Oct 14 2014

The Internet Is Giving Me a Headache

“I was doing some research and I want your opinion on something I found on the internet….”

Difficult and confusing medical and surgical cases don’t scare me but the above phrase will send me fleeing from the exam room. Why? While the internet, much like our libraries of old, can empower us with knowledge and useful and reliable information, it can also mislead, computer dogmisinform and in some cases lead to harm. When the information being conveyed is confusing, encourages false hope, is straight up erroneous or leads pet owners to make dangerous mistakes relative to decision making regarding their pets medical care I want to tear my hair out. I will give a ‘virtual’ high-five to those who read internet based resources with skepticism and come armed with questions. I cringe when the same person comes having stumbled upon some really bad information and want me to act on that and believe me to be closed-minded, patriarchal or egotistical when I refuse to do so. Keep in mind that while our medical training is pretty broad and comprehensive, it will not make us aware of everything on the internet. It does provide us with a superb framework for evaluating treatment modalities based upon evidence and prudent science and not based upon someone’s opinion.

So where can you find helpful, trustworthy information online? There are probably hundreds of great websites out there, but here are the top 10 that I recommend to pet owners.

1. The Indoor Pet Initiative. This website is supported by The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. It uses the most up-to-date science to educate both veterinarians and pet owners, with a specific focus on creating an optimal environment for your pet to thrive.

2. Pets & Parasites. Looking for information on parasites such as hookworms, coccidia, heartworms or anything else your cat or dog might acquire? The Companion Animal Parasite Council has you covered.

3. Veterinary Partner. This site is run by the same folks that run the Veterinary Information Network, the largest online resource for vetpartnerVeterinary Professionals. The site has a searchable database of hundreds of articles on nearly every subject imaginable in veterinary medicine and surgery. All articles are written by credentialed experts in their respective fields of study so you can have confidence that you have the most up to date info available.

4. Partners in Animal Health. Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has an outstanding site with information for pet owners as well as veterinarians. Special topics include caring for diabetic cats, a pet owner’s guide to cancer, and managing destructive scratching behavior in cats.

5. BCSPCA Care and Behaviour. Some interesting pet care and behaviour articles written by experts in their fields.

6. ASPCA Pet Care. The ASPCA Pet Care section has direct links to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, a Pet Loss Center, Pet Food Recall news feed and many more resources. It’s good information from an organization out to do good in the world.

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I’m going to the vet to get my questions answered

7. VCA Animal Hospitals Pet Health Information. VCA Animal Hospitals runs this site. Whether you want to learn about tortoises, tumors or alternative therapies, you’ll find lots of tips with real medical weight behind them written by veterinary experts.

8. American Association of Feline Practitioners. With videos, articles and a search engine to find feline-friendly vets (although I know there are lots of great vets who don’t show up on the list), this site is worth your time.

9. Worms & Germs. This University of Guelph blog is put together by Drs. Scott Weese and Maureen Anderson of the Ontario Veterinary College’s Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses. It focuses on infectious diseases in pets, with a large emphasis on zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be passed to humans from other species).

10. Dr. Sophia Yin. Dr. Yin is a veterinarian, author, animal behaviorist and international expert on low-stress animal handling. Her blog covers a range of topics, and I am a fan of her work on reducing patient stress in veterinary clinics.

Bookmark these sites, and you’ll have safe, interesting information at your fingertips anytime you need it. And I promise I will be delighted to talk to you about what you have found.

Submitted by: Dr. Mark Steinebach

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