The Internet loves to sensationalize stories. It’s so easy to share these stories through Facebook and other social media platforms. It just takes one click and it is shared to friends and friends of friends and friends of their friends. It spreads like wildfire.
But here is the problem… is it true? How often are people actually reading and investigating how biased the article is before sharing it? When it comes to social media we all have to be careful with what we share and what we believe is to be true. Here are some guidelines to influence you on what is appropriate to share in regards to reporting on veterinary medicine.
If you read an article regarding a “horror story” about a veterinarian and an upset owner there are a few things to look for and analyze. Does this article give information from the owner only? Is there a generic statement from the veterinary office? Does the veterinarian even make a statement? What type of medical information is given and are there sources? Many articles are biased towards the owners. Veterinarians ethically and legally cannot give out any information regarding a patient or owners of said patient.
When these types of articles are written, unless the owner gives permission for the veterinarian to share records, the owner can unfortunately sway the audience with their account and their knowledge of the medical issues. Many people who read these stories don’t have a lot of behind the scenes medical or veterinary experience so it makes to hard for people to understand what may have actually happened.
I have seen news articles with owners describing how the veterinarian killed their dog, which was in congestive heart failure, by administering oxygen. This is one of the number one things veterinarians do in a heart failure crisis but because the owner was so convincing with her story many people jumped on the bandwagon and started to harass the veterinary hospital.
This type of reporting does not help anyone get through the tough situation of an animal passing or dealing with a tough disease and this type of reporting is also very irresponsible. If there truly was an error that occurred then the owners should use proper channels and report it to the state board. It may seem like the easier and quicker way to get out their anger but biased articles never solve anything.
Other articles we see get passed around are “alternative” treatments for diseases. There are many different pet related websites and sometimes it is hard to weed out the bad ones. Always look at the website content first before sharing.
Does the person writing the article have any background in said disease? Are they a veterinarian, biologist, nutritionist, or technician? What references do they use? Are their references just links to someone else’s blogs or website or are there actual scientific articles?
Do they try to mislead you by saying that your veterinarian just wants to charge you lots of money for something you can treat yourself but then try to sell you their own products? These are red flags that should make you say, “No I am not sharing this and I will not trust this.” By sharing these potentially dangerous sites you can put your animal and your friends animals at risk.
The last issue we see a lot is pet food articles. Many people are themselves trying to become healthier and thus want their 4-legged friends to also be healthier. Nutrition is a huge part of an animal’s health and unfortunately there are a lot of opinions out there. There are articles that will be shared regarding raw diets only for dogs, which many breeders will push onto clients, or the grain free trend that pretty much plays on the gluten free fad with people.
Are there some dogs that will do better on a grain free diet or a raw diet? Of course! But do all dogs need to be on these diets? Not at all. Same idea goes for articles on certain brands of pet food that people deem “poison”. A few years back someone wrote an article about dogs that died and the owner blamed a specific brand of pet food. The article kept incorrectly stating that antifreeze was in the pet food and it killed thousands of dogs. The article spread quickly and many veterinarians were getting calls regarding the food several times daily.
The sad part is that all it took was a quick google search to realize that it wasn’t ethylene glycol (antifreeze) but propylene glycol (a preservative) that the article was referencing and this ingredient is in many foods that we eat daily. There was no story but many pet owners were distressed for months. Same rules apply as before- check your sources before spreading inaccuracies.
All in all if you have questions, concerns, or just want to know where to get solid information regarding pet care please consult with your veterinary office. Many will give you a list of trusted websites, articles, and news sources that you can feel comfortable with. Its so easy to share things online but remember that you could potentially harm your pet or even spread lies that can ruin a veterinarians career with just a click of a button. Take the time to investigate what you are sharing before passing it along.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Nicole Palumbo is a 2012 graduate from University of Illinois. She is originally from the south side of Chicago but chose to move to Northwest Pennsylvania for her first job out of veterinary school, where she currently is still employed. She works with small animals, exotics, and also volunteers her time at the local wildlife rescue, typically performing surgeries and exams on the many raptors that are admitted to the facility. With time she hopes to focus more time on wildlife medicine and also obtain specialization in feline medicine.