May 05 2015

Beware Dr. Google: Finding A Reliable Veterinary Information Website

Last year, one of our technicians was having persistent lower back pain.  In an effort to determine if this was a problem worthy of a doctor’s visit, she visited a popular medical website and used the symptom checker.  A symptom checker like this one asks basic questions about location, severity and duration of any symptoms and uses that information to give the user a list of possible causes.

Near the top of the list for the back pain search was “intestinal parasites.”  Amused, and fairly certain that she didn’t have worms, our technician followed up with several searches using random and fake symptoms.  With each search, “intestinal parasites” was listed as a possibility.

This illustrates two things.  First, that any online symptom checker, even the one available on our website for pet problems, is going to be vague with results.  In the absence of a complete history and a physical exam, a symptom can be a sign of multiple problems.  For example, a sneezing dog could have allergies, but if he also has an elevated body temperature, he could have a respiratory infection.  No search engine in the world will know if your dog has a fever, and that is important information to know when making a diagnosis.

Secondly, there are a lot of websites out there using outdated or just plain wrong information.  In this age of social media, misinformation can spread rapidly.  An example of this is the warning about dogs and ice water that circulated on Facebook last summer.  This warning has been around since at least 2007 and is based on a blog post written by an owner, not a veterinarian.  It’s admirable that this owner wanted to help other dog owners, but unfortunately the information presented as fact was dead wrong.  Furthermore, there is still information out there concerning the dangers of vaccines that are no longer being made.  The original Lyme Disease vaccine had some issues, but the current vaccine is much safer.  When making a decision based on something you read online, it is vitally important to use CURRENT facts from a CREDIBLE source.

We know you look up things about your pets online and that’s okay.  We do it too.  So when you’re tempted, stay away from Google and look to these credible and verified sites instead.

  • Any of the links on our website

For basic breed info, the Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine and more, see the Related Links page.

For the Interactive Tool by Species, click here

For Pet Health Articles click here

For the Pet Symptom Checker click here.

  • VeterinaryPartner.com

This site is an offshoot of The Veterinary Information Network, a membership based online community for veterinarians and their support staff.  The information found here is geared towards veterinary staff, but is reliable and easy to understand.

  • CatInfo.org

Dr. Danna recommends this website for advice on feline nutrition.  The author is a veterinarian.

  • Dr. Karen Becker: healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/dr-Karen-becker

Another recommendation from Dr. Danna, this site leans heavily towards the holistic and natural side of veterinary medicine and is written by a veterinarian.

  • PetMD.com

This is the animal version of the popular health website for people.  Not always entirely accurate, but a good place to start and also a great source for cute puppy and kitten pictures!

  • www.DrBasko.com

Another option for those interested in holistic care.

  • PubMed-www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

This is a free search engine that accesses a database of scientific publications.  Great for keeping up to date on the latest research, especially if you know how to interpret the studies.

As always, if you have questions about something you read online, you can call the office and speak to a staff member!

bsah6244 | Canine Health, Feline Health

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