Pet bloggers and other purveyors of internet information about pets, in my opinion, have an obligation to present information that is factual and correct if they plan to discuss issues dealing with pet health or pet care. To that effect, there are some things that just drive me crazy when I see them posted on the internet. Some of these things were mentioned by Steve Dale in his keynote address at BlogPaws recently. Others are my own “gripes”.
Here are some of the misconceptions, half-truths, and outright lies that often find their way to the internet.
Pet Food and Pet Nutrition
Anyone that is telling you that there is one way and one way only to properly feed your pet is doing you and your pet a disservice. You may read that raw food diets are the best diet and the only one your pet should be eating. You may be informed that you need to be cooking for your pet at home to feed him properly. Or you may be told that commercial pet food is the only way to feed your pet. None of these statements is correct. The fact is that there are many ways to feed your pet properly. What works well for one pet may not be right for another. And it’s also perfectly fine to consider what works best for your budget and your schedule as well. Whatever you decide to feed your pet, do so as an educated pet owner and fully aware of the risks and benefits of the particular type of diet you’ve chosen.
Heartworm Medications and Parasite Control
Bloggers that advise pet owners not to give heartworm preventive medications for whatever reason are actually causing harm. Heartworm can be a deadly disease and preventive medications are, in most cases, safe and easy to give. It is irresponsible to advise pet owners otherwise, particularly when the pet owner’s veterinarian has indicated that the pet should be on preventive medication.
Similarly, fleas are much easier to prevent than they are to treat once they’re established in the pet’s environment. In addition, fleas are responsible for the spread of a number of diseases that can affect both pets and people. The same is true of ticks. Ticks carry numerous diseases that can cause illness for both your pet and your family. Advising a pet owner that using flea and tick preventives/medications is too dangerous is, in my opinion, an irresponsible act.
Is someone telling you need to hurt your dog in order to help your dog learn? That’s simply not true. Aversive training techniques like shock collars and confrontational techniques like alpha rolls should be a thing of the past. We know that dogs (and cats) learn faster by being rewarded than by being punished. Modern training techniques take advantage of this fact and use a positive reward based system to their advantage. While correction is part of training, it does not need to be performed in a way that causes pain for your pet or damages the bond between you.
Steve Dale touched on this subject in his keynote at BlogPaws 2013 and he is perfectly correct. While pets may not need to be vaccinated as often or against as many diseases as previously believed, that does not mean that your pet does not need to be vaccinated at all. Puppies and kittens in particular are at risk and vaccines are especially important for this age group. Your veterinarian is in the best position to advise you about which vaccines your pet needs. Your favorite blogger, even if I am that blogger, is not. And if a blogger tells you that pets don’t need vaccines at all, run away, run far far away!
Spay/neuter is, admittedly, a controversial topic. However, despite the controversy, it is irresponsible, in my opinion, to discourage spaying and neutering all pets. Spaying and neutering does have benefits not only for the individual pet but for your community as well. Like any other medical procedure, there are risks that should not be ignored. And there may be some pets that are better spayed/neutered at a more mature age (as opposed to early age spay/neuter) or even perhaps not at all. However, that is a discussion for a pet owner to have with a qualified veterinarian who can assess the risks and benefits of the procedure based on the individual animal’s signalment and health and then help the pet owner make an educated decision.
These are just some of the myths that are frequently and often very vociferously perpetuated online. Pet owners need to remember that, while the internet may be a good place to start researching a topic, there is much misinformation presented online. When researching, consider the source of the information you’re being presented. Where is the information coming from? Is the source a reputable and trusted expert? What are the source’s qualifications?
In the end, your veterinarian should be your most trusted source of information about your pet’s care. Researching online can give you a deeper understanding and can even provide you with the right questions to ask your veterinarian. However, the internet should not be your final guide in deciding what type of care is best for your pet.