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Dr. Google and your Veterinarian

          “But I’ve been giving the hard-boiled eggs, shell and all, to him daily,” she said. “I don’t know why he’s not getting better yet. Maybe I’m not giving him enough?” 

          “You’re doing what?! Who told you to do that?” I asked, after realizing she was serious.

          “The internet!” she replied confidently.

This was a real conversation I had with a client not too long ago. Seems she was “researching” Cushing’s disease (her dog had recently been diagnosed), and came across a website that confidently stated that feeding hard boiled eggs with the shell was a foolproof cure for the disease.

          The internet is an incredible tool. The amount of accurate, detailed information available to us after just a few keystrokes is beyond comprehension. It allows us to have knowledgeable conversations with our clients, discuss multiple treatment options, and make treatment plans that a pet owner understands and can implement with confidence.

          Unfortunately, it can also be an incredible source of misinformation, hardcore sales pitches, rampant rumors, and unethical practices. Often times, the information being shared is put forth with good intentions. But just because someone says something confidently, OR IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, doesn’t necessarily make it true. I could very easily design a nice web page and start giving out tax advice, but you would be crazy to take it!

          I’m not suggesting in any way that pet owners should not look things up online and learn as much as possible FROM REPUTABLE SOURCES (it’s in capital letters, so you know it’s true!). They can and should learn about conditions their pet may have, appropriate wellness ideas, unbiased nutrition information, and even how to do certain things at home (take a pulse, trim toenails if they wish, monitor certain conditions, etc). I, myself, am as guilty as anyone. When I go to my physician, I have print outs and articles ready for discussion and questions. And if my doctor acts at all dismissive or put out by my input and questions, then I find a new doctor. However, I make sure my information is relevant and reliable, from reputable sources.

          Your veterinarian should be open to discussion about online information. You can make this a more valuable discussion by making sure the information you have comes from credible sites. So what types of sites are credible? Certainly any of the veterinary colleges and national veterinary organizations are good places to start. Peer reviewed journal articles are also a good source. For those that prefer a more holistic approach, look for sites that are run by alternative veterinary medicine organizations, and be wary of those run by individuals.

         That is pretty good advice in general.  Just like in any field, there are  a few extreme viewpoints and charlatans in veterinary medicine.  Beware of sites that want to sell you their specific products. While they certainly could be wonderful products, it’s hard to trust a clearly biased recommendation from someone that profits from it. Whenever possible, look for consensus from multiple veterinarians or sources, and peer-reviewed article recommendations.

          Probably the least reliable information comes from non-veterinary sources, especially chatrooms and comments sections. Not to be elitist, but nobody has a more thorough education in every anatomical system, physiology, disease processes, nutrition, behavior, biochemistry, pharmacology, and all the other intertwined disciplines that affect your pet’s health and well-being.  While well meaning, many non-credentialed people making medical recommendations “don’t know what they don’t know.” There is a reason the average vet spends more than 8 years full time in college and vet school as well as lifelong continuing education requirements – there’s a lot to know! And while a breeder or trainer may have a lot of experience with many, even hundreds, of dogs or cats, a veterinarian’s education is based on hundreds of thousands of pets, both in strictly controlled studies, and real world situations. That’s not to say non-veterinary sources don’t often have valuable and appropriate suggestions – they do. Just make sure to run it by your vet first to make sure it is appropriate.

          Most importantly, trust your veterinarian to guide you through all this information. Not only do they have the education and training, as well as continuing education and resources not available to the general public, but they know your specific pet and you! They can help you decide what the best options for you and your pet might be.

          To find good reliable information, and links to reputable trusted sources, our website (www.islandanimalhospital.com) is a good place to start. There are articles and videos on many common health concerns, as well as links to other trusted, reputable sites. So take a look around, gather your information and questions, and bring them in to your pets trusted family doctor – your veterinarian.