Beware internet vet advice

More people seem to be posting semi-disgusting pictures of their dogs’ bits growing things, exuding things, leaking things, etc. It’s an attempt to get internet vet advice, which we understand.

These days you may not be able to get an immediate appointment with your veterinarian. Many of us still can’t accompany our pets into the vet’s office, if and when we do manage to get that appointment. Vets are as overwhelmed, understaffed, and stressed as the rest of us. 

Hive mind strengths

That being said – the Facebook group for local dogs, or for your breed, or your breed in your city, isn’t any kind of substitute. 

Once you have a diagnosis of what’s going on with your dog, by all means ask if other people have experience and what worked/didn’t work for them and their dogs. If you’re pursuing a second opinion, or even looking for a good veterinarian, it’s a great idea to ask people with similar situations for their recommendations. 

But don’t rely on other dog owners for a diagnosis of whatever oozing’s going on. And please stop posting pictures of it!

When you know what’s going on

The hive mind of the internet is great for finding answers to specific needs – like when you’re looking for a chiropractor in Chicago, a dentist in Detroit, or a neurologist in New York. It can’t help when you think your dog has acid reflux, and, tragically, is diagnosed with an abdomen filled with cancerous tumors. That happened to a friend of ours this past week.

Internet vet advice is no substitute for a veterinarian

She did everything right. When her dog was having trouble keeping food down, she made an appointment with her vet and got an initial diagnosis of GERD ( Gastroesophageal reflux disease). With that in hand, she asked her network of dog-owning friends if anyone had dealt with the condition, and what worked and didn’t work for them and their dogs. 

She was also sent for further testing, and an MRI revealed the sad truth. Her six-year-old dog is now on palliative care – whatever she wants, she gets. For however long our friend is able to keep her dog happy, she will. 

Don’t scare yourself

We’re sure you’ve seen it, too. People post a picture of some red bump on their dog and ask for internet vet advice. Opinions range from warts to cancer. We wish we could all get accurate diagnoses from photos, but we can’t. So the non-experts’ opinions are worthless. People are falsely reassured and do nothing. Or panic and worry until they’re able to find out what’s really going on.

By all means let the people who care about you and your dog know what’s going on. “Fido’s bump has changed and we’re seeing the vet on Monday,” is a good post. It lets people know you’re not having a good weekend, and that Fido’s getting extra treats. And on Monday, after the vet visit, it’s good to post a follow-up so your friends and family know what’s going on. 

The internet is a vital lifeline – it lets us stay in touch with our friends, family, and community when we can’t all be together physically. But take social media advice with a few grains of salt. A little seasoning makes everything better. 

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