We now live in an “I want it now” age. We get our news online; we shop online, a lot of you even read the newspaper online. I went to an interesting seminar about the new power of the internet about 2 weeks ago. It really opened my eyes as to the reach of the internet now. Did you know that 80% of people with a sick pet consult the internet first? This is not even the scary part; most of these people try remedies online first without consulting a veterinarian. These facts have really affected both a few of my patients and me over this last week.

The first case I had was a client who put down rat poison in his home, his dog ate a brick, and he went on Google to see what to do. It told him to make his pet vomit with peroxide, and if he did that in the first 15 minutes, the pet should be fine. When the owner brought the dog in 3 days later, he was bleeding profusely from the rat poison, he died before we could even get a transfusion set ready.

The second incident was a client who I was talking to about using heartworm prevention. She said that she was buying it online, at a site where she did not need a prescription at a really low price from Australia. I was very concerned and asked her to bring it in because I would love to see the product she was using. She came back the next day with a box of Heartgard, but the box felt too thin; the internal package was also wrong. We tried to call the company and found that it was counterfeit. Pretty scary because who knows what was in that product. We tested her dog, and it was positive for heartworms. We will begin the long treatment process soon.

The final case involved a small wound on the leg of a dog. The owner looked up some things online and thought it was a common wound. She had some of her own antibiotics at home and was treated that way based on the advice off of some breeder’s website. When I saw the wound, it had a lot of necrotic tissue, and the wound was about the size of a silver dollar. What the owner thought was a common wound actually ended up being a spider bite. With a change in antibiotics and aggressive surgery to remove the damaged tissue, the puppy should make a full recovery.

The internet is a powerful tool; it is changing our world. It is putting information at our fingertips. Some of these changes are for good, and some are not so good. The real problem with the internet is that it is full of OPINIONS, not facts. If you looked hard enough, you would find credible facts that Elvis is still alive and sharing a townhouse with Tupac Shakur. There is no major website that gives credible information for veterinary care yet. Instead, people find sites that give biased opinions, blogs from people with no training, and some personal websites that are just flat-out wrong. On the human side, a great website emerged as the voice of many doctors, webmd.com. This website gave good peer-reviewed information that helped people understand diseases and pointed them to healthcare professionals who could help.

So remember, I don’t mind anyone trying to become more educated on a subject but don’t try to treat your pet on your own. I fully understand how some people financially can afford a veterinarian, and at-home solutions are a cheap way of dealing with things. But look at the three cases we went over; I guarantee we could have done better for our patients. Remember, we are here to serve our clients and their pets. There are many ways of dealing with problems. Always ask your vet for an estimate; they will be happy to provide one. If the cost is too high, tell them. There are always many ways to treat a pet; some can be very cost-effective as long as you are willing to do more work at home. So feel free to use the internet; it is a great tool to educate yourself. Please, just don’t put any treatments into effect before consulting your veterinarian. We started Express Vets to help with the high cost of veterinary medicine, use us and our knowledge. We are always happy to help.