It’s almost a tradition. Every couple of years an enterprising group of veterinarians will set up a website geared toward offering the burgeoning population of inquiring minds the answers they’re after. Problem is, most veterinarians aren’t on the side of the "web-vets." Instead, they’re lambasting them for offering tacky solutions to substandard pet owners who are unwilling to undertake the obvious: take their pets to the vet!

Now, mostly, I’d agree. The vast majority of physicians and veterinarians willing to offer advice on the Internet are low-ish sorts I’d not normally entrust my pets’ care to. What special credentials do they have to offer? And why would a great vet worthy of my respect be willing to turn to the Internet as a source of income when real, tangible pets are so plentiful?

Yet the Internet being as broad and capacious a place as it is, I figure there’s room for the high-quality provider, too ... occasionally anyway. I’d not paint everyone with the same brush. Not without checking them out first.

Unfortunately, that’s not what most of my colleagues would have pet owners believe. They’re dead set against any Internet provider of veterinary information, regardless of origin.

By way of example, here’s what one colleague had to say afer the most recent entrant to the online veterinary answer market got profiled (ever so briefly) by Veterinary Practice News:

This article promotes the unethical and profiteering practice of veterinary medicine by veterinarians that are willing to provide diagnostic and therapeutic advice via telephone for animal patients that they have never seen or examined. I was under the impression that, in order to legally "take payment" for veterinary professional work, there should be a well-established (formal) veterinarian-client-patient relationship. As a receiving DVM in a referral establishment, I can assure you that "over-the-phone" descriptions of animal medical problems by both owners and referring veterinarians are (all too often) not very accurate. Outrageous!

But here’s the explanation that husband and wife vets Jeb and Laci Schaible gave for the service they co-founded at VetLive.com (per Veterinary Practice News):

The husband and wife team said the website ushers in a new standard in pet care by giving pet owners the opportunity to ask questions, get a second opinion or chat live from "the comfort of their own home at an affordable price." Prices range from $12.95 to $34.95 and can be paid through Google Checkout or PayPal.

"We felt it was time for pet owners to take control of their pet’s health and healthcare spending," Dr. Jeff Schaible said.

OK, so I might’ve put it differently (if less tactfully):

The fact that online veterinary Q&A websites are popular is testament to the fact that veterinary care [at the very least] seems inaccessible to a great many pet owners. As long as care is taken to offer general information and not render advice, per se, I see absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of service.

Indeed, I often have cause to wonder whether the proliferation of sites like this one isn’t a symptom of the obvious: a failure of our brick and mortar system of veterinary medicine to offer the kind of solutions pet owners require.

But then, that’s the opinion of one veterinary blogger. Go figure.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: "Who Is That Cute Cat?" by Peasap