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Responsible Internet Surfing for Pet Health Problems

Dr. Bob Encinosa

The internet can be an incredibly helpful tool if it is used properly. It can also be a wealth of incorrect and misleading information when not used properly. Here’s a few pointers that may help you be more effective when researching pet healthcare topics online.

Avoid business sponsored sites, especially those selling products. Many of these sites harken back to the days of “snake oil” and offer medications and remedies that will cure everything from dry skin to bladder stones. When you see the phrase “powerful medicine with no side effects” you can be sure that you’re about to be duped.

Avoid sites that use lots of anecdotal information. In other words, stories about treatments and cures. As interesting as it may seem to hear how Martha from New Jersey cured her dog’s heartworms with aromatherapy, these stories are usually either exaggerated or totally wrong.

Find information that has been written by professionals such as veterinarians or certified veterinary technicians. It’s even better if that information has been reviewed by a panel of other professionals. That’s not to say that breeders and other folks in the animal industry don’t have valuable information, but a busy veterinarian will treat as many pets in a day as most people will own in 4 lifetimes.

Check out official sites of veterinary colleges and the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association), and the Food and Drug Administration Veterinary Page.

Other sources that are usually reputable are the websites hosted by a specific dog or cat breed’s national organization. These are especially useful when your pet may have a breed specific disease. For example, the American Boxer Club has a great article on cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that is very common in the Boxer breed.

Disease specific online forums such as AddisonDogs  or Tripawds often offer great information about dealing with specific diseases or conditions.

Always, always look before you leap. Ask your veterinarian what he or she thinks about what you’ve found online before you take action.

As in every other aspect of life, good judgment about who to believe, will help you make the most of the internet information available to you. Happy surfing.

Dr. Bob Encinosa