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Posted on 06-27-2015

Ah, the internet.... or why vets love to hear about Dr. Google.

The internet, what on earth did we do before all the information around the world was concentrated beneath just a few key strokes? While I was alive and in school we had to go to these library things, and buy books, and read microfiche. The internet is truly a blessing; there are so many ways to learn new things, collaborate with other people, and truly advance your knowledge faster than you could in the past.

As with all things though, along with all the great new and exciting knowledge you can gain, you can be easily led astray and down the path of misinformation and trickery. Most commonly in our field, misinformation can delay proper diagnosis and treatment, but ultimately it can also lead to more problems for us to deal with and in extreme circumstances can make your pets' problems more severe than they were originally going to be. Trickery would be more malicious, but there are sick people out there who are more than happy to tell you something flat out wrong to do, just to see if you'll follow their advice.

When we send you with information from the internet for you to read at home, we are choosing from sites that are refereed (or audited) by other legitimate sources. For example, we use veterinarypartner.com frequently. This is a vast database of information on a huge variety of medical information provided by veterinarians for pet owners use. The articles, however, are reviewed by other veterinarians before they are put out to make sure the information is factual and not likely to cause harm to patients if that have not yet seen a veterinarian. Many pet information sites glean their information from sources that have no medical review, relying on old wives tales; information that once was widely believed, but because we are always doing research to improve care has been disproven and is no longer applicable to the world we work in today. Information can also come from people's own experience. Sometimes our life experiences are helpful, sometimes we just weren't harmed from them by luck.

Along the same lines are informal chat groups where anyone can chime in with their opinion. I was perusing a local one just the other day, and without divulging too much detail a pet had a chronic issue that had just blown up into what sounded like an acute crisis. Not only were complete strangers off the street diagnosing the pet with multiple potentially fatal diseases (which I'm sure just stressed the poor pet owner out), but they were also providing their own recommendations for treatment, which were not only bordering on the bizarre, but also were potentially life threatening recommendations.  Most veterinarians and staff members are more than happy to spend a couple minutes on the phone with you if you call us and describe your pet's symptoms to let you know if we think something needs to be seen today, immediately, or in the next couple of days for what you are seeing. We can't provide treatment information over the phone without seeing your pet (by law), but we can tell you more accurately how important it is to see your pet than someone off the street. We can also tell you what not to do with your pet before we see it.

So, if you read veterinary information on the internet, sit back after reading it and evaluate what you have read. Does it come from a reliable source? The pet owner website at Washington State University is probably a more credible source of information that pets-animals.blurtit.com/ when looking into proper treatment for mange (go ahead, click here if you want to shake your head in disbelief). Does the information provided make logical sense? Here's a website that has some recommendations for treating ear mites in rabbits: Grandmashomeremedies.com. Living in the times that we do, if it were easy enough to grab something out of the pantry to kill ear mites, I'd hop on that bandwagon. All these treatments are going to do is make for one messy bunny that runs away from you when they see you coming. Are the recommendations provided likely to do more harm then good if you don't what to look for? Which website makes more sense?

fda.gov       or this one         gashitzu.com

(In the second one I found ten inaccuracies in facts and/or dosing with just a casual perusal)

I love the internet; the ease that I can share information between colleagues and clients is amazing. We can show you videos, we can communicate easily with each other, we can learn from information you bring us as well as the information we can give you. But please, please, please take what you are reading with a grain of salt and don't take it as gospel. It doesn't hurt to share your research with us, we can let you know it it's legitimate, bunk or dangerous to use on your pet. If the information provided isn't in their best interests, we can find something that is safer, easier, and more reliable but if it's already been acted on it can be hard to go back.

Bon Jour,

Dr. Dawn

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