Not long ago, I was politely panned by a pet owner over on my PetMD DailyVet blog. He or she was upset because I’d dared to present the topic of itchiness (pruritus) in such arduous detail.

I’d discussed pruritus in pets (in three installments) as a complex issue, citing a litany of possibilities for each kind of pattern. I explained, in essence, that diagnosis and treatment was not always so straightforward as finding fleas in fur or issuing an Rx.

Here’s the exchange, which includes an impassioned defense submitted by white knight and Dolittler reader, galadriel:

Not helpful by Milhouse

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 for help, and should be rewarded with their patronage. Thanks.

Not helpful? by galadriel

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.

Not helpful? by Dolittler (Dr. Patty Khuly)

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. Millhouse: 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.


Since then, I’ve had cause to revisit this theme with respect to resources like PetMD. What are they there for, anyway? In my mind, Dolittler gets a pass due to its one-writer blog status (who can write whatever she damn well pleases), but sites like PetMD are there to offer to offer a more well-rounded, encyclopedic and editorial approach to the issue of pet health.

Sure, it’s not perfect (I’ll confess I’ve just signed on to help them revamp their offerings)––none of theses sites are––but the point is this: They’re there for owners to take a lesson from their literature. And that doesn’t include the concept of the Web as a substitute veterinarian. Not by a long shot.

Will some pet owners expect more than extra smarts and a starting point for a more sophisticated conversation with their vet? Of course. But don’t expect me to offer it here on Dolittler, over on PetMD or anywhere else.


Today on DailyVet, check out a post titled, "Pain relievers before exercise? Think again." It's a corollary to last week's Dolittler post on exercise and pain relief.