’t been exercising and it isn’t overly hot, it’s best to take them to a vet to get them checked out.


> ‘What fruit and vegetables can dogs eat?’

Thousands of searches a year on what fruits and veggies dogs can eat show how many pups are eyeing their parents’ dinner plates!

Some of the fruits and veggies dogs can enjoy as part of a balanced diet include:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Strawberries

Avoid feeding your dog toxic items like grapes, raisins, and chocolate, as well as anything containing alcohol, tamarind, or onions/garlic. Speak with your vet before making any significant dietary changes. You can always organise a video call with a vet to discuss any issues you have without relying on Google for answers.


The most commonly asked cat health queries

A picture of a striped cat sleeping on a sofa

> ‘When do cats stop growing?’

According to our research, the most burning question UK cat parents ask on Google is about how their cats grow.

  • Cats typically reach their full adult size between 10 months to two years of age. But the exact timing can vary depending on things like breed, genetics, diet, and overall health.
  • After adulthood, cats may continue to gain weight but their overall size will remain relatively stable. Watch your cat’s growth and speak with your vet if you have any concerns about their development or size.
  • Some cats might have health issues that could cause size abnormalities, from diabetes to respiratory diseases.


> ‘Why do cats eat grass?’

Cats seem to have a similar fixation on eating grass as dogs do. But why the love for eating turf?

  • Like with dogs, eating grass could fulfil a behavioural instinct to reduce worms, get mental stimulation, or stop boredom.
  • While grass is generally safe for cats in small quantities, some plants can be toxic.

Reach out to your vet If your cat is overeating grass or is getting poorly afterwards.


> ‘Why do cats sleep so much?’

With 19,200 searches each year, UK cat parents are curious about their felines’ sleeping habits. Then again, who doesn’t love a good nap?

  • Cats are natural hunters which involves short bursts of intense activity followed by long rest. Sleeping allows cats to conserve energy for when they need it most.
  • They’re most active during dawn and dusk. They have adapted to this lifestyle by sleeping for extended periods during the day and night to conserve energy for their peak hunting times.


> ‘How long can cats go without food?’

Food and appetite are popular topics for many cat parents, asking questions like ‘what human foods can cats eat?’ and ‘why is my cat always hungry?’.

  • Cats should ideally be fed once or twice a day.
  • Cats should visit a vet if they don’t eat for more than 24-36 hours, especially if they’re overweight or have an illness
  • Cats may have more appetite due to upping their exercise or a health issue like hyperthyroidism or diabetes.
  • Reduced appetite could suggest resistance to a change in their diet, stress, gastrointestinal problems, or diseases like kidney disease.

Any worries about your cat’s eating habits should be discussed with your vet, in person or via video call if offered by your pet insurance.


> ‘Why does my cat keep sneezing?’

With 12,000 searches on the topic each year in the UK, cats sneezing frequently is a popular concern among cat owners.

  • Cats can sneeze when they breathe in something, just like humans.
  • Your cat may have a respiratory infection or cat flu if sneezing excessively.

Make sure your cat has regular vaccinations to protect them against common viruses.

Consult your vet if your cat is sneezing regularly or sneezing with symptoms like coughing, fatigue, or nasal discharge.

Remember that if your cat does fall ill at some point in the future, cat insurance can help you give them quality care without the financial stress.


A picture of a woman and her dog on a video call with a vet

What steps should I take if I am concerned about my pet?

It can be hard to know what to do if you’re concerned about your pet’s health or wellbeing. While heading to Google may give you basic info or guidance, it’s always better speaking directly with a vet.

Some pet insurers offer free video calling with a vet. Having an initial at-home consultation could save you an unnecessary trip to your local clinic. If you don’t have access to free video consultations then take a look at this guide on when to visit an emergency vet.


Sources and methodology

To find out the most commonly Googled pet health queries, we looked at the most common search terms in the UK regarding cats and dogs using Ahrefs, which uses Google search volume data from Google Keyword Planner. We then pulled the average monthly search volume. We multiplied monthly search volume by 12 to then find annual search volume, revealing the most commonly searched for pet health queries.

The date the data was pulled was 21/05/24 – 22/05/24.

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