Is Dr Google good for your pet?

March 4th, 2015
Young Man With Dog Sit On Sofa Using Digital Tablet

Ever consulted Dr Google to find out what is wrong with your pet? Ben Nour finds out what sites you can trust when it comes to your dog’s health.

In the digital age of the 21st century, a number of technological and internet-related words and abbreviations have been added to dictionaries — everything from live-stream to Bitcoin to LOL.

One such word is cyberchondriac: “a hypochondriac who habitually uses internet medical sites for self-diagnosis”. Sound familiar?

This searching online might not apply just to one’s own health, but also our pet’s ¬— let’s face it, a Google search on that strange bump is a lot quicker (and less expensive) than a trip to the local vet. But there are dangers of researching your dog’s health online and it is important to use trusted sites for information.

Protecting your pet

Using the web to find general information on your pet’s health is not necessarily a dangerous activity in itself, and if anything, is common among pet owners.

According to Dr Nick Wonders, co-founder of pet health site Vetico, often when people come into vet clinics they have consulted the internet on their dog’s health as preparation.

“From our experience [in practice], people use the web as more of a first point of reference, and we’ve found that even when most people had vet appointments planned, they have at some point consulted Dr Google about their dog’s condition or overall health.”

Dangers of self-diagnosing your dog’s health using the internet include attempting to self-treat or not taking the next step, which should always be in consultation with a vet.

Getting upset over something you’ve read online is understandable but rather than self-remedy or worry, the solution is to always consult a professional.

“Issues arise not necessarily when owners self-diagnose, because that leads to a vet anyway. The times when we see problems are when people are trying to evade going to the vet and are looking for shortcuts to avoid it,” says Dr Wonders.

Simple misinformation on the web means that any treatment advised online could prove ineffective or even harmful to your pet. According to Dr Wonders, a common myth perpetuated in online forums is that garlic will help get rid of fleas, when in fact garlic is toxic to both dogs and cats.

Dr Ian Murdoch of Pennant Hills Veterinary Hospital says that the huge amount of information available on the internet and lack of an owners’ proper training make the internet “a difficult place for the typical pet owner to know that they have found useful information on pet health”.

“Your pet’s health is just too important to take the risk of delaying good treatment with misleading advice.”

Websites you and your canine can trust

Despite the dangers associated with researching online, the internet can be a great source of information to help owners educate themselves on their pet’s health.

But which websites can you trust?

Dr Wonders’ co-founded website was made with this concern in mind and aims to “provide current, reliable and relevant information for pet owners”. Health and wellness, and behaviour and training are just two topics on which articles are provided and the site also features vet-moderated forums.

Other sites include the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (RSPCA) “Knowledgebase” website which features advice for owners of all pets, with articles like “How can I toilet train my puppy/dog?” and “How can I protect my dog from tick paralysis?”.

Developed by global pet health company Zoetis, PawClub is an online initiative that provides information to help owners better look after their pets. The website consists of sections on everything from grooming and nutrition to health and care, and regularly features Q&A sessions with expert vets on topics like “How do I clean my puppy’s ears?”

For those dog owners who might not necessarily have physical access to a vet, the internet should still not be treated as a substitute and instead “if the owners can’t physically get the animal to the vet then the next best thing is a phone call to the clinic to get advice from the nurse or vet,” says Dr Murdoch.

The internet has pervaded every aspect of daily life, proving to be a valuable source of information on seemingly any topic. Researching online about your pet’s health is understandable, but should be treated as a precursor to consulting a professional. When it comes to our dogs, simply suspecting something is wrong is more than reason enough to immediately see a vet.

Better safe than sorry

Getting upset over something you’ve read online is understandable but rather than self-remedy or worry, the solution is to always consult a professional ASAP.

Top sites you can trust

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