The World Wide Web has opened up communication opportunities between veterinarians and pet owners. Convenient hand held devices allow pet owners with Web connections to scan, surf, text and email to their heart's content at any hour of the day. Or night. You might think this is convenient for pet owners, brings fast results for pets, is easier on your budget than office visits, and is a smart use of available resources. But is it? Think again.
Emailing and texting veterinarians with questions that are pertinent to a pet can be a good thing when the communications are between you and your own family veterinarian. When your family veterinarian is involved that means more information is involved: your pet's past health history, habits, activity levels, behaviors and several prior lab reports. More information can provide alternatives, choices and additional treatment measures.
Unfortunately, pet owners are more often using the Internet to find information to identify, heal, or cure their pet's symptoms. The symptoms, to those not trained in helping pets maintain their health and wellness, may seem minor. In fact, owners researching solutions via Internet for their pet's emergencies, injuries and ailments can instead be compromising their health.
"Responsibly surfing (the Web) is fabulous," says Nancy Kay, veterinarian and author of Speaking for Spot. But that "does not take the place of a call or visit to your veterinarian," she reminds pet owners.
"The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) saw veterinary visits decline by 21 percent for dogs and by 30 percent for cats," says veterinarian W. Ron DeHaven and AMVA executive vice president.
"Get(ting) Dr. Google's Opinion" is Kay's perspective of the electronic pet care owners are providing for their beloved pets. Choosing to use the technology owners keep handy is frequently delaying the necessary treatment an ailing pet requires to relieve discomfort or pain, restore its health, or even save its life.
"The biggest thing I see is an increased rate of euthanasia and much sicker animals than I've ever seen, meaning people are waiting longer," says veterinarian Julie Kittams.
Marty Becker, veterinarian and author of Your Dog: The Owner's Manual, calls the phenomenon "Vets vs. Net." A good veterinarian can quickly and fairly cheaply address many conditions that make a dog or cat miserable, Becker says. Owners with an itchy-pawed dog chose to let their pet lick and chew constantly for six years before they checked with a veterinarian. What they believed to be allergies was a "carpet of yeast and staph in his feet." Appropriate medications eliminated the itching within 48 hours.
A comatose dog in Becker's clinic couldn't be saved after its owners concluded non-stop vomiting was caused by a minor upset stomach. The piece of carpeting he'd swallowed without their knowledge became lodged in his intestine, causing a rupture and pus-filled abdomen. "Sometimes hours or minutes matter," Becker says.
Don't delay with technology! Ask your veterinarian to confirm information you learn via Internet. Check in quickly with your family veterinarian when your pet's health changes - you could save your pet's life.
American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA).
Balas, Monique. Sick pets put owners in financial bind.
Becker, Marty, DVM. Your Dog: The owner's manual.
Kay, Nancy. Speaking for Spot.
Peters, Sharon L. Dr. Google not always best when pets are ill.
Portland Veterinary Medical Association.