When I was young, researching a subject required an encyclopedia and the library’s card catalogue. If the answers couldn’t be found there, I had to find an actual expert to help. Google didn’t exist yet and most people still trusted professionals to be the sounding boards for their respective fields.
My, how the world has changed! In the age of the mighty internet, everyone has become an expert. This trend has extended to medical care, sometimes with unfortunate or even dire consequences.
In certain instances, online medical research enables us to better advocate for ourselves and our families. If we seek out and validate reliable sources, we can enhance our understanding of certain conditions and provide better care for our family members, including our pets.
Problems arise when people dismiss genuine expert opinions (or don’t seek them at all) in favor of following guidance found on the internet. It is becoming more common for pet owners to trust Google results or even seek advice from random strangers on Facebook or other internet forums rather than veterinarians. Sometimes, these folks are right. Often, their assumptions are incorrect and a delay in appropriate treatment causes unnecessary suffering for pets. Even worse, there has been a recent surge in cases where pets have become increasingly ill after receiving inappropriate treatments or medications based on internet research. Well-meaning owners may inadvertently cause harm, sometimes with insurmountable consequences.
Despite this, it is becoming increasingly difficult to assure owners that professional knowledge and experience provide more accurate insights than online resources. Unfortunately, not every condition can be diagnosed based on history and clinical signs. Diagnostic tests are often required to confirm a suspicion, even when the answer seems obvious. While these tests may be labeled unnecessary by online experts, presumptively beginning treatments or medications can be dangerous. Even with a definitive diagnosis, what is safe for one pet may be hazardous for another based on age, breed, and health status. For this reason, it is essential to have a professional consultation for each individual patient.
Internet research is here to stay and we are here to help! If you find information online, please seek a professional to ensure the validity of the results. We want to work as a team to provide the best possible care. I always tell my clients that Dr. Google is not licensed to practice alone in Florida