Friday, August 9, 2013

Being a Responsibly Informed Pet Owner

By Julia Williams

We live in interesting times. It’s true that every generation has it decidedly different than the one before, but the disparity seems to get wider with every decade. One reason for this is the internet. I used to get answers to all my burning questions by phoning the library reference desk. If the librarian didn’t know the answer, she always knew where to find it… in those archaic things called books. Remember those? LOL. Now, I can find the answers online in less time than it takes to pick up the phone.

It’s easier than ever to be an informed pet owner nowadays, provided you know how to tell the difference between reputable websites providing accurate information, and sites looking to make a quick buck with keyword-stuffed content. Just because you see the same info on many websites doesn’t mean it’s correct; online information tends to multiply like rabbits, and the “daddy” site that everyone else copied from could be erroneous.

So I always approach my online research with a healthy dose of caution, especially if it concerns my pets’ health or my own. I also do not attempt to self diagnose, and I never substitute the opinion of my trusted vet with information gleaned from a website. That being said, the internet can complement veterinary care because it allows you to ask your vet more questions and gives you the opportunity to learn and become a more informed pet owner.

I always thoroughly research anything my own doctor recommends or prescribes for me, and I do the same for my cats. I have a wonderful vet; she doesn’t roll her eyes when she seems me getting out my “list” of symptoms or things I want to ask her about. (I can’t say the same about my M.D.). My vet always takes the time to discuss all medications, treatments and options with me so I’m confident in the decisions we make together about my cats’ care. I trust her expertise completely, but I still believe a responsible pet owner has a duty to be as informed as possible about the various options.

Thus, if I’m going to give my cat some new medicine or treatment, I always do my own research first. The one time I didn’t do that, things went horribly wrong. I’d taken Annabelle to my regular vet on a Friday because she wasn’t eating and had vomited six times the night before. Despite extensive lab work, x-rays and a thorough exam, the cause remained unknown.

She was much worse the next day, so off to the emergency vet hospital we went. They recommended hospitalization, fluid therapy and an appetite stimulant. Because we were in crisis mode, I didn’t even think to ask which appetite stimulant and if there were any side effects or known issues.

Unfortunately, Annabelle had a horrible reaction to it and became very agitated, had vision problems and suffered frequent tremors, among other things. It was awful, and the worst part was that it took four days for the drug to clear from her system. Later, after I did my research, I learned that some cats do not tolerate this particular appetite stimulant, and Annabelle was one of them.

I felt extremely guilty for not knowing this before I agreed to give it to her, but I just wasn’t thinking. I was, after all, in the emergency room with a gravely ill cat. Yet the drug made her worse instead of better, so I felt that I hadn’t lived up to my credo to be a responsible pet owner and to always make informed decisions about my cat’s care.

Thankfully, my cat recovered from that ordeal, but you can bet I won’t make the same mistake again.

Top photo by DeluXe-PiX
Bottom photo by Tambako the Jaguar

Read more articles by Julia Williams


  1. I do too. Conversely, my Dr. Never minds my list but the Vet while reading it and attending to it, yes, is not too open to possible alternate helps for Katie. Brian uses an OTC allergy med for his girl who has allergies. I asked the vet about Katie and he dismissed it out of hand. I want so badly to try it but...he got me too concerned.

  2. We do the same thing, Julia. We have great vets, who are patient and kind, and who also do their own research to make sure they are up to date on all the latest research. Moosey has sinusitis, and gets a drop of Flonase in each nostril each night, before bedtime. He was started on it while he was at the shelter, but we did our own research when we adopted him. Our vets did the same. And he is still on it, and it works!

    I'm so glad Belle is doing well.

    Hugs to you all.

  3. I agree and you sure can't be too careful...and always trust your gut!

  4. I think you are very wise! I do the same thing for myself and Austin. I never trust the doctor as I know they have an agenda and would just tend to give a pill rather than try to get you to change your lifestyle - like with diet for instance!! And vets do tend to be the same in my experience! Caro xx

  5. Hi Julia,

    I have been reading your blog posts recently. I really like the approach you take on such a sensitive topic as the animals’ care, so I feel to be able to trust what you write about, since it shows honesty and yet very good advice.

    Being myself a pet owner, I have been working on a web startup that will help animals’ owners provide a better care to their animals and directly communicate with their professional caregivers (vets, sitters etc).

    This post, along with “Online resources for responsible pet owners” caught my attention and I considered it a good chance to ask if such an idea sounds interesting. If so, I will come back to provide the link of our website (which is at the development stage and we’re working hard to be launched as soon as possible) so that anyone can take a look and hopefully leave a feedback.

    Best regards

    1. Sure, I will happily take a look at your site -- just leave the URL when you have it. Thanks for reading the RPO blog!


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