Wednesday, May 4, 2011
In this day of instant satisfaction and technology, a responsible pet owner can find the answer to just about any question online. But how will they know if the information is reliable? After all, you don’t need to have a degree to post something online about animals. All sorts of people offer their experiences and answers to pet questions on message boards, social networks, websites and blogs. There are a few ways to make sure that you are finding legitimate and reliable pet information online. When it comes to questions about our pets’ health and wellbeing, it’s important to use common sense and seek out reliable sources.
Ask Your Vet
Your veterinarian can direct you to reliable online sites for pet information. While this isn’t necessarily proof of a certain site being a good source, it is a good endorsement. Of course, information gleaned online should never take the place of your veterinarian.
The American Kennel Club
When you are looking for reliable breed information, the AKC is a reputable organization with a good website.
The ASPCA and Other Reputable Rescue Organizations
Again, asking your veterinarian to recommend a website before you count on it for pet information is wise, but in general the ASPCA and reputable rescue organizations have helpful websites, and can refer you to other reliable pet information sites.
Your pet loving friends may recommend certain websites for information and ideas for dealing with your pet, either related to behavior or health concerns. Feel free to check them out, but verify any information you receive with your veterinarian before you take any action.
Many websites and blogs online are owned by responsible pet owners who have nothing but good intentions, but in fact the only person who should provide treatment information for your pet is your vet. Training and behavior suggestions and helpful hints for bathing and grooming your pet are generally safe to use, and often common sense will tell you whether the idea is a good one or not.
Exercise Extreme Caution
Online information can be misleading and cause damage to pets. My dog had developed a small lump on her belly. It was hard and about the size of a nickel. The vet told me to keep an eye on it and bring her back if it changed drastically. For nearly a year the lump didn’t change. When it began to grow, the vet checked it and tested it. The result was that the tumor was benign and probably just a fatty tumor; not a problem unless it bothered her because it was growing so slowly. While I trusted my vet, I also wanted to know more about these tumors. So I went online to do some research.
The sad horror stories I found about tumors that turned out to be cancerous and caused suffering and pain terrified me. I found myself measuring the lump nearly every day even though it wasn’t bothering my dog at all. I didn’t want to be a nuisance or an overprotective pet owner and call my vet over and over. The lump stayed about the same size (3-4 inches) for over a year. Two years since the lump appeared, it seemed it had stopped growing. I was relieved and didn’t worry about it for a while.
But when the tumor suddenly began to shrink, I deduced from my online searches that it was dispersing and would go away. I was so happy that it was going away. My dog had never displayed any signs or symptoms of illness, but three weeks later she was dead. Internal cells around the tumor had turned cancerous, spread to her internal organs and had ingested the fatty tumor quickly.
It was a relief when the vet told me that by the time the tumor had begun shrinking it was already too late, but I still felt as if I had failed my dog by not recognizing the dangers, by not being more proactive and questioning the vet with all of my worries sooner. By believing when online websites told me that fatty tumors that were benign could dissolve into the body, I was feeling relief and assuming it was a harmless fatty tumor while my dog was riddled with cancer.
Be very cautious what you look up online and what advice you follow. Always make sure you verify everything with your veterinarian, and don’t ever be afraid of being a worrywart – because it could very well save your pet’s life.
Photo by Dome Poon
Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie