Could that growth on my dog’s back be a mast cell tumor? Is that cough really kennel cough, or perhaps something even worse? My pet is drinking more water – what does that mean? If you have ever gone online to try and diagnose what is wrong with your dog or cat, you have plenty of company.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center indicated that 35% of U.S. adults say they have used the Internet to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. I imagine if this many people are using the Internet to figure out what is wrong with themselves, then they are most likely searching for what is wrong with their pets as well.
In people, the study is finding that people actually visit their doctor to confirm what they find online, and are not treating themselves without first checking with a doctor, which is very good news. Since the Internet is here to stay, many doctors and veterinarians have embraced (or at least learned to work with) the tools and information available at their client’s fingertips.
The quality of information that people find through search engines can vary a lot. There are forums filled with good support and community, websites on new clinical trials, training and good wellness information. There are some risks, however, including finding inaccurate or scary information, or missing the best sources.
How do you even know what the best sources are? Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when searching the Internet for veterinary information to help you separate good information from the questionable:
1. Websites for the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association or websites for veterinary schools rarely will steer you wrong. Many times, these websites will end with ‘.org’, ‘.edu’ or ‘.gov’.
2. Peer-reviewed literature is the gold standard of science. Consider searching pubmed.com for peer-reviewed papers that are published in JAVMA (Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association).
3. If you are looking for genetic or breed specific information, consider visiting the website of the breed’s national organization, such as www.grca.org for the Golden Retriever Club of America.
4. The old adage holds: if it seems to be too good to be true (‘This ointment cured my dog’s allergies forever!’) then it’s probably false.
5. Take blog content with a grain of salt. That is funny, coming from a blog, right? Consider blogs that have a reputation to protect. The Life’s Abundance blog represents our company, and material is carefully sifted before publishing to protect our customers.
Even though the articles and videos on the Life’s Abundance Blog are fully vetted, I encourage our readers to search more, rather than less, and to keep talking to your veterinarian about what you find.
Just remember, Dr. Search Engine is not a stand-in for the irreplaceable services of and relationship with a real, live veterinarian.
Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.
Dr. Jane Bicks