As a veterinarian, every day I see sick patients that have already been diagnosed by Dr. Google with a myriad of conditions. Some appear reasonable; others, however, are way out in left field. There was a time when I would dread the words “So I saw on the internet that Fluffy could have [Fill in the blank]”. My attitude has evolved, however, to where I now relish the opportunity to educate and have an open discussion about that particular patient’s condition. Moreover, as my clients have become better educated on various topics, I find the discourse between us more engaging and firmly believe this results in better care for my patients.
I think it is important, however, to keep some things in mind when searching the web for medical information. Here are some tips to keep in mind when searching the web for veterinary medical advice.
1. Ensure the advice is from a knowledgeable source. Articles written by licensed veterinarians are the ideal source. These are often supported by good science and are peer reviewed. Veterinarians are bound to uphold professional standards and rarely disparage other veterinarians or sources of information. Moreover, spreading of misinformation can put their license at risk.
2. Check multiple sources. Cross checking multiple quality sources will validate any information you may gather. This attenuates the risk of falling to a lone wolf that may be spreading false information or rumors.
3. Be aware of highly emotional articles or those that are derogatory of veterinarians or other professionals. I’m always quite suspicious of articles that will appeal solely to one’s emotional judgment or is derogatory of veterinary professionals. These articles are not based on sound science or professional standards, and often times end up trying to sell something. See below.