Tuesday, September 30, 2014
The Facebook Group
A few months ago I joined an online pet health group on Facebook. The group seemed to have a lot of members sharing many curious-looking photos and stories about their pets. It seemed like an interesting resource!
I've been in the group for awhile now and some of the questions are in my opinion legitimate: people wanting to know if it's the right time to euthanize, people sharing the grief of the loss of their pets, people asking why their dog eats rocks etc...
These questions are discussion based and don't really have a right or wrong answer. They also aren't laypeople offering Veterinary advice, they involve sharing of thoughts, ideas and support.
However, some have been very concerning! From memory here are some examples: "My dog is vomiting blood what should I do?", "My dog has been hiding for 12 hours, won't come out, and won't eat or drink. What should I do?", "At what age should I spay my dog?".
The above 3 questions are of HUGE concern to me. My first thought is "Why are you on Facebook in a layperson group right now?" and "You should be at the Vet!". My second thought (as I read through the replies) is "Who are these people readily dishing out Veterinary advice? Surely they aren't Vets and RVT's, should they really be dispensing this sort of information? Is this really responsible?"
The Internet: friend or foe?
The invention of the internet has opened up a can of worms that I'm not sure we know how to manage. On the one hand, it's nice to look up the odd piece of information, to get news in real-time, and to watch your favorite tv shows. It's also nice to reach out to friends for support, celebrate our successes, and share our grief. But where is the line drawn with providing Veterinary/Medical advice?
To the defence of the aforementioned Facebook group, the vomiting blood dog received many "Why aren't you at the Vet?" and "Get to the Vet NOW!" responses. Phew, no one providing a home remedy of some random mushroom that's known to cure dogs who are vomiting blood. But I've also seen some VERY ignorant replies "I heard that..." "My neighbour says that..." for questions that a Veterinarian and only a Veterinarian should be answering.
Failure to provide Veterinary Care
Most places have laws regarding failure to provide Veterinary care. These laws are in place for a reason - to prevent unnecessary suffering to animals. I think we can all agree that most pet owners don't want to be responsible for our pet's pain and suffering, yes? So why are we turning to the internet instead of our Veterinarians? Answer: MONEY. Vets are expensive, period.
Well of course they are expensive! They spent $200-300k and many years to learn their craft and it's not cheap for them to offer a high quality of care. And frankly, for all of that effort, along with the high stress of their position, I think they should earn a decent living.
If you don't already have a good Veterinarian whom you trust, book a consult in with a new one and share with them what you are looking for in a new Vet. Give them the chance to say "I'm not that person" and move on if you need to. A good rapport with your Veterinarian is an absolute must and you should feel free to contact them at any time with "Do I need to bring my pet in for XYZ...?" types of questions. Please don't rely on the internet as your only source of Veterinary support!
Financial Aid Available
If you are in a financial hardship, there are many resources available to you. Here are a few for you to look into:
Assistance Providing Care for your Pet
Veterinary Financial Aid
Credit for Veterinary Care
Do you have Veterinary Insurance? There are so many options available now and it can be a lifesaver to both your pet and your bank account! I recently attended a VetGirl & Trupanion webinar and learned that only about 1% of North American's have pet insurance! That number is staggeringly low compared to the rest of the world.
What gives? Why are we not investing in our animal's health? This is a discussion that we could have for days...you would tell me: "It's too expensive" "There are too many exclusions" "I can't find a policy that meets my pet's needs".
If the above is true, this raises other questions: Why aren't we starting independent Veterinary bank accounts to protect our pets? Why do we have pets that we can't afford to care for? If the law says we must provide Veterinary care, should people have pets that they can't afford? These are all such difficult moral questions and as we all know they have no easy answer!
So, for now, I will stick with what I DO know the answer to. Get yourself a good Veterinarian. Tell your friends to do it too. And DON'T rely on the internet to be your source of Veterinary care.
Do it today and tell me all about it!
Lisa Wagner is the Operations Director of Walks ‘N’ Wags Pet First Aid. Walks ‘N’ Wags offers Pet First Aid certification courses in-person and via Distance Learning.