OK so it’s a silly post title. But it’s true. I can’t stand those smarmy Teletubbies. That’s why their UK compatriots at TeleVets beat ‘em hands down. It's not just the smarm factor, though. I'm also gratified to see someone outside the US get into the veterinary website biz on a bigger scale than…well…a lowly blog's.

Founded by two upstart British veterinarians looking to leverage their knowledge and passion into something bigger, TeleVets has built a site capable of delivering theoretically high quality individualized content by answering your questions and re-posting them—for a fee. 

Go ahead. Register at TeleVets. Get your email confirmation. Go back. Ask a question. Get a list of answers to questions like your own. Pick a Q & A out of their archives and view it in its entirety—for a buck off your Visa. Or get someone to answer your question individually—for six bucks.

TeleVet's “pet advisers” answering the questions are trained techs, most of them either licensed or formally trained in some way. But that doesn’t mean the answers are right.

The answers I reviewed (to simple things like bee stings, itching and licking) were mostly right. But all lacked depth. One included a fallacy (worms are the number one reason for scooting…). And the bee sting answer failed to recommend an immediate vet visit for a swollen face (“you certainly could go to your vet but…”). All ended in a final farewell urging you to buy something somewhere.

I hesitate to get provide any more detail because I don’t want to step on any Internet copywriting toes, but let it suffice to say that the answers are OK—not great. Are they worth a buck? Maybe…if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t have the resources to find other competent sites you trust for your pet health information needs.

It’s clear to me that any site offering advice on a one-to-one basis with a veterinary professional of any designation is bound to get all muddy. There’s just no clean way to do it without getting into the issues surrounding practicing medicine without a license in a defined jurisdiction and the ethical dilemmas that entails. General advice is one thing but that’s all over the Web as it is. Why risk the boggy depths of muddy waters?

It’s one thing I worried about when I set up Dolittler’s Virtual Vet hospital (currently being redesigned for ease of use and clarity of purpose). I didn’t want anyone to use this resource for “my-dog’s-been-vomiting-for-four-days-what-should-I-do?” stuff when it’s clear your vet is the right first stop.

I also didn’t want the perception that this was a veterinary advice forum with all the ethical dilemmas that entails. I just wanted you to have more fun and an opportunity to discuss medical cases and commiserate, if need be.

Getting and giving veterinary advice will never be without its perils—online or not. It’s my view that specific medical advice on one pet’s case should never be the Internet’s domain. General assistance and education—that’s quite another thing, and something no medium accomplishes quite so well, despite its pitfalls.

TeleVets tries hard, it’s true. But I still can’t say I recommend it highly—not while better can be had all over the Web…for free.