Don’t get trapped in web of misinformation

More and more these days vets and other professionals rely on new technology to communicate with, and educate our clients. Our practice now uses a combination of email and internet technology for the majority of our communication and information sharing both with clients and colleagues. Gone are the days of photocopied handouts and lengthy answering machine massages; getting comprehensive and reliable information into our pet owners hands has never been easier or more effective.

While the internet is a marvellous tool, unfortunately it remains an unfiltered and hugely over-crowded mountain of misinformation. I am just now learning why so much of the information bought to me by pet owners from the internet is questionable at best and downright dangerous at worst. I always knew it was an unedited medium, but I had no idea why the volume of misinformation was so massive. Why would anyone go to the trouble of creating a website and not bother to verify that the information they were so eager to share was accurate? The answer is, in a word, disappointing. The truth is they don’t actually care whether the information is accurate or not.

One of the most rapidly growing areas of website development revolves around the links and advertisements for sites that sell products related to the search. Initially we were all told that ads were necessary to “keep the internet free,” so we have become very accustomed to seeing banners of ads alongside the websites we view.

What was not clear to me until recently was that in many cases the ads are the point. The content along side the ads is just the lure. There are now hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide who are making their livings throwing together quick, mostly plagiarized and un-researched websites solely designed to pull the reader to a page of minimal content, but with a number of related ads. One person I recently spoke to admitted they have over 50 registered domains (three pet related), each site created in under two hours, the content simply cut and pasted from a variety of other online sources.
Down the side, above and below this ‘content’ are the ads, each time a person clicks an ad and ends up making a purchase, the website creator gets a percentage of that sale.

It turns out that pet owners are among the most frequently targeted individuals with this online marketing technique. Pet owners are passionate, they care and they are hungry for information. Unfortunately this makes them easy targets.

If you search for ‘dog training’ for instance, it’s very likely that many of the pages that come up have been thrown together in this manner. After doing some basic searches for pet related information myself, I was quickly able to spot many examples with entire paragraphs copied verbatim from each other. Sadly these people don’t care that the information they share may or may not be accurate, all they need to know is how to get a link to Cesar Millan’s latest book to appear in front of someone who is looking for information on dog training.

That said, of course there is also a wealth of great information available online. One great ‘one-stop’ resource is This website is an open public access partner site to The Veterinary Information Network, which is probably the largest online subscription resource for vets worldwide. All of the information on this website is researched and verified.

Also, ask your vet if they offer a portal to any other online resources that they may subscribe to for their clients to access. We use Lifelearn which has an extensive database of information on all aspects of pet care.

I can’t imagine now how our clinic would operate as effectively without the variety of online resources we use everyday. We truly do live in a remarkable time for information gathering and sharing. Unfortunately, there will always be those who take advantage. Be careful not to get your pet care advice from an online ‘expert’ who also just happens to specialize in weight loss, car maintenance, cleaning supplies and lawn care.

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