In the past 5-10 years pet owners have relied less on their veterinarians (Doctors of Veterinary Medicine, or DVM’s) and more on the internet. Search engines such as Google and Bing offer convenient, quick and cheap advice or tips on many common medical scares. What they do not offer is diagnostic tests, a solid diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan backed by 5+ years of specialized education. Fortunately there are veterinarian founded or supported websites available to pet owners to offer basic but consistent information. Websites such as www.petmd.com, www.veterinarypartner.com and www.webvet.com have become a valuable new tool for behaviour advice, training information and what steps to take in a medical emergency, but which of these is most effective?
Websites that offer this much information must be simple enough to navigate with content that is easy to understand. They also must be easily accessible and aesthetically pleasing as this is important when spending time on any website.
When pet owners visit www.petmd.com they are welcomed by a pop-up with some type of ad. Once the pop off is closed a friendly, simple home page offers many navigation options as well as pet food recalls. Owners have the option of entering their pets’ information in the “Symptom Checker” where you select the species, body part and choose from a list of symptoms. Once this step is completed a list of possible diagnoses is generated with links to articles and treatment options. This is a great resource for concerned pet owners that are unsure of whether a visit to their DVM is warranted or those with financial constraints. PetMd also offers an app – great for those on-the-go iPad or iPhone users. This websites contains great research supported information on a wide variety of topics and it is very user friendly.
The home page at www.webvet.com boasts cute pictures of animals which appeals to a lot of pet owners. First impressions are that this site is catered more towards new pet owners as it is full of fun articles and videos – not so helpful with medical concerns. This site is not as user friendly as it could be as there is no pre-existing list of signs or symptoms, only a search bar. When a term is searched a page with articles, blog entries, website suggestions or even a ‘Page not found on the server’ is the result. The content of this page is not as impressive as the other websites being evaluated. www.veterinarypartner.com is a branch website to one that is very popular in the veterinary community. The veterinary site offered a place for DVM’s to post specific case information, concerns with pharmaceuticals or even digital radiographs for others to consult on. The founding veterinarians created a similar website for pet owners of all species.
A users first impression of www.veterinarypartner.com may be that while not as aesthetically pleasing as some of the alternatives, the website is extremely easy to navigate with ‘how to instructions’ right on the home page. Users are welcomed to select a species, category or look up a term in a search bar. It offers a wealth of information on every veterinary topic imaginable, with brief descriptions that suggest owners contact their DVM’s. There is also a library of medications for information on a recently prescribed drug and care instructions for after surgical procedures. This website is the only one of the three that came up in Google searches of ‘vet advice’, ‘vet help’ and ‘pet emergency’, the other results were animal hospital websites.
While sites such as the three evaluated will never replace the importance of a veterinarians care throughout a pets life, it is reassuring to know that among the many misinformed websites, discussion boards and blog entries there are some sources of veterinary researched information. Remember that we do not encourage users to visit Dr. Google and you really should contact the team at Mission Ridge Animal Hospital, but if you are looking for a quick answer or to know the urgency of something these are 3 sites you can turn to for help. Don’t forget to search www.missionridgevet.com as well, our new blogs coming in every month may have the best advice for your situation!