Be careful where you’re rubbing that thing

I absolutely, positively adore the Veterinary Information Network. It is a subscription-based website open to veterinarians with a whole wealth of specialists, bulletin boards, news bits, and resources. I can check the dosing on a rarely-used medication, see the prognosis of a particular type of cancer, or ask my colleagues for an opinion on an odd case, all without leaving the treatment area.

In an office where I am by myself 99% of the time, it gives me real-time access to a group of like minded people who are an invaluable source of information, allowing me to be a better vet, and provide better care to my clients. I pay out of pocket for my membership, and consider it worth every penny.

This collective think tank has also brought to light some unusual and odd issues that have been going on in the animal and veterinary world, ones that I can’t imagine anyone would have figured out without this ability to come together and say, “Oh yeah. I saw that too. Maybe there is a connection.”

For example, most of you heard about the recent Blue Buffalo recalls. That was an odd one. The nature of the type of Vitamin D involved made it almost impossible to test for, and without a handful of determined veterinarians who came together on the site to compare notes and find the common factor- the food- it might never have been figured out.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported on the increasing incidence of veterinarians diagnosing pets with estrogen cream exposure. Again, the VIN news service performed an invaluable service in helping get the word out amongst the profession about something many of us- myself included- wouldn’t think to ask owners about during an exam.

This isn’t an inconsequential thing- a small little puppy, or maybe a small child- getting a whopping dose of transdermal hormones can have some significant effects that could lead to some invasive testing if not accurately determined to have an external cause. A female dog or cat that suddenly comes into estrus after a spay is assumed to have an ovarian remnant, which could lead to a tricky abdominal surgery that might not even be necessary.

Vets can and do still use our continuing education conferences as the main source of updated information about our practice, but it’s so wonderful to have this vast and continuously updated place to go to stay as cutting edge as possible.

And now I know to ask the owner of any unusual balding, cycling, or otherwise oddly endocrinologically inclined pet if they maybe, just maybe, have been partaking of some estrogen cream. Especially if they’re the type to carry their chihuahua around inside their cleavage.

So what do you think? Would knowing your vet was part of a huge message board of their colleagues make you more or less inclined to trust their judgment?

Filed: Daily Life, Dogs, Health Tagged: ,
  • Oh, more, definitely. No one person can know every single thing, and being willing to take a “consult” from others (even on a message board) just means better care for my pets.

    It’s not like you’re doing Diagnosis-by-Google, after all. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • My Human says she’s goin’ to ask my vet if she is a member or knows about this Network. I have a great caring young vet who was quick to refer me when I had a rather nasty problem. If she isn’t a member, my Human thinks she might like to be one.
    Y’all come by now!
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  • More! I think every professional, regardless of career, can benefit from a networked community to share thoughts and ideas with.

  • Cathey

    Definitely more! Especially here in the rural midwest, my vet doesn’t see “everything” everyday and to have access to the “in clinic” experience of vets in larger or more-diverse practices can only help my animals. I’m hoping that more vets see your post and look into this network if they are not aware of it.

  • Definitely more! No one person has seen everything, and it’s a good way to bounce symptoms off another expert ear.

  • Keeping_Awake

    More inclined, absolutely. All vet practices are local, as it were. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Subscription to such a board alerts a local vet to problems occurring on a national level that may seem incidental or infrequent locally.

    And as with my doctors who service human clients, continuing education is a wonderful thing!

  • Megan

    Oh how I love (and miss!) VIN. Ever since I’ve been unemployed, I haven’t had a subscription. It is SUCH a great resource. I especially love the online calculators. They have a caloric intake calculator that makes it easy to determine how much of a particular food you need to feed for high activity, nursing moms, weight maintenance, and of course weight loss. It’s great to hear people think VIN is a good tool for vets to have ๐Ÿ™‚ They also have a sister site,, that has information for pet owners and great handouts that you can print and give to clients. It’s a great and reputable place for owners to be “empowered clients!”

  • I think it’s a great resource, especially because you can’t always see everything in one practice, why not share knowledge. One of my close friends was in an exam once and got some really strange results from a test and her doctor said, “Hold on, I’m going to google this.” Yes, that’s right, “Google it.”

  • Definitely more. Seeking out knowledge from a like minded peer base is always good!

  • Leigh

    Signed up for the tech site just now! Thanks for the link. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sassy

    Much more! I am a member of its sister site, VSPN (Veterinary Support Personnel Network). It is a valuable resource for the techs, assistants, office managers, receptionists, etc, who make the vet’s life easier and more productive. I have learned sooooo much there, and I’m glad that my vets are members of VIN!

  • Dana

    Thanks for this post, Dr. V! This post was the first I heard of the Blue Buffalo recall, luckily my pup doesn’t get the types that were possibly effected. Can anyone recommend a centralized website for pet-related recall information?

    I love the idea of this network of vets and will definitely be mentioning it to my DVM tomorrow!

  • Definitely more inclined. As an advocate for diabetic dogs, I actually tried to join VIN… no such luck!

    We were notified as early as almost anyone of the FDA alert on Vetsulin and found that only the vets who are plugged into and actively participating in those kinds of electronic communications – VIN, AAHA, etc. – were aware that Vetsulin was being removed from the U.S. market so they would need to transition their patients to another insulin. The ones who have never plugged in often didn’t know about it until a client brought it to their attention or the Vetsulin sales rep advised them there was no more to be had. And plugged in vets had access to resources such as the Webcast on what insulins to change dogs and cats to.

    • I like your site! I just added a link to it. Great resource for owners!

      • Thanks Dr. V! We had a diabetic dog who liked to throw out the book and do his own thing so it wound up being a passion.

        I’ve been hooked here ever since coming across Vet Pet Barbie and Tales from the Vet Clinic. And Koa has been on my mind ever since the surgery – everything here is crossed for the surgery being the end of that problem.

  • Re RECALLS, FDA has a site that issues bulletins once a formal recall is in place and you can have email alerts sent:

    And VIN has a news center also:

  • K

    I love that you have an open and sharing mind. It makes you a better doctor and I believe, an enlightened individual (and yes, i’m biased, but so what, it’s still true). The day we stop thinking we have something to learn is the day we start mental decay, IMHO. this is one area where technology has been an invaluable tool in many professions, the true “global village” think tank. And best of all, it saves the clients money in the end run! I love professional forums for my work in the legal profession-it saves so much time when we have cases of first impression (or sometimes just an area new to me) to blast out a question and get immediate, succinct, on-point authorities. I love knowing the professionals in my life are open to using similar resources.