We all know our pets better than anyone else. So when something goes wrong we are quick to notice and often quick to search for a solution. On a quest to find information we often turn to the Internet for advice.

The Internet is loaded with tons of generalized advice. What may work for one pet may be lethal to another. Signs and symptoms can be easily misread by owners or confused with other more serious problems. Common problems such as strange odours could be as simple as your dog needing a bath or more complicated like an abscessed tooth or ear infection. Online minor ailments may seem like major complications causing you undue worry, or worse, major ailments may be misdiagnosed as minor ones. These mistakes can turn out to be worrisome, costly and unfortunately even fatal.

For instance an owner may send me a message asking, “Doctor Amanda, my dog is stinky, can you recommend a shampoo?” A stinky dog could be a simple as the dog rolled in something stinky, or a more serious problem such as an infection or an abscess. A face-to- face examination by a Veterinarian is the only way to be sure. Seizures are another common question I am asked about. “My pet is having seizures, what type of medication is best for him?” Again, a thorough check up and perhaps a series of tests are the only way to responsibly offer advice on seizures and give accurate treatment options.

My advice is- when in doubt, come see us. At Kowloon Veterinary Hospital we often get online enquiries ranging from general advice to emergency treatments. As much as I would love to help you immediately, the only responsible thing to do is examine your pet in person. To be absolutely sure your pet is getting the appropriate care they require, I need to see your pet face to face, or more appropriately face to muzzle.

Another problem when relying on the Internet is authenticity. Unfortunately nobody checks to make sure all the information on the Internet is accurate or written by a reputable source. Anyone can post advice without any qualifications, research or even knowledge of the field. This can result in a worsening condition for your pet. In the end your “quick” solution ends up causing your pet more discomfort and you more worry.

There are times when the Internet can be your friend. If you have a well-established, ongoing relationship with your Vet they may be able to help online with minor concerns. At Kowloon Veterinary Hospital we often provide ongoing advice to a previously diagnosed ailment over the phone or online, but only when we have already seen the pet and have detailed knowledge of their medical situation. It would be careless, and sometimes even illegal, for a Vet to offer advice without full knowledge of a pet’s medical situation.

The Internet can also offer great advice if you don’t have an urgent medical situation or you are just looking to brush up your knowledge of your pet. But be sure to visit a reputable site that is associated or recognized by a governing body. Below I have listed some great sites that offer professional, reliable advice.

So tread carefully when turning to the Internet, and always consult a professional if you really want to know what’s going on. With professional advice and a caring Veterinarian, your furry friends should stay healthy and happy for years to come.

And remember if in doubt, give us a call, at Kowloon Veterinary Hospital we’re always here to help.

Dr. Amanda’s recommended online sources

  • AAHA’s pet health library
  • Veterinary Partner
  • ASPCA poison control
  • AVMA Pet Care
  • American Association of feline practioners – cat care
  • ePethealth
  • Cornell Feline Health Center
  • Indoor Pet initiative – The Ohio state university