Beware the "Experts"

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Dr. Jeff Werber is an Emmy Award-winning, nationally-renowned veterinarian and former president of the Association of Veterinary Communicators. For more from Dr. Werber, find him on Facebook or on his website at www.drjeff.com.

I never realized that there are so many “pet experts” out there! I thought we, the veterinarians, were the true pet experts, but I guess not. I have clients coming into my hospital regularly loaded with information and advice from, according to them, reliable sources. Wow, amazing! I wish I had known.

So who are these credible experts who are stealing our thunder? What is the source of much of this questionable information and advice? Well, two sources in particular (and they truly have their hearts in the right place and truly do care about your pet’s welfare) are breeders and pet rescue personnel. Sadly, however, much of the information they provide with their pets is outdated. They are promoting antiquated vaccine schedules, questionable behavior and husbandry advice, outdated spay/neuter guidelines, and often inadequate dietary advice.

Vaccine schedules and recommended “core” vaccines have changed over the years. I see many 12 week old puppies coming in with paper work telling me the vaccines are completed because the pup had his “3” shots at 8, 10, and 12 weeks. Truth is, this pup needs one more at 15 to 16 weeks of age! Vaccine scheduling is more complicated than the “series of 3.” Ideally we don’t want to vaccinate too early because we don’t want to interfere with mom’s passive immunity—so we now recommend giving the first vaccines at 8 weeks (7 weeks is ok, but we prefer 8). Also, it is not necessary to give vaccines 2 weeks apart—we recommend 4 week intervals.  Finally, we don’t want to complete the series until 15 to 16 weeks of age, because that’s when the immune system of most puppies is capable of providing that long-term protection. Twelve weeks is too early for that final vaccine. The feline immune system might develop a bit more quickly, so some feel only a set of two vaccines is necessary—8 and 12 weeks. I still like to give a set of 3.  Additionally, not every pet needs every vaccine, so don’t rush to give every available one! When it comes to vaccines, the one credible source of accurate information is your veterinarian, so please consult with your veterinarian and keep you pets safe and healthy.

It amazes me how fickle pet parents are when it comes to pet food. I never knew there were so many “best” foods on the market. Clients often come in complaining about a gastrointestinal problem after switching to a new “best” food, and when I inquire as to why they switched to the new food in the first place, I’m told that the “guy at the pet store told them that this was the best food.” Really?  Wasn’t this other food the “best” last week. Is there really such a thing as the “best” food anyway? I encourage you to consider the source. Unless the pet stores are employing veterinarians (unlikely) or board certified veterinary nutritionists, these employees are not experts. They are not even close. If you want advice about switching foods, or modifying a diet or a feeding schedule, ask your veterinarian! As a general rule, if your pet is eating a food that he or she really likes, has normal stool, a nice shiny coat, and lots of energy, do NOT switch—no matter what the “expert” at the pet store tells you.

Another “expert” to be aware of is what I like to refer as “Dr. Google!”  Though, I agree, that the Internet is probably the current number one source of information, it is also the number one source of misinformation. In practice, I live by a few rules and sayings. One of the rules is the KISS rule—“keep it simple, stupid!” One of my favorite sayings is actually a question—the answer of which I live by.  Any Californian can understand this one, but I’m sure most of you will get it as well.  Here goes:  “If you’re running along the beach in Malibu, and you hear hoof beats chasing you from behind—what are you thinking, horses or zebras?" Sadly, Dr. Google and the Internet love to talk about all the “zebras,” these uncommon, esoteric rarities and seem to skip over the much more likely, less serious conditions.  Beware when doing a web search on a particular symptom! The Internet information should not always be taken as gospel.

It’s okay to get some baseline information from the web, the breeder, the rescue volunteers, or the kid at the pet store, but before you panic and think the worst or do something stupid, speak to your veterinarian—the true pet expert! And for some GREAT veterinarian-generated pet information on the web, stay right here at Pet Health Network!

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

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