The internet can be the best and worst place to do research, and the value of internet-based advice really depends on your ability to locate the best sites and evaluate the information you find in them. Here are some tips to help you sort the wheat from the chaff.
- Look for citations to veterinary publications and specific references. This does not guarantee the information being presented is correct, but it is much better than relying on an unsubstantiated theory.
- Watch out for sweeping statements that praise or condemn specific drugs, therapies or approaches to health. What is right for one species of animal may be wrong for another.
- Look out for spelling and punctuation. As a rule, if someone is devoted to providing high-quality, accurate information, they will probably make sure it is well presented. Sites that are poorly organised, are hard to navigate and contain spelling and punctuation mistakes will probably be less reliable than other sites.
- Beware of press releases and point-of-sale 'articles'. These are just plain advertising. You're better off getting your information from a source that isn't going to make, or lose, money as a result of your decisions.
- Make sure the people involved with the website are objective. If the contributors have passionate agendas about a certain topic - for example, nutrition - then this is more likely to compromise their objectivity.
- When researching a particular subject, always use several sources to substantiate your findings - never rely on one source.
- Discuss any of your findings with your own trusted veterinarian to make sure the recommendations are in line with your pet's unique situation. They will know the history of your pet's health and past medication.
PICK OF THE BUNCH
Here are some of the best Australian websites for petcare information.www.petnet.com.au
This is the official website of the Petcare Information And Advisory Service (PIAS). This site provides a wealth of information on pet-related news, views and events, and publishes good research data as well. The site also provides links to other helpful sites for related topics, such as pet-friendly rentals and dog-friendly parks in your area.www.vetsci.usyd.edu.au/lida
Developed by Sydney University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the site is designed for pet owners to find information on diseases their breed of pet may be prone to, as well as the treatments available and prognosis. This site has received both national and international awards.www.ava.com.au
The Australian Veterinary Association website lists the services provided by Australian vets, and contains a directory of special interest group websites, such as holistic vets, veterinary dentistry and others.