What websites can you trust?
The growing popularity of the Internet has made it easier and faster to find health-related information. Although much of it is valuable, some of it is false and misleading. Veterinarians are beginning to notice an increase in preventable illnesses due to internet use and decreased veterinary visits. We want your pet to get the best, safest medical care, and often a physical exam is the first, most important step. There are many different medical conditions that can have very similar symptoms to the untrained eye . Veterinarians spend years in school ( and many more years in practice) honing their skills to make diagnoses, and entering a few key symptoms in a Google search will not be the equivalent. That said, we know that our clients WILL look up information online. Heck, we veterinarians often look up information. There are veterinary forums where we can talk to each other, ask questions of specialists, and get help with complicated cases. So when you do your search, here are some things to keep in mind…
Who runs the Web site?
Any Web site should clearly and often indicate who is responsible for the site and it’s information. The American Animal Hospital Association’s consumer Web site (www.healthypet.com), for example clearly notes its affiliation on every major page and includes a link to the AAHA home page.
What is the purpose of the Web site?
Many sites include and “About this site” or “About Us” link, which should clearly state the purpose and help you evaluate the trustworthiness of the information.( ie. are they trying to sell a product?)
What is the original source of information?
Many health and medical Web sites post information collected from other Web sites or sources. If the person or organization in charge of the sire did not write the material, the original source should be clearly identified.
How is the information documented?
In addition to identifying the original source of the material, the site should identify the evidence on which the material is based. Medical facts and figures should include references such as citations of articles in medical journals. Also, opinions or advice should be clearly set apart from evidence-based information.
How is information reviewed before it’s posted?
Health-related Web sites should provide information about the medical credentials of the people who prepare or review the material. Veterinarians in the United States are doctors of veterinary medicine (DVMs) or veterinary medical doctors(VMDs)– the equivalent of an MD in human medicine. Common specialist credentials include DACVM (internal medicine), DAVS(surgery) , and DACVD (dermatology).
How current is the information?
Web sites should be reviewed and updated regularly. It’s particularly important that medical information be current and that the most recent update or review date be posted. Even if the information hasn’t changed, it’s helpful to know that the site owners have reviewed it recently to ensure that it’s still valid.
How does the Web site choose links?
Reliable Web sites usually have a policy about how they link to other sites. Some medical sites take and conservative approach and don’t link to any at all. Some link to any site that asks or pays for a link. Others link only to sites that have met certain criteria.
How does the Web site manage interactions with users?
There should be a way for you to contact the site owners with problems, feedback, and questions. If the site hosts a chat room or other online discussion areas, it should tell you about the terms of using the service. Is the service moderated? If so, by whom and why? Before you participate, spend some time reading the discussion without joining in.
How can you verify the accuracy of information you receive via email?
Any e-mail messages should be carefully evaluated. Consider the origin of the message and its purpose. Some companies or organizations use e-mail to advertise products or attract people to their Web sites. The accuracy of health-related information may be influenced by the desire to promote a product or service. It’s important to carefully consider the source of e-mail and other Internet-based information and to discuss the information with your veterinarian.
Pet Health Care Web sites recommended by Rita Ranch Pet Hospital
We have listed several sites that contain excellent information on pet health care and medical conditions. There are direct links to these sites and many others on the Resources page of the ritaranchpethospital.com Web site.