How the internet can harm your pet’s health

15th March 2012
Beryl Shuttleworth
4 Responses

The internet can be harmful to your pet’s health.

No, I don’t mean that your ADSL connection is going to give him or her cancer. What I mean is that there is a lot of  misinformation on the web. In fact, you can find anything, ANYTHING, if you look hard enough.

In practical terms, in my field, this means that ‘snake oil salesmen’ can make outrageous medical claims about their products. And even corroborate those claims with seemingly valid ‘science’. And when our family or our pets are unwell, we look for miracles. And we buy into it, of course we do. Sometimes, perhaps, we will get lucky. But sometimes, it is not a  good idea. Sometimes, the so-called cure could be harmful, in actual fact. Or it could be just plain ineffectual.

How do we know? My suggestions:

  1. Search firstly for any known toxicity or adverse drug events. Use google, but only look at the results from legitimate, scientific sources. Look for results that corroborate each other. Ignore the flashy, shiny, in-your-face-buy-this-now marketing. Also look for interactions with any other drugs your pet might use.
  2. Do exactly the same, looking for unbiased, scientific studies on the efficacy of the product or ingredient. Randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trials are best. This is where the substance is tested by two groups of volunteers. One group takes the substance being tested. The other group takes a placebo, that looks exacty the same, but contains something inert. Neither the volunteers, nor the doctors administering the trial, know which is which. If a substance passes one of these trials favourably, you can be pretty sure that it works.
  3. Check that the product is registered with the relevant authorities. Most governments have departments with which products for animals are supposed to be registered. They check that these products do not have unsubstantiated claims, are not toxic, as well as for good manufacturing practice,etc.
  4. Finally, I always search for comments or complaints from the users of the product.

Do this, and you’ll protect yourself from being ripped off. Or using something potentially harmful.

4 Responses

  1. I totally agree. One has to be careful when outrageous claims are thrown around about a ‘miracle’ product, and which lacks substantial scientific evidence to back up the claims being made.

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