Finding Veterinary Truth On The Web

The Internet can be a confusing and even dangerous place for owners of pets with major diseases. The sheer amount of virtual information available immediately at one’s fingertips is astonishing; bordering on overwhelming! As an example, a quick search of the phrase “canine cancer” in a popular search engine returns over 3,240,000 hits. How can an owner sift through all that information and discern the “pearls from the pebbles” when it comes to learning more about their pet’s illness or recent diagnosis. As doctors, we do our best to cover all the bases when initially discussing laboratory and exam findings that could indicate your pet might have one of several diseases. More specific testing is often required. That unavoidable feeling of anxiety, helplessness, and sometimes confusion can naturally encourage a middle of the night internet search as a source of information, self-comfort, and self education.

However, many of the authoritative looking websites available, even some with the word “Vet” in their names, are little more than blogging or chat sites where lots of complaints, anecdotal advice, and no science-based information is spread over the web. My recent exploration of the PetMD site (which is designed to mimic the venerated WebMD site) revealed very little genuinely helpful and accurate information. Their website boasts on their Home Page that it provides “veterinarian approved information”, but their Q & A page has the answers provided by other non-professional website visitors??? And these information pages have the disclaimer that “this information is not veterinarian reviewed”.

A client was recently touting information about a pet condition that she had read about on a purported “Vet website”. We brought the site up on the exam room computer and indeed it showed an authoritative looking silver haired gent in a long white lab coat with the title Dr. Thorn. I then chose the “about” tab that described Dr. Thorn as a DENTIST who raises German shepherds and has been a life long canine enthusiast. No mention even of a Veterinarian friend who has reviewed the advice given on his site. Enough said.

I strongly feel that our client’s best source of veterinarian reviewed information is to be found on websites directly affiliated with veterinary schools, professional veterinary organizations like the American Animal Hospital Association or the American Veterinary Medical Association, and websites run by respected and prominent veterinarians. Many veterinary schools have extensive client websites and newsletters. There is the Cornell Feline Health Center and the Tufts “Catnip” and “Your Dog” e-newsletters, among many other reliable, reviewed, and “vetted” sources on the Web, some of which I will list below.

The Doctors and Staff of PSVC encourage our computer savvy clients to feel welcome to discuss their internet research with us before applying any unusual sounding web advice to the care of their pets. We recommend sifting carefully through all that you find on the web, check for authenticity, and call our office with any questions.

Some Sources to Research Diseases, Conditions & Treatments

    Canine Epilepsy Resource Center
    “All you ever wanted to know about canine epilepsy.”

    Canine Health Foundation (American Kennel Club)
    Lists ongoing research projects on canine diseases.

    Canine Health Information Center
    “Providing a source of health information for owners, breeders, and scientists that will assist in breeding healthy dogs” including a CHIC DNA Repository database.

    Care for Animals (American Veterinary Medical Association.)
    AVMA provides a wealth of information on caring for animals, including help for new owners, brochures, and many FAQs.

    Cornell Feline Health Center Client Information Brochures
    Provides a series of online brochures describing topics from general cat care to infectious diseases. Also, consider the Cornell Feline Health Center’s Dr. Louis J. Camuti Memorial Feline Consultation and Diagnostic Service. 1-800-KITTY DR (1-800-548-8937) It is available Monday & Friday from 9am-12noon and 2-4pm EST. There is a nominal charge for answers to any cat health-related question.

    Doctors Foster and Smith Pet Education
    This site provides expert information for all types of pets. It contains “Informative articles on pet healthcare, written by veterinary experts.”

    To look up specific diseases and conditions, go to Pet Education Popular Searches.

    Exotic Pet Vet.Net (Margaret A. Wissman DVM)
    Provides health information related to birds, reptiles and other exotic pets (American Animal Hospital Association)
    “AAHA is well known among veterinarians and pet owners for its standards for hospitals and pet health care.” Features of this site include: Locate an accredited animal hospital near you, find answers to your pet health questions via their Pet Care Library, or their FAQ link, and browse their recommended reading list.

    Merck Veterinary Manual Online
    “The single most comprehensive electronic reference for animal care information. Includes over 12,000 indexed topics and over 1200 illustrations. Rapidly search by topic, species, specialty, disease, and keyword..” The 2,305-page printed volume of the 8th edition (1998) can also be purchased for quick reference.

    Note: “This online text has now been superseded by publication of the 10th edition of the Merck Veterinary Manual in September 2010 and may contain inaccurate or outdated information.”

    Pet Health Topics (Washington State University. College of Veterinary Medicine)
    A variety of topics related to dog and cat health are arranged into 4 major categories-Procedures, Common Problems, Diseases and Miscellaneous Health Care Topics.

    PetPlace.Com: We Are Crazy About Pets!
    Founded by Dr. Jon Rappaport to provide “an unbiased, authoritative, user-friendly website where pet owners worldwide could go for complete, up-to-date information on all pet issues”. It features over 5,000 articles in “libraries” on dogs, cats, fish, small mammals, reptiles, birds and horses.

    Tufts University Veterinary College:
    “Catnip” and “e-Dog” online newsletteres

    Maintained by veterinarians, this a very useful site loaded with health news and information about behavior, health, diseases, and drugs related to dogs, cats, birds, horses, and other pets.

    Vetinfo: A Veterinary Information Service (Michael Richards DVM)
    Ask a question or find articles on diseases and conditions of cats and dogs.

To better assess the health of your pets’ teeth we now have DIGITAL DENTAL X-RAY EQUIPMENT. This allows us to see hidden periodontal disease surrounding the tooth roots so that action can be taken to judiciously suggest treatment or extraction since our pets can’t tell us where it hurts them.


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