Behold the power of the internet

I love the internet. Trust me, I do. I find nothing wrong with a client who goes and pokes all over the net in search of information about their pet, because I do the same thing for myself. The internet is nothing short of miraculous in helping people become empowered. But. But…. (fade to black)

The scene: A typical exam room, inhabited by a typical patient: a labrador with an ear infection.

Me: Has Freddy had ear infections before?

Client: Off and on for most of his life, yes.

A typical examination, with me pulling out the otoscope and lifting Freddy’s ear. I am assaulted with a familiar, and yet unfamiliar, odor.

Me: Well, his ear’s pretty red…and…oh my goodness…. (withdraws ear cone) Is this….pus?

Client: ……………….

Me: This is just bizarre. Let me get a slide. What the…this smells like vanilla.

Client: I thought I washed all that out.

Me: All what out? Is this yogurt in his ear?

Client: Well, yes. I read on the internet that yogurt is good for yeast.

Me: Where did you read that?

Client: Well, I googled “yeast infection dog”….. I think it was on Yahoo or something.

So here’s the double edged sword. The internet is where clients become empowered and find YouTube videos demonstrating subcutaneous fluid administration and help each other find appropriate foods for their diabetic cats. It’s also where clients learn that parvo vaccines cause parvo, vets go to Hawaii courtesy of pet food companies, and Yoplait auris utraque is an effective alternative to, say, prescription ear medication.

I don’t believe in fighting clients on the internet front. It’s arrogant, frankly, harkening back to that old patronizing paternal doctor image; and it’s not going to stop anyone from doing it anyway. Much like I redirect my kid from disassembling the Tivo remote (he totally messed up my Dexter season pass, too) by giving him a bigger set of Legos to work on, I believe we need to do a better job of facilitating clients’ desire to learn more by pointing them to sites that are reliable, helpful, and accurate. It’s better for everyone.

I use Veterinary Partner all the time because it covers most of the topics I need in general practice, but I’d love to expand my list of websites to provide to clients.  The wonderful Dr. Nancy Kay over at Speaking for Spot (I can’t recommend her highly enough!) has a list of disease-specific sites that she recommends as an internal medicine specialist, which I printed out and leave at work to share with clients. I also have some sites scribbled down from various CE meetings about feline disease-specific sites. A well-organized disease specific forum populated by concerned pet owners sharing the same struggles, sharing the insights from a variety of experiences and providing moral support, can be a lifesaver, and I support that 100%.

I am adding to my list of helpful websites all the time, so today I’m asking all of you- because there are a lot of empowered pet lovers here- to share your favorite informational sites. The more the merrier! I would love to have more to share. Knowledge is power- unless of course it involves putting yogurt in unusual orifices (I never did figure out exactly how she got the yogurt in there to begin with.)

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  • http://www.kusine.com Jessica

    Dr. Jeff Vidt’s website focuses on the Chinese Shar Pei and is absolutely invaluable to a shar pei owner! http://www.drjwv.com/

  • Cathey

    Thanks, in advance, Dr. V for gathering this helpful information. They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and with regards to medicine for animals AND humans, they can be right.
    There is NO substitute for a real human and a REAL diagnosis, but further information from solid sources will only help us take better care of our friends.

  • http://www.the7msnranch.com the 7msn ranch

    I decided long ago to stop researching symptoms on the internet – in the stress of dealing with an injury or illness, I could easily talk myself into believing my horse’s bump or bruise was cancer or some other life-threatening problem. But after my vet has given a diagnosis I will turn to the internet to learn as much as I can about the condition. The only site I go to for equine medical information is thehorse.com – all the articles are written and/or approved by AAEP veterinarians.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Absolutely- there is a huge difference between making the diagnosis (best left to the experts) and researching the diagnosis once it’s made.

      A horse link! Yay!

  • Leigh

    http://www.petplace.com Either written by veterinarians or edited by them. I especially like the articles on behavior issues. I refer our clients to it all the time, especially if they want more in-depth information about their pet’s diagnosis… I find the articles highly informative but easy to read and understand.

    • Maenad

      the vet internist I work for uses petplace.com for the informational handouts he gives his clients. That’s made me recommend it to my friends who are interested in doing their own research on their pet’s diseases.

  • http://finnspawprint.blogspot.com/ Susan Montgomery

    Great Idea! I second The Horse.com for horse info, and for Irish Wolfhounds, I recently discovered http://www.irishwolfhoundabc.com/ which I think is an excellent honest site about the breed. (check out the Puppy Tales and Mischief photo album links for some chuckles)

  • http://www.biscuitsbylambchop.com Annette Frey

    What about http://www.marvistavet.com/ It’s pretty easy to read and covers a lot of topics that can help enhance the caretaker-veterinarian conversation.

    I think that the research people do online, and elsewhere, should do just that, enhance the conversation. That’s not to say you have to agree on every little thing, but should be able to make informed decisions and understand the logic behind all the options and be sure your vet knows what you’re doing, so they can red flag any potential problems. Even some supplements can interfere with medications or should be stopped before surgery, etc. – all things your vet has to know to treat your pet appropriately.

    And be super careful of snake oil salesmen and people who think they know it all. Even – or especially a great vet – would not pretend to be able to diagnose and treat your pet over the internet.

  • http://greeneggsandhamlet.wordpress.com Shelley @ Green Eggs & Hamlet

    Unfortunately I don’t have any good sites to add to the list but applaud your attitude regarding clients doing internet research (didn’t you mention that one of the vet speakers at BlogPaws said vets should appreciate clients who take such an active interest?).

    In the year I’ve had Hamlet I haven’t done any dog health internet research, probably because he hasn’t had any issues. I just take him for his check-ups and listen to the vet. That said, I would love a list of reliable online resources for the future. Thanks!

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      That was Dr. Kay! :)

  • http://ofcowstailsandchewtoys.com Ashley

    When I’m doing research for my blog I usually hit up http://www.petmd.com , http://www.doggedhealth.com , http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/pets/ , http://www.peteducation.com , http://vetmedicine.about.com , and Pet Place which Leigh mentioned above. And even then I will check three or more sources on the same topic just to see if the information given is similar throughout.

    When I first got Prudence I was checking the web all the time and playing Dr. Google, but after seriously freaking myself out over what turned out to be a small skin abrasion on Pru’s leg, I’ve limited by medical research to finding out more information after Pru’s vet has already given a diagnosis.

  • Kellee

    Great post and thanks everyone for the helpful links. I like to research after the fact if something comes up and like Ashley said you can really freak yourself out with too much research. Best to leave it to the professionals in my opinion.

  • Melissa

    I love your post today. For my vet school apps, one essay asked about a topic that has become a challenge in Vet Med within the last 5 years. I discussed Dr. Google and Dr. Wikipedia and how clients would be much better served if they were provided a list of accurate websites in which to research a pet’s diagnosis AFTER seeing the vet, rather than self-diagnosis.

  • http://www.brrnese.com Kathie

    We have several great sites available to Bernese Mountain Dog owners:
    http://www.bmdca.org/health/index.php
    http://www.bmdinfo.org/tl/Bernese_Mountain_Dog_Health.php
    A great yahoo group, the BernerL, with 3000 members
    I second the recommendation of Dr. Nancy Kay’s website and her book – they are invaluable resources. I find all of the above to be wonderful tools for learning more about a diagnosed or suspected disease in our breed, and like others have commented, rely on my veterinarians to make that diagnosis. I do love however that they always ask what I have learned through the Berner channels.

  • Hilary

    The best site I know of for general training and behavior issues is MySmartPuppy.com, which is run by master trainer Sarah Wilson. It’s a great site with wealth of info, including an excellent forum where folks can post questions and get sane, expert advice at no charge.

  • http://www.mypersonalvet.com Dr. Evelyn

    http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/ Well-respected site!

  • http://www.k9diabetes.com Natalie

    I have a website and forum dedicated to dogs with diabetes and am associated with a great site for dogs with Cushing’s disease.

    http://www.k9diabetes.com

    http://www.k9cushings.com

    My site includes video and picture tutorials for home testing blood glucose and links to many other pages from Vet Schools and insulin and syringe manufacturers.

    Also, there is some exceptional though more dated information on diabetes at
    http://www.caninediabetes.org/pdorg.

    It was written about 8 years ago but much of it is absolutely timeless and very thoroughly researched.

  • Amy

    My local library’s interlibrary loan department. After searching medline & pubmed and google books to find reliable sources my vet would trust, they got them for me (including a veterinary textbook) and saved my dog’s life.

    “I don’t believe in fighting clients on the internet front. It’s arrogant, frankly, harkening back to that old patronizing paternal doctor image; and it’s not going to stop anyone from doing it anyway. ”

    I hope my former vet sees this post!

  • Anonymous

    LOL, we use a whole lot of natural remedies here at Casa de Kolchak, but just because it’s on Google (or Yahoo) doesn’t make it true! We do a whole lot of checking/cross-checking and triple checking before we try anything AND we make sure we know what we’re dealing with before we try to treat it. LOL, imagine putting yogurt in your ear?!