The Guide To Properly Using Dr. Google to Research Your Pet’s Health
Updated: Oct 24, 2022
Without a doubt, the internet has vastly changed the way we gain and share information. Gone are the days when people spent hours poring over dense texts to find answers. Now, the answers seem immediately available at our fingertips. It’s no surprise, then, that our first impulse is to jump on Google and find out what’s wrong when our pets are exhibiting mysterious symptoms.
While ‘Dr. Google’ can help you find valuable resources, you should still be cautious about how you find and utilize information about your pets. Sometimes, it’s downright dangerous to diagnose and treat your pet based on what you read on the internet. For as many indisputable facts as you might find, there are just as many myths that may hurt your pet.
We’ve all experienced the anxiety of seeing our beloved animals in pain—we either want to find the cause immediately or we want to conduct extensive research on health issues that have already been diagnosed. At Cuyamaca Animal Hospital, we want our clients to be proactive in learning more about their companion’s health. We also know that despite our recommendation to try and stray away from Dr. Google, the urge to type in the search bar is inevitable. So, to make sure you are best equipped to do so, we created a ‘Getting Started’ guide for you on how to use Dr. Google.
Look for Sources
When it comes to pet care on the internet, there are so many different avenues of information it can be hard to know which one is right, especially if you find conflicting messages. People might have the best of intentions when sharing information, but the rules we followed in school apply here: always cite your sources. One way to discern whether the article you’re reading should be taken seriously is to check and see if they’ve cited their sources.
Not only should information on pet care be backed by sources, but those sources should be credible. Use your instincts. When researching your own mysterious symptoms, are you more likely to follow medical advice from someone who says they “just know,” or someone who can tell you how they know? If what you’re reading does cite sources, look further and determine the credibility of the source’s information as well.
Look for Trusted Veterinary Organizations
Using Dr. Google to research one symptom can return over a million results. How do you narrow your focus? Try limiting your search to accredited veterinary organizations. Here are some veterinary universities and organizations Cuyamaca Animal Hospital trusts the most:
Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston (MSPCA-Angell)
Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA)
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)
The Animal Medical Center
The School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis
The College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
There are even more reputable sources you can consult when educating yourself on pet health. Generally, we recommend searching for veterinary schools, governmental sites, and other reputable non-profit organizations.
Evaluate the Findings
Even if you’ve found a seemingly well-researched article from someone claiming to be a doctor, there are other factors to consider. For instance, was the study you found a double-blind placebo study? A double-blind placebo means that neither the patients nor their doctors know if the drugs taken are real or placebo. The study may not be as credible if it isn’t conducted double-blind since the placebo effect ranges from 20-40%.
Additionally, even if a pet gets better on a certain medicine, diet, or nutraceutical, it doesn’t mean what the treatments were treating were the exact cause. Each research paper should be thoroughly scrutinized by someone familiar with how research is conducted. Even veterinarians rely on specialists who evaluate research papers for their accuracy before accepting them as fact.
When in Doubt, Consult a Veterinarian
Realistically, the only way to know for sure what’s going on with your pet is to schedule a face-to-face consultation with your veterinarian. Your trusted veterinarian will always be the most qualified to answer your questions, and not just because of his or her certifications. Remember, your vet has had the opportunity to get to know you and your pet. Every case is as individual as your pet, and your veterinarian will have more information and services to provide you with than anything you’ll find on the internet. And we bet, as pet owners ourselves, that having the reassurance of a personalized treatment protocol is worth it all.
Sometimes there are too many articles to choose from and too many directions to take. It can be confusing and scary to look for information, especially when it concerns the health of our beloved animals. Trust us - we know the stress that comes from not knowing what’s going on when our pets are struggling. That’s why Cuyamaca Animal Hospital is committed to ongoing research and staying on top of the latest advances in veterinary technology and pet care. If you have a concern about your pet and want only the best veterinarian services, give us a call at (619) 448-0707. We’re here for you!