I am writing this in a humorous context to discuss a common issue we see in the veterinary community. The common issue is competition. No it’s not competition from a nearby veterinary hospital or low cost spay neuter clinic. This competition has more of a wide spread presence. In fact the presence is world wide, the world wide web to be exact. This is Dr. Google and he is infamously known among those of us in the field.
To be serious for a moment, Dr. Google is a term that has been coined by veterinarians in reference to the misinformation clients get from the internet. This becomes a problem when they trust this information more then they trust us. We dread when a client begins an appointment with “ I was looking on the internet and ……..” There are some clients who go as far as diagnosing and even attempting to treat their pets. Don’t get me wrong, useful information can be found on internet. But there are also many people who claim to be animal experts who are spreading misinformation on the internet. So I have listed the top 5 reasons why I (representing veterinarians in general) am better then Dr. Google.
- I am way better looking than Dr. Google. If you don’t believe me, just check out my caricature! He can’t even compare to me! He is just a white screen with a search bar and colorful letters. I least have a face, eyes, and hands. Obviously I am just kidding with this reason. Most clients actually don’t care what I look like they just want to know if I can help their animal or not. This is to just emphasize the point that I am a real person.
- I can actually conduct a physical exam to diagnose what is wrong with your pet. Dr. Google has no arms or hands so he cannot. Consider this situation when determining how this is important. A new client recently brought his male cat due to trouble urinating. The owner reported that the cat was vocalizing with his back curved like he was straining. Upon physical examination, I was able to determine that the cat was not a male, but a female and she was just in heat. Dr. Google can’t top that.
- I can ask important follow up questions regarding your pet’s condition. These follow up questions can elicit information that clients haven’t thought of which can be very helpful in determining a diagnosis. Dr. Google can only give you a generic response.
- I can perform diagnostic testing like bloodwork and x-rays. I also have the ability to interpret these results. Though Google is technologically advanced this is something Dr. Google can’t do.
- I can administer treatment through prescribing medications and performing surgery. All Dr. Google can do is “suggest” treatments. How well can your pet get by with “suggested” treatments?
These are just a few reasons why Dr. Google should be considered unreliable. However, there are times when he can be quite helpful. I have listed circumstances when Dr. Google is appropriate choice and when he is not.
Do’s and don’ts of when to use Dr. Google.
DO use Dr. Google to become a well informed pet owner so you can ask all the necessary questions regarding your pet’s symptoms at your veterinary appointment.
DON’T use Dr. Google to diagnose your pet. Only a veterinarian can do that. To be more specific, only a veterinarian that has physically examined your animal can diagnosis your pet
DON’T use Dr. Google to treat your pet’s illness. It can lead to disastrous results. A common offense is someone giving their cat Tylenol to treat their cat for a fever. This is toxic and can kill cats. As a matter of fact no human anti-inflammatory should be given to any pet unless under an order of a veterinarian
DO use Dr. Google to supplement information given to you by your vet regarding your pet’s diagnosis and/or treatment therefore you can ask your veterinarian follow-up questions.
DON’T necessarily trust information from someone who has not had any formal training or experience in veterinary medicine. Just because they have been around animals all their life does not make them qualified to give medical advice. For an example, you shouldn’t go to a trainer or breeder website to obtain medical information.
DO use Dr. Google to read reviews about veterinary clinics you plan to visit. Keep in mind that not everyone can be pleased so when you read a negative complaint see if it is a consistent with other reviewer’s concerns. The same principle should apply to positive reviews as well.
DON’T use Dr. Google as a second opinion. If you are unhappy with your current veterinarian seek out a new one or ask your vet for a referral to a specialist if the situation is applicable.
As you can see there are right and wrong reasons to seek Dr. Google for your pet’s health concerns. Just remember his advice can either be helpful or harmful depending on the source. Make sure the sources are reliable, qualified, and trustworthy for your pet’s sake.