Ever wonder what you’re doing here on PetMD? Are you looking for healthcare information to help you become a better keeper of your pets? Or are you surfing for a professional solution to your pet’s current illness? 

If it’s door #1, then you’ve come to the right place. If it’s door #2, you’d better turn off your computer and head straight to your vet. 

Because this is NOT where we render advice that will help you treat your pet’s condition in the absence of professional veterinary care … it’s where you come to receive supplemental information and tools with which to improve your ability to become a better steward of your pet’s care.  

A recent comment on a long-ago "itchy pet" post highlighted the problem of veterinary advice-seeking on the Internet: 

“Not helpful” by Milhouse on 07/16/2009 01:16pm

This was not very helpful. You don't actually address specifically HOW to treat the pets, but provide a litany of possibilities. If I get a rash, I could easily write a blog like this explaining what might be the problem. How do you distinguish between ectoparasitic infestations and allergies, for example. There must be a qualitative difference in the location, intensity, duration, and onset periods for all of these. Please remember that people attempting to mitigate veterinary expenses turn to PetMD.com for help, and should be rewarded with their patronage. Thanks.

The answer? First came this one, by another PetMD reader:

"Not helpful?" by galadriel on 07/21/2009 11:31am

Milhouse, I presume that if you're not taking a chronically itchy dog to the vet that you have all the equipment at home to culture a sample to see if there's a bacterial or fungal infection? You have all the equipment and supplies to test for and diagnose allergies? You have the microscope and experience to diagnose mange? Sometimes you can't treat a dog yourself without someone to properly diagnose the underlying cause. Sometimes you genuinely need a vet's help. All the articles in the world can't get around that.

My answer? 

"Not helpful?" by Dolittler (Dr. Patty Khuly) on 07/21/2009 07:58pm

Thanks, galadriel, for coming to my rescue. It's absolutely impossible to do justice to this topic without detailing all the possibilities and potential outcomes. Milhouse: If I were to offer you a way to treat basic itchies in a general manner, I might well steer you in the exact opposite direction you need to go. For that reason, I choose to take the tack that a basic understanding of the complexity of the subject will arm you with knowledge when you go see your veterinarian. That will not only bring your pets better care, it may well save you money, too. Looking to a resource like PetMD for a quick, money-saving fix doesn't help anyone in the long run. IMHO.

And yet many, many pet owners continue to surf the web with aspirations of veterinary expense circumvention. 

Can it be done? Yes, you might hit upon the right answer to your pet’s problem by reading something online. But there’s a low probability of success. And a high probability that you would do more harm than good by taking advice you gleaned from a forum or a blog post. 

After all, this blog is not about "advice" (which, technically, denotes a one-on-one relationship between you, me and your pet). Rather, it’s about offering you information that makes you a better advocate for your pet — at  home and in veterinary situations alike. 

Want to save money? I promise you that the greater knowledge you earn by reading this blog regularly means that you will. But that’s a long-run proposition. There are no shortcuts. 

Dr. Patty Khuly