by Lorie Huston, DVM on August 5, 2013
This post covers a subject that is near and dear to my heart – that of deciding what information is reliable and what information is not in a digital world. This post is reprinted with permission from Veterinary News Network.
Veterinary Medicine Online – What Sites Can You Trust?
It’s not hard to find pet health information on the Internet. But, the challenge is finding advice and information from sources that you can trust. What can you do to make sure that the recommendations and opinions you find will actually help? And what about those review sites? Can they help you find a veterinarian when you need one?
From new toys and comfy beds for your pets to medications, designer sweaters and even recommendations for “pet friendly” vacation destinations, animal lovers can find just about anything for their four legged furry family online. Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to find a lot of mis-information and even potentially dangerous advice when it comes to your pet’s health care.
Since the very first website was created, anyone with the time, creativity and access to a web hosting service can post their opinions about almost any subject. This has led to a wide variety of non-veterinarians who claim to be “experts” in pets providing advice and recommendations. Sadly, pets have been harmed or even died when owners followed the counsel provided by these individuals.
When searching for helpful information about animal health, you should trust sites that have a veterinarian who either writes or oversees the content. HealthyPet from the American Animal Hospital Association is a great place to start. You can also look at your state’s veterinary medical association website or even their Facebook page for pet owner resources.
A new organization, the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, has been created to help both the media and the public find trustworthy professionals providing advice through any sort of media. Look for the Seal of Approval from ASVJ.
The popularity of veterinary blogs is hard to ignore and bloggers like Pawcurious or Pet Health Care Gazette can provide general suggestions and opinions about veterinary care. The added bonus to following these well-liked sites is that they are often a lot of fun and give the reader a personal viewpoint that is lacking from other sites. Just remember, none of these bloggers can diagnose or treat your pet’s specific problem. (Editor’s note: I left out the link to Pet Health Care Gazette because, well, you’re already here. But, little brag here, we were included in the original article as well. I’m also proud to say that both Dr. V of Pawcurious and myself are Certified Veterinary Journalists and thus have earned the seal of approval from the American Society of Veterinary Journalists.)
Another fashionable trend is the use of review sites to find service providers, restaurants or almost any other type of retail outlet. The question here is, should you rely on these review sites when you are looking for a veterinarian?
According to SearchEngineLand, almost 80% of online users say they trust online reviews as much as personnel recommendations. There is no doubt that sites like Yelp, YP.com and Angie’s List can have a significant impact on a person’s decision to use a specific provider. These experts do recommend that you follow some easy guidelines when reading online reviews.
First, find sites that present a balanced set of reviews and look for at least ten to twelve postings before you can say you spot a trend for that particular business.
Next, look beyond the reviewers words. Is there a genuine concern over poor service or are emotions and a focus on money obscuring the real issue? Let’s face it…some people are very hard to please or are often simply grumpy.
Conversely, avoid relying on reviews that are excessively positive and seem too good to be true. While there are people who are always happy and never have a bad word to say, companies do exist that pay individuals to write positive reviews for a wide variety of organizations.
Finally, look at the reviewer’s profile. Has this person reviewed other businesses? Do they seem to be objective or are they using the same “cut and paste” language on all their reviews? If their evaluations seem too similar, they may be working for one of the review writing companies. Another red flag is to watch out for reviewers who constantly try to send you to look at their own profile…odds are, they are trying to sell something and they are using the review sites as marketing opportunities.
It’s been said before, but your veterinarian (and their website) will always offer you the best and most trusted source of information. With a good relationship, you can have confidence that your veterinary professionals are eager to help and offer the correct advice! ..
About Lorie Huston, DVM Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.
This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette