Looking for some information?

I get a lot of clients who check with Dr. Google before they call me. Sometimes this leads to ridiculousness (bringing their dog in on emergency because they think he has flesh eating disease, and it’s just fly bites.), sometimes it gets them to make an appointment to investigate something they may have otherwise ignored (I’ve had at least two diabetics brought in for diagnosis over something the owner didn’t realize could be a sign of diabetes until they asked Dr. Google why Fluffy was peeing so much.) Most of the time, a client won’t come right out and say they have already been doing their own “research”, until I start talking about what my list of concerns are. . . and to be honest as soon as a client says anything that indicates they have been googling their pet’s symptoms, I am mentally banging my head against a wall. And once I leave the exam room, I will probably lay my head down on a desk and sigh heavily. Those few times where the owner was able to find some valid and helpful information that didn’t lead to unnecessary panic or cause them to make a diagnosis on their own, or try to argue with me about how I should do my job, are so few and far between that I forget that some clients can navigate the internet responsibly. To be fair, most of my clients may be able to navigate the internet responsibly most of the time… but when their beloved pet is unwell, common sense flies out the window.  And now the worst case scenario that Dr. Google can give you seems like the obvious choice. Obviously, that dark spot in Fluffy’s eye is an indication that aliens have implanted something in his brain.

Hey. I do not judge. I will fully admit that I have turned to Dr. Google in regards to my own illness, and it was the worst idea I ever had and I ended up at a walk in clinic the next morning being lectured by a physician about how I should never look up my symptoms online.  Of course, that time it turned out Dr. Google had correctly diagnosed me. . . . so the next time I was ill I did it again, and that time Dr. Google was very very scary, and thankfully wrong.  Since he was right 1 out of 2 times, I will probably ask him again the next time. Common sense, right out the window.

The point is, the internet is there. And it is full of stuff. Some good stuff, and some bad stuff, but lots and lots and LOTS of stuff. Some of you are reading this blog because you’re looking for answers about your pet’s health, so I can’t really say I wish pet owners never turned to Dr. Google. And sometimes I encourage owners to get on the internet and seek out information about a disease – however I always let them know that they can call me with any questions this research brings up. I’ve had clients come to me with treatment options I’ve never heard of and I will turn to my reliable resources to make sure it will at the very least do no harm, and sometimes I give the go ahead to try some new treatment or therapy or whathaveyou. I am definitely pro-internet, and have all of the love for Google. And I certainly understand that when it costs about $60 just to have your pet examined, you might pause a moment and see if you can find out for yourself if this new behaviour is worthy of a trip to the vet or something you can just learn to live with.

As an aside, this is a good argument for bringing in your pet for regular annual checkups and maintaining a good relationship with your vet – so if you have a concern you’re unsure warrants an appointment, you can call and see what your vet thinks. This is much more efficient than the internet, sometimes. If I don’t know you from Adam, I won’t take your call… but if I see you and Fluffy every year, I certainly don’t mind answering a question when I’m making my phone calls.

So, being realistic, I know that in this “information age” people want information, and the information is out there, so I may as well make your job, and ultimately my job, a little easier and let you know the right places to look when you feel yourself turning to Dr. Google. There are quite a few resources out there for pet owners that I often turn to myself when a client wants more information, either to print out and article, or to give them a website to go to for their own research.

The big one I use most often lately is peteducation.com. There is a LOT of information on this site, for all manner of pets including fish, reptiles, birds, and small mammals.  They have a lot of resources on this site – if you are wondering about diagnostics, or tests your vet has recommended, or if you are looking for more information about the diseases your vet is investigating, you can pretty much find it all here. I certainly haven’t read the whole website, but what I have read I have found to be accurate and easy to read. It’s not overly technical, but not overly simplified either.  There is information available on many medications, which I know some of my clients appreciate because they want to know what exactly they’re giving to their animals and sometimes they think of these things after they’ve left my office. There are also several “how tos” for giving different kinds of medications, which is always helpful! I would love to be able to demonstrate how to give a pill to a cat every time I prescribe them, but some cats are not so willing to be demonstrated on in hospital but might be more cooperative at home.  Some people really appreciate those written instructions.

So, if you’re looking for medical information of any sort, this is definitely a website I would recommend. That being said, I didn’t actually find this site because of its helpful medical information. . . one of my technicians actually brought it to my attention because of the article on euthanasia. This article on making the decision to euthanize is probably one of the top 5 online resources I pass on to clients. It’s worth reading even if you are nowhere near that point with your pet – because one day you will be, as no pet lives forever.  I often counsel my clients that euthanasia is something to think about or discuss with the family well before it needs to be, because in a moment of crisis your emotions are running high and your decision making process won’t be at its best. So educate yourself as a pet owner, and think about the what ifs, so you have a better idea of what you will want to do when the unfortunate day comes that you have to make this decision.

If you’re on an information hunt, peteducation.com should keep you busy for awhile. And remember. . . never substitute anything you find on the internet for the advice of your actual veterinarian. If you find something that has you thinking, call your vet and run it by them before you jump to any conclusions or make any changes to your pet’s care. Every animal is an individual, and your veterinarian will know best if the information you found applies to your individual pet.


About dottiemaggie

A veterinarian living and working in St John's, Newfoundland. I love my job, and I love my home. Professionally I am passionate about critical care and client education. Away from work I am passionate about enjoying life, spending time with friends, enjoying hobbies of all sorts, and exploring this wonderful province I call home.
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9 Responses to Looking for some information?

  1. Kate says:

    I love this. I don’t search Dr. Google for pet issues…I FB my favorite vet in St. John’s (duh). I have Dr. Googled for myself, but it always comes out that I have cancer, so I figure not so accurate (hopefully).
    Also, my comment is awaiting moderation…should I be offended?
    Looks like you’ve been doing some traveling and having adventures. You were even not too far in my neck of the woods (Chicago is only 6 hours away). I think it would be fun to meet one day…I’ll come and see the light houses and pet Ollie. I love a good war story!

    • dottiemaggie says:

      haha, not sure why it put you in for moderation! It seems to randomly decide to not trust people 😉
      You are always more than welcome to come visit! We always have room for visitors 🙂

  2. We stopped doing that after a fairly routine seizure had us thinking our dog had a brain tumor and we practically had his ER time scheduled before a REAL vet told us to calm the hell down… 🙂

  3. las artes says:

    Such “cyberchondria” is becoming more prevalent, a new Harris Poll shows. According to their research, people who look for health information online are doing so more frequently than they were a few years ago. In 2011, 74 percent of people used the Internet to look for health information, and 60 percent have done so in the past month. According to Harris’ definition, that makes most of us “cyberchondriacs.” In 2009, 22 percent said they search the Web “often” for health information. Just two years later, nearly 40 percent did. People looked for health info an average of 7.9 times in the past month for 2011, the highest it’s ever been and an average 2 searches more than in 2010.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      that’s pretty interesting! And I’m not really surprised… the information is so readily available, and we all get sick from time to time and most of us are probably curious as to why. It can be so hard to get in to see a doctor, I suspect many people search information online to find out if the *need* to go to their doctor or the ER, or if they can just let it be… Unfortunately this doesn’t always work out for people, but I can certainly understand why it happens.

  4. Pingback: Shut Your Mouth When You’re Talking To Me | Trust me, I'm a doctor.

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