Are You a Pet Expert?

Pet-expert

I still consider myself a novice blogger. As of this date, I have been blogging for just under a year. What I have learned with my brief experience so far is that you never know if your article will be received as it is intended. I am not sure if this article will come across as controversial. If it does, it is not meant to be. I am interested in invoking a discussion on what constitutes a pet expert. Inspiration to write this came about because I have noticed in the blogospheres there are many self- proclaimed pet experts writing articles on pet health. When I look at some of their credentials, I sometimes see that there is no experience listed in the pet health field. Often what is listed is that they are an animal lover, advocate, or long time pet owner. In one extreme case, I saw a blogger write about a pet health condition admitting that none of her pets experienced it but knew several of their friend’s pets that did. Because of this, the blogger posted a lot of erroneous information. So I pose a question to two groups of people. To the fellow blogger and then the reader. First to the fellow blogger, do you feel qualified to write articles about pet health even if you have had no experience working alongside a veterinarian? If yes to that question do you feel obligated to quote credible sources or state a disclaimer in the article? To the reader when looking for information, does it matter does it matter to you who is writing the article? Do you as a reader prefer sources? Are you more likely to cross check information from bloggers who don’t have veterinary experience? Obviously I am focusing on pet health because that is my area of expertise but this is also relevant in other areas such as training, grooming etc.

My definition of a pet expert

When I refer to the term “pet expert” this could be interchanged with terms such as “animal expert”, “pet professional”, among other terms. Just to be consistent I will refer to pet expert as a descriptor throughout the article. I would consider a pet expert somebody who has an authority on topics whether it is through formal training, education, or experience. I realize experience could be subjective term for some people. For example I wouldn’t consider a person who has owned pets all their life a pet expert. I would consider those who have had experience working in a veterinary clinic, training facilities, or zoos etc. as pet experts. Everybody working in those facilities doesn’t have formal education but if they are working with multiple pets daily in different capacities that may give them pet expert status in my opinion.


Self proclaimed Pet Experts writing health articles

First all I would like to state I have no problem with pet owners writing health articles. I know there are several of you who have pets that either have or going through a chronic medical issue. Many may feel compelled to blog about these experiences and have likely done extensive research on the issue. I also understand there are pet owners who are just good writers and know how to do great research, therefore writing articles with appropriate cited resources. But I have seen a few blogs with articles written on pet health articles with no cited sources or disclaimers. Even if the article has some factual information, the source affects whether to take this information seriously or not. If a pet blogger with no veterinary experience starts writes about topics such as when to give vaccines, medication, and diets, this can be a problem. There is a risk to misinterpret information even from reliable sources. A perfect example is a lay person attempting to interpret blood work results. I will have clients ask for their copy of their bloodwork then look up abnormalities on the internet. This is without knowledge that some changes can be normal based on the animal symptoms, what medications they are on, and how it relates to other values on the lab work.

Pet bloggers without experience disparaging Veterinarians

As a veterinarian this is a big pet peeve of mine. Articles that have common clichés such as these are what your veterinarian won’t tell you. Your veterinarian offers this to you but is this really good? Then they are the articles that question intent of why we perform certain services such as diet recommendations, vaccines, prescription of certain medications, and surgeries. Many of them can be accusatory with many implying that it is all about the money. Can there be disagreements on hot button topics such as diet, vaccine protocols, and medicine? Sure they can. Even veterinarians have different opinions on these issues. But if the argument starts off with a negative tone toward veterinarians and without reliable sources, the argument is weakened. This is especially the case when it is coming from someone who has had no experience in the veterinary field.

Why is this a big deal? Veterinarians often have access to resources that lay people may not have the access. In many states, we are required to attend continuing education where we are updated with the newest innovation on healthcare. Also our experiences have a big influence on how and why we treat our patients. So I would think it would be inappropriate for someone who has never worked aside a veterinarian to tell me why I give vaccines, or my intentions of giving a medication, or performing a surgery. I am not against debating these topics as veterinary medicine is an ever changing field. These debates just need to be done in a constructive manner. Also those who join the debate need to make sure they have the appropriate knowledge from reliable resources.

 

 

What do you think?

Now that you have read my perspective, I am interested in hearing your thoughts whether you are a blogger or a reader. Here are some additional questions to consider. Do you believe that pet experts should stick to their own field or does it even matter? For example should pet sitters write articles on training, or should trainers write articles on pet health etc.? Looking forward to hearing your comments. Remember when you comment to check the box that you wish to be notified when someone responds.


5 thoughts on “Are You a Pet Expert?

  1. People should have learned from writing high school term papers that you must always back up your claims from trusted sources and give credit to the authors of such sources. You can always give an opinion, but you should preface your blog that you are giving an opinion based on whatever. When reading articles I look for the writers education and experience. Even a qualified, experienced person in a particular field could have slanted bias too if say they prefer product A over product B. So an article written by such a person could by heavily weighted towards product A when product B is also an equal. So really you must take everything you read with a grain of salt and make your own decision if you agree with what the writers blog. Personally, I would always ask my vet for any issues with my pet to back up anything I have read on the internet.

  2. I forgot to state in my previous post that while I have had pets all my life and several for very long lifespans and I also foster for a rescue group, I am by no means an expert. I do think I have a good deal of experience and can tell someone what has worked or not worked for me in dealing with my personal and foster dogs and cats.

  3. When I look for health advice for my cat online, I type in the keywords, get a long list of websites, and go straight to the ones which are obviously written by veterinarians.
    Pet bloggers can write so much else – funny, entertaining, thought-provoking, heart-warming and inspiring posts about their pets and their experiences. Those can be a joy to read, as well as useful.

    Bloggers writing about stuff they’re not qualified to write about – such as giving veterinarian advice – have usually cribbed other people’s posts. The same content gets plagiarised and modified repeatedly by people who don’t really understand the topic. They just churn out content. Often its not even the bloggers themselves who write those posts. They hire inexpensive ‘content writers’ who churn out post after post by copying, paraphrasing and reassembling posts they’ve found elsewhere.

    This happens in all fields, not just animal health.

    Yes, this is annoying. But most animal lovers are intelligent.. When they turn to the web for to get information about a problem their pet has, they consider the source.

    And the pet blogs containing low-value mass-produced content written by people who don’t have real knowledge are blogs which don’t get read much. They may have a lot of subscribers, but those are purchased subscribers. (You can buy fake followers and subscribers by the thousand.)

    The pet-relate websites which get read are those by teams of genuine experts who give easy-to-read advice, and the blogs by pet-keeping pet lovers who entertain their audiences.

    While the issue is irritating, it’s not really cause for serious worry.

  4. I don’t consider this controversial at all. If you were to lay claim that ALL bloggers who weren’t vets couldn’t possibly be experts then that would be a horse of a different color.

    There are things that I feel I have enough experience with and have done enough reading on to consider myself more knowledgeable on than most. I am happy to share that knowledge with people who come and read my blog, but I ALWAYS form it in the post as these are my experiences and this is what I have learned, and I cite when ever I can so people can read more on the subject. I also fully encourage that people learn more, read more and not just take my word for anything.

    I do disparage vets because sadly my experience with most of them have led me to this point. So many of them are ‘it is my way or the highway’ or “if I haven’t heard of it, then it doesn’t exist’ mentalities. So very few are open to the possibility that drug makers or food manufactures might not be telling the whole truth. This is true for human medicines (Vioxx anyone?) and foods as well. Very few vets acknowledge that they might not know everything, and that the training they get might not be all they need to know. Vet medicine has changed dramatically in the past few years and not that many vets are keeping up.

    I trust my vet to know the innards of my pet and to know which tests to preform to figure out which conditions we have, but when my vet tells me that a thyroid level of on my cat, which was previously 5.4 and is now 1.0 after only three weeks of medication, is great and there is no need to change the dose, I get concerned. The ref for the thyroid was 0.8-4.7 to drop so dramatically and so close to the low end of scale in such a short period of time scared me silly and she was there reassuring me it was fine. I did more reading and research on the topic and spoke to others who deal with thyroid issues in cats all the time and I found out that three weeks wasn’t enough time to get an accurate reading of where his thyroid was going to bottom out at on medication, and I would most likely end up with a hypo cat if I continued on the dose he was prescribed… well I’m glad I know enough to look for more information.

    no, the resources I turned to in general were not vets.. but they did help me and in turn help my cat a great deal.

    I see this all the time with diabetic cats, and vets prescribing treatment that was the norm 20 years ago, but is not in line with what we know about how to treat diabetes today.

    While I’m not a fan of blogs pretend to be experts and come off sounding like a true authority on the subject, it still lands on me as the pet guardian to make the final decision, and as experience has shown me, and so many others, that relying on just one source of information – be it a vet or a blog – is a very bad idea.

  5. I am a pet lover. I’m not an expert but I know there must be a clean home even there are pets. The food must be healthy for the cats. When there is something wrong with my cats I know that I must call a wet. We can’t be all experts, even if we love cats or dogs.

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