Diabetic dilemmas: How to access veterinary info online
After reading yesterday's comments on Internet sales and information I thought it appropriate to offer this Miami Herald article today. Remember, I only get 400 words to play with!
Q: My cat Aarwen was just diagnosed with diabetes. She’s doing well on the insulin injections I give her twice a day, but I’ve read online about a variety of new treatments that don’t require these frequent shots. My vet says they’re “snake oil” and that I shouldn’t rely on anything I read on the Internet. Where can I go to get more information on diabetes in cats?
A: Your veterinarian is right. You shouldn’t rely on just anything you read online. But there is a way to get credible information from online sources that’ll greatly improve your ability to manage your cat’s diabetes.
Almost any disease or problem our pets can develop is profiled somewhere on the Web in some detail. What your vet may be concerned about, however, is that you’ll take to the Internet as a substitute for his or her services. It’s not that we worry we’ll lose your business, it’s simply that...
1) much of what’s available online isn’t exactly what most vets would consider responsible information, and...
2) too many pet owners seek out veterinary information online thinking they can diagnose and treat their pets without ever seeing a veterinarian.
Sure, the Web will never replace your veterinarian, your accountant or your lawyer. But it can still help you tremendously by offering a solid background on your cat’s disease, reliable groups that you can tap for support, new research on diabetes and clinical trials that may be underway.
The key is to research the Web safely. Consider sites sponsored by major organizations (universities, specialty groups and industry associations). Stay away from sites selling non-regulated products. Look into larger sites with reputations to protect. Blogs and smaller sites may well offer great information but it’s harder to tell if they’re offering the real deal. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian which sites he or she recommends.
Luckily, South Floridians have two local options for their pet information needs. If you want to support a local business and learn more about diabetes or any other pet disease, PetMD.com and Petplace.com are excellent options to research. Petplace offers encyclopedic information while PetMD’s veterinarian-edited cache of articles and community-centric content is a must-visit site for any pet lover.
For feline diabetes, in particular, look no further than felinediabetes.com. This website is where I send all my diabetic kitty owners. Enjoy!
As an adjunct, I'd like to add some sage advice offered by Dr. Nancy Kay in her recent email newsletter (sign up here). It's more complete and "advanced" than anything I could ever write for the Herald. Here's a mere excerpt on what to look for when researching veterinary information online:
#1 Ask your veterinarian for her Web site recommendations. She might wish to refer you to a specific site that will supplement or reinforce the information she has provided.
#2 Veterinary college Web sites invariably provide reliable information. Search for them by entering “veterinary college” or “veterinary school” after the name of the disease or symptom you are researching.
#3 Web addresses ending in “.org,” “.edu,” and “.gov,” represent nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and governmental agencies, respectively. They will likely be sources of objective and accurate information.
#4 If your dog has a breed-specific disease, pay a visit to the site hosted by that specific breed’s national organization.
#5 Avoid business-sponsored Web sites that stand to make money when you believe and act on what they profess (especially if it involves purchasing something).
#6 Be ever so wary of anecdotal information. It’s perfectly okay to indulge yourself with remarkable tales (how Max’s skin disease was miraculously cured by a single session of aromatherapy; how global warming is the cause of hip dsyplasia), but view what you are reading as fiction rather than fact. As fascinating as these National Enquirer type stories may seem, please don’t let them significantly influence the choices you make for your dog.
#7 I really love disease-specific online forums. Check out those sponsored by Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com). Not only do they provide a wealth of educational information, members can be a wonderful source of emotional support- always a good thing for those of us who share our homes and hearts with an animal.
If you are considering joining an online forum, I encourage you to look for a group that focuses on a specific disease (kidney failure, diabetes, etc), has lots of members, and has been around for several years. For example, an excellent Yahoo group K9KidneyDiet (addresses issues pertaining to dogs with kidney failure) has 3,391 members and has been up and running for eight years. A large group such as this typically has multiple moderators who provide more than one point of view (always a good thing) and greater round-the-clock availability for advice and support. Look for presentation of cited references (clinical research that supports what is being recommended). Such groups should have a homepage that explains the focus of the group and provides the number of members and posts per month (the more the better). They may have public archives of previous posts that can provide a wealth of information.
OK, now it's your turn...