Google Versus The Vet

Photo credit: Jed Conklin for USA Today

Sandpoint, Idaho – Many pet owners today turn to the Internet for “expert” advice on what ails their pet and how to cure the problem without going to the veterinarian and incurring the cost of the visit. While this thrifty approach appeals too many people, it may not be in your pet’s best interest especially if you put off getting the proper treatment and that leads to some very serious problems.

“There’s great risk of unnecessary pain, expense or worse,” says veterinarian Marty Becker, who practices in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho, and has written several books, including the just-released Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual. Becker calls it the “vets vs. Net” phenomenon.

“This ask-a-fellow-pet-owner-online approach has become so common, he says, it’s become the new normal. Too many people use it as a primary source when they have a sick pet, and they put things off until it’s too late,” Becker says.

“Many conditions that make a dog or cat miserable can be quickly and relatively cheaply addressed with a veterinary visit and proper medications,” he says. “There’s the dog that suffered for six years with feet so itchy he licked and chewed constantly. The owners, concluding it was allergies, used countless anti-itch products and shifted food regularly. Finally, weary of the wee-hours sounds of foot-chewing, they sought vet help. The dog had a carpet of yeast and staph in his feet, Becker says. Within 48 hours of being prescribed an antifungal and an antibiotic, the itching disappeared.”

While it is true that the Internet has broaden our individual understanding of the latest techniques for caring for our pets. In addition, owners can form new bonds with other pet owners that are dealing with same types of pet issues. However, too many people are using the information they get over the Internet as their sole source of information without the training to know for sure that what they are doing or administering to their pets is correct.

There are times when even with the best of intentions a visit to the Vet becomes very important. “Sometimes hours or minutes matter,” Becker says. By then it may even be too late.

Veterinarian Nancy Kay, internal medicine specialist at the VCA Animal Care Center in Rohnert Park, Calif. and author of Speaking for Spot, a consumer guide on how to advocate for your pets, often advises vets at conferences how to help clients use online sources wisely. Kay says, “If a site has stuff for sale on it, skip it.” And “when you plug in symptoms, follow them immediately by ‘veterinary school’ or ‘college of veterinary medicine.’ “