Your Vail Valley Vet's advice on using the internet for veterinary advice!
Veterinarians are familiar with the fact that pet owners will go online to find advice regarding pet care, there is no question that the internet is a great source of information. What I like to tell my clients is that there is a lot of good information out there however there is also a lot of MISinformation out there and it can be very hard to separate the good from the bad. If you decide to go online for pet advice, be sure that you are accessing reputable websites so that you are getting the most accurate and up to date information as possible – it’s what is best for both you and your pet!
Where can one find reliable information about your pet's health? Your veterinarian should be your number one resource for several reasons: 1) your veterinarian is familiar with you, your pet and your pet's unique health needs, and can answer your questions and concerns based on this knowledge and tailor it to you and your pet; and 2) you know that your veterinarian has the training and knowledge to provide you with accurate information – this is always very important to remember.
If you are still interested in finding information online, there are several good options. First, ask your veterinarian for suggestions! I have a list of websites that I like to recommend my pet owners use for client education. Examples of websites that provide information based on veterinary advice are the WebMD Pet Health Community which provides pet owners with opportunities to interact with an AVMA veterinarian. Another website that I like sending owners to is www.veterinarypartner.com. This website provides up to date animal health information from veterinarians and experts from the Veterinary Information Network – an online veterinary database and community utilized by many veterinarians.
If you find yourself on a website offering pet advice, be sure to determine who is providing the information. Are they are doctor? If so, are they are veterinarian? There are many people in the animal field who claim to be “doctors” however are not veterinarians. Be sure that the person providing the information has the qualifications to be providing reputable veterinary advice.
There are a few important things to look out for when getting online advice. First, is this website offering medications without a prescription such as pain medication/NSAIDs, heartworm medication or anything else that your veterinarian has told you requires a prescription? If so, they are likely providing this medication illegally and the medication may be counterfeit or unapproved. In addition, it is illegal to provide prescription only medication without the approval of a veterinarian. Most importantly, it may harm your pet.
It is not legal for a website to diagnose, prescribe medications, or tell you how to treat your pet's condition or problem based on information you provide online, through email or over the phone. It is required in many states (including Colorado) that there be a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship (VPCR) in order for a veterinarian to provide medical advice and/or prescriptions to a pet. Again, most importantly, the result of looking for advice in these places is potentially harmful to your pet.
Your veterinarian is there to help both you and your pet and we always have your best interest in mind. For your pet’s benefit, be sure you are obtaining your information from reputable sources so that your pet can live the healthiest and best life possible.