Can I trust Dr. Google?

Can I trust Dr. Google?

We’ve all been there; you have a pain somewhere so you hit the internet to see what it could be.  One site says it’s probably nothing and you’ll be just fine.  The next site tells you to get to the ER so they can run a full battery of tests and put you in a full body cast.  Which site do you trust?  Most likely, both sites are correct to an extent, depending on a bunch of different factors that may, or may not, have been taken into consideration on their site.  Now raise your hand if you’ve done the same thing for your pet.

The internet is a wonderful tool for research regarding your pet and any ailments they may have.  The problem lies in knowing which sites have good information and which sites just have misinformation.  In this day and age, anyone can post something online and claim to be an expert.  But are they really an expert and are their words information or misinformation?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) there are three red flags to look out for when researching your pet’s health online:

  1. The site tells you that you don’t need a prescription for medications like heartworm preventives, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Rimadyl®, Deramaxx®, Previcox® or others)**, or other drugs for which your veterinarian tells you that you need a prescription. These sites may be selling illegal, unapproved or counterfeit medications that could seriously harm your pet. In addition, FDA rules say prescription drugs are only to be used by or on the order of a veterinarian. Also, many states specifically require a valid prescription for sales of prescription drugs*.
  2. The site (or someone on the site) diagnoses, prescribes medications, or tells you how to treat your pet’s condition or problem based on information you provide online, through email or over the phone. This is wrong for several reasons: it is unethical because it does not constitute a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship; it may be illegal in your state; and the person/site is basing their entire process on the information you provide, which may not be enough information to provide an accurate assessment of your pet’s problem. The results could be very harmful for your pet.  Note: there are limited exceptions to this rule. For example, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center can provide you with recommendations for emergency treatment for animal poisonings, but they may also instruct you to take your pet to your veterinarian for additional evaluation and/or treatment*.
  3. The site is promoting a “homemade” remedy for a pet health problem (such as parvo, heartworm, etc.) and makes statements that the product is more effective than veterinary care. Unless the products have been tested and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is illegal for those making the products to make certain claims. In addition, these products can be risky because they may not be produced to meet quality standards for efficacy and safety*.

Just because some sites aren’t playing by the rules, doesn’t mean there aren’t good, informational, sites out there.  We, your veterinary staff, should always be your first go-to for answers to questions, but when it’s late at night or, you just can’t wait for a call back, here are a few sites we like and trust:


Give us a call or drop us an e-mail and we’ll get you the information you need!


Rimadyl® is a registered trademark of Pfizer Animal Health; Deramaxx® is a registered trademark of Novartis Animal Health U.S., Inc. and Previcox® is a registered trademark of Merial Limited.

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