The Internet - or World Wide Web - can offer pet owners a wealth of medical information. It can also confuse and frighten folks who are unable to sift out trustworthy sites from less reputable groups that post opinions and rumors online and use scare tactics to get attention.
AAHA-accredited veterinary practices recognize the importance of well-educated clients, who research health topics online in an attempt to provide the best medical care possible for their pets.
To ensure that pet owners find good medical information online, Kim Schiele, a certified veterinary technician (CVT) at AAHA-accredited East Valley Animal Clinic in Minnesota, refers clients to the hospital’s website.
A “pet library” button on the left side of the web page allows pet owners to research diseases from websites that veterinary professionals “have found to have reliable information and it allows us to refer to the same information that the client has been reading,” Schiele said.
In addition to referring clients to HealthyPet, a website created by AAHA for pet owners, some veterinarians give clients a list of trusted websites or suggest a few to try.
“We encourage clients to take an active part in their pet’s healthcare,” said Janet McKim, DVM of Middleburg Animal Hospital in Virginia.
Because McKim knows that clients investigate treatment options, she suggests www.veterinarypartner.com and refers clients with diabetic pets to www.petdiabetes.com. She warns clients to be wary of health claims that do not have scientific data to back them up.
Dale Skrabalak, DVM, PhD at AAHA-accredited Veterinary Medical Center in New York, refers clients to www.askmyvet.net for information on a variety of pet-related topics.
“The information is accurate and up to date,” Skrabalak said. “We feel properly educated clients can better understand what we tell them, and make informed decisions.”
Michael Akins, DVM, at AAHA-accredited All Creatures Animal Hospital in Georgia, agreed. He recognizes a need for good information and suggests that clients visit www.anapsid.org for reptile-related news and the House Rabbit Society (www.rabbit.org) for bunny-related information.
Suann Hosie, DVM, at AAHA-accredited Vancouver Animal Emergency Clinic in British Columbia, puts www.HealthyPet.com and www.veterinarypartner.com at the bottom of client invoices, and offers a list of condition-specific sites.
Although some doctors worry about non-medical hearsay and opinions that are posted online with little or no medical authority, others have found that client-initiated research on the Internet improves pet health.
“I have had clients who have introduced me to new therapies that have improved my treatment of their pets,” McKim said. “I realize I can’t know it all and am willing to listen. If the person talking has a vested interest they may very well have information that I need to hear. The Internet – can’t live with it, can’t live without it!”
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Volume 2 Issue 2, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.