Finding reliable pet health information

Image by Martine Auvray from Pixabay 

When we’re worried about our animal friend’s health, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole in search of answers. It doesn’t matter if the search term is a symptom, diagnosis, or treatment. Most of us have done it and wound up even more confused or misinformed, which helps no one.

Knowing where to look and where to be wary can yield better outcomes and fewer headaches. Based on many years as a journalist, animal wellness practitioner, and pet mom, here are my suggestions for accurate, credible animal health information sources:

Your veterinarian

Your veterinarian and vet clinic should be your primary source for your pet’s health. They know you and your animals. If you don’t have a vet you trust, find one by asking fellow pet parents you trust. Online testimonials and reviews are helpful, but nothing beats a personal referral.

If you’re afraid of asking a stupid question or bothering the vet clinic staff, consider that some of the most pertinent questions are the seemingly stupid ones (i.e., “Where are my pants?”). Your vet and staff are your chief allies in your pet’s well-being. It’s OK to ask them, “Where can I learn more about this?” They’d rather steer you toward a trusted source than have you paralyzed with fear or try an unproven “miracle cure” that may do more harm than good.

Veterinary schools

Places like the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine (our Indiana example) educate and train tomorrow’s veterinary professionals. Vet school faculty and staff members are trained scientists whose job it is to figure stuff out — accurately and without bias. (More on bias in a moment.)

University-conducted studies can be wonderful sources of information and insight. Keep in mind that a single study is seldom, if ever, the final answer. What we know about our animals, our world, and ourselves is constantly evolving.

Also, these studies are generally written with a style and terminology that leave you wondering what on earth is wrong with plain English. They’re intended for a professional or academic audience. That’s cool, but you may want something more accessible.

Fortunately, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine website’s Health Topics section is geared toward both veterinarians and pet owners. I especially like the information I’ve found on the Cornell Feline Health Center page.

Now to the question of bias. When you are reading a media report on a study that links X to Y, or which indicates A is beneficial in the treatment of B, click the link to the actual study. It may be a university study in a professional journal, or it could be a press release.

Either way, look at who paid for and conducted the study. Would they have a vested interest in the outcome? For example, if a study about the benefits of CBD oil was paid for or conducted by a company that makes CBD supplements, I wouldn’t give that study much weight. Its conclusions may prove correct in time, but show me some independent research. Also look at any conflicts of interest disclosed by the authors themselves.

Again, resist the impulse to draw conclusions from research that may not be conclusive.

Professional associations

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s website includes resources for pet owners — including, of course, how best to partner with your veterinarian for your animal friend’s best life. (There’s also a great article on getting pet health information online, which hits some points I do not here.)

The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s Holistic Veterinary Therapies page is where I would start for information on complementary and alternative therapies such as chiropractic, acupuncture, and more.

Don’t overlook the library

I’ve been talking about online information here, but I’m old enough that, once upon a time, the stacks were my first stop. But my advice is similar. Look at the credentials of the author(s) and don’t get swept up in “breakthrough,” “miracle,” “revolutionary,” or similar claims.

Those are the sources to seek. Briefly, here are the sources to evaluate more carefully:

• Sites owned by businesses selling a product or service. This goes for mine, too. Do they link to reliable sources of health information? Do the claims seem too good to be true?

• Blogs (again, including mine), message boards, social media and anyplace else where people can post anything. What sources, if any, does the person reference? Is he or she angry? Grieving?

• Wikipedia. Being a free-for-all may be part of its charm. Fine. Just look in the text and footnotes for links to reliable sources.

Bottom line: When you’re evaluating a source of information on animal health, always consider the who and the why. Then — again — work with a veterinarian you trust.

Pet ingestion question? There’s an app

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Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Wondering if it’s OK to give a particular food or medication to your cat? Maybe your dog got hold of a human medication, and your vet’s office is closed. A Google search yields contradictory answers.

Dr. Mari Delaney, a veterinarian of 25 years in Elmira, New York, has developed the Vet Protect app. It gives you a quick, expert answer on foods, medications, and things like borax ant traps. It also gives you a vet bill estimate on the toxic items. Users are invited to request items that are not on the list.

Dr. Delaney developed the app after treating a 10-year-old Rottweiler whose person mistakenly gave her Aleve. With aggressive treatment, the dog recovered, but it easily could have gone the other way.

I learned about the app while hearing Dr. Delaney interviewed on Dr. Bernadine Cruz’  The Pet Doctor podcast, and downloaded it myself. You just never know when you might need help in a hurry, and I liked Dr. Delaney’s approach and energy.

As a gardener, I wish the app included more plants … but that might be something to suggest. Vet Protect is available on iTunes and Google Play.

Four things to know before hiring an animal communicator

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A mischievous kitten might have some valuable insights for you. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

Most people who contact me for an animal communication session are trying to solve a problem — a seemingly intractable behavior issue, adjustment to change, or painful end-of-life concerns. I’m sure many of them never thought they’d consult an animal communicator — what is animal communication, anyway? — but here we are.

It’s hard to make decisions when you’re upset, dealing with a million other things, or both … so here are a few points to consider.

1. You’re already on the right track.

Considering a discipline based on listening to the animal and his or her needs means you are willing to listen and learn. Maybe animal communication is a new concept, but you love your animal. You’re willing to at least think “outside the box” in order to help.

Even if you decide working with an animal communicator is not the right move at this time, you’ll be closer to finding what will help. So stop, take a breath, and give yourself credit for this alone. 

2. Do your homework AND trust your gut.

Referrals from people and businesses you trust are time-honored for a reason. You can also contact local metaphysical shops. Some, like Catalpa Tree Shops in northeast Indiana, maintain directories of healing arts practitioners. A worldwide directory of animal communicators, with paid listings and ads, is on Penelope Smith’s Animal Talk website.  (I am not currently listed here, as I did not find it especially helpful before, but you never know.)

Whether you get an animal communicator’s name from a friend, directory, or random Google search, spend some time on his or her website and/or social media pages. Pay attention to how you feel as you read. Are you calmer, or more anxious? Clearer or more confused? Does the person follow the Code of Ethics for Interspecies Telepathic Communicators, or any other code of ethics or guiding principles?

3. No one is 100 percent accurate.

I am human and can’t do everything perfectly. With God’s guidance and my own self-care, I can be present, clear, and helpful to the animal and his or her family. Any animal communicator claiming 100 percent accuracy is probably best avoided.

4. What you can learn will almost certainly be worth the investment.

There are no guarantees in this line of work. However, if you’ve chosen a communicator with whom you feel comfortable, chances are very good that you’ll find a valuable takeaway. It could be information you can act on immediately, such as moving the litter box to a quieter place or telling your horse where you’re going as you’re loading. It could be insight into how your animal views her place in your household, or his feelings and needs as his life on earth is drawing to a close.

Animals see our gifts and struggles in a way that even the humans closest to us cannot, so you may even learn something about yourself. Nothing is ever lost by listening.