By James Baxter, DVM
Have Siri and Dr. Google become your new family Doctor? While we like our clients to be well informed, leaving medical decisions up to the internet can be risky at best. With the world’s information just a click away, it’s natural to turn to a search engine to troll for answers to even your medical questions. But beware.
The reality is not so simple. For example, a recent search for a common condition announced “this condition may be minor and benign, but can be more serious and life-threatening.” How can you tell? If you want it to be minor, the answer is right there in the first line. You can and will find any answer you are looking for. But you should be careful: How up-to-date is the information, and is it from a recognized authority? How do you know which is fact and which is opinion? Much of the information on the internet is a single person account or anecdotal, and most of the time many years old. Your veterinarian receives continuing education every year and has the newest and most relevant medical knowledge.
Your doctor also has the experience that a chat room or community blog can’t readily draw upon. Your pet can’t talk, so she needs the experience of a veterinarian who can look, touch, listen and examine her in person. So much of our diagnoses come from getting a detailed history before the exam. Knowing the right question is often the only way to reach the right answer. Neither the internet nor the phone can adequately substitute for these three elements that synergistically combine during an actual appointment to offer the best route for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
By and large, we love the internet. We use email reminders, and our website has great information for you and your pet. But if a health issue is significant enough to pick up a smart phone for advice, call the live doctor instead of the virtual one.
Speaking of live doctors: We are proud to introduce Dr. Nick Oakley to our practice. He recently moved to the Somerset Hills from Prince Edward Island, Canada, and will join us this June. Dr. Oakley brings a fresh perspective and an interest in exotic pet medicine. Owners of birds and guinea pigs, rabbits or reptiles will now have a wonderful doctor close by. Dr. Oakley was president of his veterinary class all four years and brings his enthusiasm and sharp medical mind to our well-rounded team. Help us Welcome Dr. Nick!
I will finish with some interesting facts: Cats can make over 100 sounds, while dogs can make only about 10. What’s the most popular dog breed in the USA? The Labrador Retriever. How do I know? I googled it.