By Dr. Lyn Lewis
Wayside Animal Hospital in Jasper
We now live in an, “I want it now” age. We get our news online, we shop online, a lot of you even read this newspaper online. I went to an interesting seminar about the new power of the Internet about 2 weeks ago. It really opened my eyes as to the power of the Internet now.
Did you know that 80 percent of people with a sick pet consult the Internet first? This is not even the scary part; most of these people try remedies from online first without consulting a veterinarian. These facts have really affected both me and a few of my patients this week.
The first case I had was a client who put down rat poison in his home, his dog ate a brick and he went on Google to see what to do. It told him to make his pet vomit with peroxide and if he did that in the first 15 minutes the pet should be fine.
When the owner brought the dog in 3 days later he was bleeding profusely from the rat poison, he died before we could even get a transfusion set ready.
The second incident was a client who I was talking to about using heartworm prevention. She said that she was buying it online, at a site where she did not need a prescription at a really low price. I was very concerned and asked her to bring it in because I would love to see the product she was using. She came back the next day with a box of Heartgard, but the box felt too thin, the internal package was also wrong. We called the company and found that it was counterfeit. Pretty scary, because who knows what was in that product. We tested her dog and it was positive for heartworms. We will begin the long treatment process soon.
The final case involved a small wound on the leg of a small dog. The owner looked up some things online and thought it was a common wound. She had some of her own antibiotics at home and treated that way based on the advice off of some breeder’s Web site. When I saw the wound it had a lot of necrotic tissue and the wound was about the size of a silver dollar. What the owner thought was a common wound actually ended up being a spider bite. With a change in antibiotics and aggressive surgery to remove the damaged tissue, the puppy should make a full recovery.
The Internet is a powerful tool, it is changing our world. It is putting information at our fingertips. Some of these changes are for the good, and some not so good. The real problem with the Internet is that it is full of OPINIONS, not facts. If you looked hard enough you would find credible facts that Elvis is still alive and sharing a townhouse with Tupac Shakur.
There is no major Web site that gives credible information for veterinary care yet. Instead, people find sites that give biased opinions, blogs from people with no training and some personal Web sites that are just flat out wrong. On the human side a great Web site emerged as the voice of many doctors, webmd.com. This Web site gave good peer reviewed information that helped people understand diseases and pointed them to healthcare professionals who could help.
We are yet to find such a well-known voice online for our pets, but hopefully soon we will, a new Web site called vetstreet.com. I think this site goes live sometime next month and will give good peer reviewed information to anyone who does a search for a multitude of ailments. So remember, I don’t mind anyone trying to become more educated on a subject but don’t try to treat on your own. I fully understand how bad our local economies are and at home solutions are a cheap way of dealing with things. But look at the three cases we went over, I guarantee we could have done better for our patients. Remember, we are here to serve our clients and their pets. There are many ways of dealing with problems. Always ask your vet for an estimate, they will be happy to provide one. If the cost is too high, tell them. There are always many ways to treat a pet; some can be very cost effective as long as you are willing to do more work at home. So feel free to use the Internet, it is a great tool to educate yourself. Please, just don’t put any treatments into effect before consulting your veterinarian.