Author(s): Graeme Carey
In today’s internet age, anyone can play the role of doctor (or vet) with a few quick Google searches. But with so much information online, it can be difficult to find what we’re looking for. And in the era of fake news, how do we even know what we’re reading is reliable? As Dr. Zoe Belshaw explained in a 2018 talk given at a Hill’s Global Symposium, many pet owners are frustrated with the difficulties associated with looking up pet healthcare information on Google, causing them to turn to alternative sources, such as social media, which runs rampant with false information. The solution, Dr. Belshaw proposes, is for the vet community to embrace the internet, thereby steering pet owners away from social media.
Many vets are skeptical of Dr. Google,” and for good reason. For starters, pet owners aren’t as equipped to diagnose their pet’s symptoms, which may lead them to heed unhelpful and potentially harmful advice. As a result, Dr. Google can end up doing more harm than good.
Dr. Belshaw points to a survey from the British Veterinary Association of nearly 700 vets that found that 98% of small pet owners consult Dr. Google, yet only 6% of vets said the owners’ online research was helpful. Worse yet, over 80% of vets had clients bring in their pets when it was too late. This shows a clear correlation between Dr. Google and negative health outcomes for pets.
“‘Dr Google’ often results in owners misdiagnosing conditions, followed by the client being led to believe that there is a cheap and effective ‘treatment’ obtainable online or from a pet shop…And thus animals suffer far longer than need be…,” said one of the veterinarians from the survey.
As a threat to the veterinary industry, Dr. Facebook is far more dangerous than Dr. Google. On Facebook alone, there are countless groups dedicated to specific pet health issues, such as feline chronic kidney disease, the Nobivac Lepto 4 vaccine, and canine arthritis management, just to give some examples. Although some of these groups have thousands of members, many of them lack contributions from veterinary experts and in some cases intentionally exclude such input due to anti-vaccine beliefs or general mistrust of the medical community.
Another problem with social media is that it is driven by ad revenue. Its primary objective isn’t quality, factual content, but rather clicks, often at the expense of the truth. By analyzing the top 100 health articles shared on social media in 2018, Health Feedback, a network of scientists who assess the credibility of influential health media coverage, determined that a majority of health news shared on Facebook is either misleading or outright fake.
The clear solution to the Dr. Google/Dr. Facebook dilemma is for vets to embrace the internet and use it to their advantage through trusted, reliable resources—resources such as Healthcare for Pets, with its team of DVMs and veterinary technicians dedicated to developing a “global community of pet owners by providing them with access to up-to-date health and wellness information that is written and presented by veterinarians, animal health professionals and experts.”
With its Ask the Vet platform, Healthcare for Pets brings the vet straight to you, without the need for an appointment, providing pet parents with credible information directly from the experts.
Disclaimer: healthcareforpets.com and its team of veterinarians and clinicians do not endorse any products, services, or recommended advice. All advice presented by our veterinarians, clinicians, tools, resources, etc is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian or other clinicians. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.