Internet searches

The internet is an amazing world of unending information. You can shop at home for just about anything from the comfort of your couch. Need a recipe? Just search online and you will find several, complete with reviews and feedback on how to make it even better. When we are faced with ANYTHING that we need more information about, we turn to the internet which is accessible on our phones, tablets, computers, and even watches. This information highway is an awesome resource tool that, of course, can have its drawbacks as well.

Paging Dr. Google

One of the challenges of modern veterinary medicine is the daily competition with Dr. Google. Here is a perfect example. Butch the bulldog is presented for an exam to evaluate his smelly infected ears and skin. His owner, Mrs. Smith, is frustrated because the remedies that the internet suggested were not working. She has tried EVERYTHING from homemade sprays to natural diet supplements and topical oils, but the ears and skin still smell terrible. What can she do now?
“Well, Mrs. Smith, why don’t we culture the ears and then place Butch on a round of antibiotics and medicated ointment . We can recheck in a couple of weeks to determine if he is improving and if Butch will need any further treatment”
“No, the bulldog club said that I should not waste my money on that. What other natural organic treatments can I try? Maybe it’s a grain allergy. The Healthy Dog Society said that if I put my dog on this raw diet of A, B, and C his skin and health issues will go away. Let me go home and research this and I will get back to you.”

The Grey Area of Veterinary Medicine Versus Internet Opinion

Mrs. Smith completely embraces the faceless internet sources and leaves without any conventional treatment for Butch at this visit. Sometimes clients like Mrs. Smith will return and try a recommended round of doctor prescribed treatment. Usually things like ear and skin infections do resolve with conventional medicine. Most are happy with the results, some are frustrated with the cost. At times these issues will return and have a chronic nature to them because the true cause can be a combination of factors such as environment and/or diet that set the stage for the reoccurring infections.

So, Mrs. Smith was not completely wrong in her thinking. Food choices can play a role in reoccurring infections, but so can other diseases such as Cushings disease, Thyroid disease, and parasites such as mites. In cases of light, localized skin irritations, home remedies combined with the body’s own immune response will probably manage the issue. Unfortunately, if a pet is dealing with a severe ear infection or chronic skin infection, a combination of oral and topical antibacterial/anti-fungal agents are the primary weapons that can get the situation under control and provide the best relief.

The real issue is that while Mrs. Smith and the doctor work out their treatment strategies, it is Butch that is paying the price. His ears and skin are still smelly, he is probably itchy and miserable with ears full of junk. Butch has no choice but to sit and wait it out to see which medical opinion, Dr. Google or the veterinarian, will win out.

Information is PowerfulDr. Google

Are we wrong, as consumers/parents/pet owners to turn to the internet and “Dr. Google” if we need more information on a disease or treatment options? Absolutely not. Information is powerful and the more that we know about an issue, the better we can deal with it in a healthy way. Lean and research all that you want, but take into consideration the sources that you are viewing. If your concern is a medical issue, look for medical based sources for your information. Personal or group Blogs about a subject are really just a person’s opinion with some facts sprinkled in. Look for scientific journal references or university studies to back up the claims that you are reading. We are also living in a time where reviews are king. Because of this, keep in mind that some positive reviews have been sponsored or manipulated to enhance the value of a specific product or treatment. Be aware!

Sound knowledge and Good Facts

Once you have researched a problem or have an idea of what you would like to try, talk to your veterinary professional. Ask questions and make sure that you understand what they are recommending and why. There is nothing wrong with asking the question “why” as long as you are open to the answer. If you are not comfortable with a treatment recommendation and would like to pursue other options, do so with sound knowledge and good facts to base this on.
The bottom line is that it is important for us as pet owners to trust our veterinarians but be open to questions when needed. If you come in and are seeking treatment for an ailment, trust that your veterinary professional is looking out for your pet’s best interest. Knowing about a disease or issue prior to a visit will help you as a consumer and pet parent be comfortable with the recommendations and medications of needed. Trust and knowledge can go hand in hand if we are diligent about our sources. Dr. Google is not the villein in this story, but he (or she) is not the hero either.

Some Good Resources for Information:

AVMA

DVM 360

Animal Poison Control