1) Your dog is running in the yard and all of a sudden becomes lame. A quick Google search may lead you to websites with suggested doses of Aspirin. What the internet can’t do is use logic to decide if this is truly a good idea for your dog. What if he has a clotting disorder? That dose of aspirin can be deadly. What if he has kidney disease? That aspirin can push him into kidney failure. What if he is actually limping because he has a cut on his paw and it becomes infected? What if he develops a bleeding GI ulcer because the suggested dose is actually way too high?
2) Marley has been very itchy for the past couple of weeks, to the point that he’s starting to lose his hair. Several internet sites show doses of Benadryl for dogs so you decide to give that a try, but a week later he’s itchier than ever! The internet’s next suggestion is a grain free diet. Weeks later he now has bald patches and scabs, and he’s still itchy! Why? What the internet can’t do is a thorough exam of Marley. Maybe Marley has fleas or mites that are causing him to be itchy. Maybe he has developed allergies to his food, which led to a secondary skin infection that will require antibiotics to treat. Maybe he caught ringworm from the neighborhood cat he plays with and now he needs to be prescribed an anti-fungal medication to treat it.
3) Your dog Bailey has been straining in the yard all morning and can’t seem to go to the bathroom! Google searches suggest mineral oil, but despite giving her several rounds of mineral oil, she’s still straining! What the internet can’t do is a rectal exam and an abdominal palpation on your dog that shows she’s not straining because she’s constipated, but rather because she’s having diarrhea, and the mineral oil is making it worse! A quick fecal exam under the microscope at the vet may also reveal that it was a parasite that caused the diarrhea in the first place, but the parasite is so small you never even noticed it!
The truth is that while there’s tons of great information on the internet, there’s also lots of inaccurate information out there. We need to be very selective in what sources we’re using, and that we’re not using it to replace medical treatment. It’s so important to remember that nothing makes up for a veterinarian that knows your pet and will advocate in their best interests. They will be your best guide to helping your pet feel better. Find a veterinarian you trust and feel comfortable with so when the time comes that an issue arises with your cat or dog, they can help you work through it (and remember, that often includes a physical exam because it provides so much needed information to help pinpoint the problem). If your vet finds an issue affecting your pet, and you’d like more information on it, please ask them! They can point you in the right direction to accurate, science based sites. Some of this veterinarian’s favorites include:
1) https://www.veterinarypartner.com/; this site has articles on all sorts of topics ranging from inappropriate urination in cats to different types of cancers, and everything in between! Use their search bar to see if they have an article on your topic of interest. (link on our homepage)
2) http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control; a great site with a phone number to contact a medical professional. They can instruct you on if your pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian depending on what they’ve ingested (please note there is a consultation fee).
3) http://www.merckvetmanual.com/; If you’re looking for detailed, scientific explanations for different disease processes, this is a great site!
4) https://www.aaha.org/pet_owner/pet_health_library/default.aspx; the Pet Health Library has interesting articles on day to day care of your dog or cat, including things like diets, litter habits, pet insurance, etc.
article written by:
Dr. Erin Walsh
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect