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Paging Dr. Google? Not So Fast

Reviewed by Peter Kintzer DVM, DACVIM on Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Posted October 14, 2013 in My Dog's Veterinarian

Dog owner searching on a laptop with his dog laying beside himDr. Mike Paul cautions against using information obtained on the internet as a substitute for good veterinary care.

These days, most of us enjoy communicating with one another on the internet. Just a few days ago my internet provider went on a walkabout and for nearly 3 days I was without web access or email. A few times, I wondered aloud: "How did the world survive without access to on demand information and communications? How did we ask and answer questions? How did we share knowledge?” Fortunately, we as veterinarians and you as pet owners don’t often have to do without some form of connectivity. That is wonderful, but it's not without a downside.

A search of Google for “Pet Health” turned up nearly 350 million hits in just 2.5 seconds. Now I don’t want to propose that all of these mentions should be vetted for relevance or accuracy, but you should always remember that relatively few of them are. There is a vast amount of information on all things pets. Much of which has been developed by organizations that are experts in every area of veterinary medicine imaginable, or are manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and products that have been thoroughly evaluated and approved, or are even veterinary teaching hospitals and veterinarians who have demonstrated and proven expertise in areas of medicine. Unfortunately, many online sources have not been vetted at all. Remember, the internet gives people a blank page to bring you their perspective often with little more than opinion to support what they say.

So how do you pick a resource for information? Where can you go to be sure you come away with accurate and useful information? How do you decide which sites to follow and listen to? 

First, find a veterinarian you can trust and communicate with. Veterinarians know you go to the web. They go to the web too! But NEVER let the internet be a substitute for a visit to the veterinarian. They are your trusted advisors and they are committed to providing the best care and advice they can. So before you do anything else, ask your veterinarian for help. We know that 40% of people who go to the veterinarian have gone online before even calling. Fortunately, many pet owners have used the web as a source of information but not as a substitute for veterinary care; although, 25% of them go back online

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.