Credibility v. convenience: Vet issues warning over use of “Dr Google”

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“Hard copy sources such as textbooks and journals are still the most reliable sources of information."
“Hard copy sources such as textbooks and journals are still the most reliable sources of information.”

Through websites, social media and blogs, horse owners have access to information on every topic imaginable related to owning an animal. But, how much of it is reliable?  

There are a few steps owners of horses and other animals can take when assessing the credibility of the sources.

Dr Laurie Milner, who spoke at this weekend’s Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) NSW Division Conference, said that while there was a huge quantity of data on the internet, “it’s probably fair to say that much of it is either trivial or inaccurate.”

Milner said hard copy sources such as textbooks and journals were still the most reliable sources of information.

“There are some specific topics that give rise to confusion including nutrition, vaccinations, the need for routine health checks, behaviour, restraint methods, training methods, complementary medicine and the terminology used in veterinary science. There’s a lot of contradictory information on these topics, which often leaves pet owners more confused than before they started,” Milner said.

Dr Milner advises animal owners seeking information via the internet to consider evaluating the credibility of web-based information using a range of factors, including:

  • the author and objectivity of the site
  • the date the information was provided
  • spelling and grammar. Although well-presented information isn’t necessarily accurate, it does at least indicate the author has gone to some trouble.
  • the site layout and whether the information provided is original or comes from secondary sources
  • links to other sites and the quality of those sites
  • whether the site makes a point of attacking other groups or individuals.

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“Hard copy sources such as textbooks and journals are still the most reliable sources of information.

“They have usually undertaken some form of validation before being published. Be careful when viewing these online however, as sometimes they can be altered without the author’s knowledge.

“As a general rule all blogs should, by their very nature, be treated with extreme caution. The brilliance of the internet is that it has made a huge amount of information available very easily. Conversely, one of the main weaknesses of the internet is that it has made a huge amount of information available very easily,” Dr Milner said.

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