The internet is a treasure trove of information. I know that when I’m confronted with a term or idea that I’m not familiar with, I often start by “Googling” it. Some of the materials you find with such a search are real gems but much of it is worthless. As with any treasure hunt, a map is very helpful.
The first thing to remember is that anyone can put up a web site. Step one on our way to reliable internet information is to ask such questions as; Who runs the site? Why have they created the site? Can you contact them? Who is paying for the site? You should be able to find this information on the “about us” page or by scrutinizing the site map.
As you look at the information provided try to answer the following questions; Are there advertisements? Are they labeled as such? What do they want from you? Does the information favor the sponsor? Is the information reviewed by experts? Where did the information come from? Is it up-to-date? Does the site make unbelievable or emotional claims?
Any mention of research should be backed up by citations (a reference to the scientific journal and author of the research). Anyone can bandy around phrases like “Research proves…” or “Studies show…” but if information that verifies the claim is not given, you really can’t trust it.
Be wary if the site asks for your email address and/or personal information. The question arises; What do they intend to do with it? You need to be confident of the answer to that one!
A few months ago a pet owner came to me with several supplements she had gotten from a web site. She was confident that these supplements would fix her dog’s thyroid condition because the person who runs the web site breeds dogs of the same breed as hers. Furthermore, the web site operator is a doctor. I was not convinced.
When I went to the web site, the information was quite appealing. The bio of the creator of the supplements mentioned that she is a not only a doctor but that she is a professor at a college. I thought it was strange that there was no mention of what college she graduated from or where she taught. Isn’t that something she’s be proud of?
As I dug deeper into the sight I found the answers to my questions. This “pet expert” is indeed a doctor; she has a Ph.D. in art history and that is what she teaches. In fact, the same web site that sells the supplement also sells her artwork.
While I have respect for anyone who has earned a Ph.D., I do not think her area of expertise qualifies her as an expert in animal nutrition. As a dog breeder, she no doubt does have a lot of experience with raising dogs. But, once again, it does not impart on her the knowledge needed to formulate animal supplements. It is apparent to me that this web site is deliberately misleading people into buying her supplements.
The bottom line is that if you are looking at a web site designed to sell a product, everything there is suspect. Maybe this is the best supplement ever. Maybe all those endorsements are truly from satisfied pet owners with cured pets. Then again, it may all be bunk.
If you want to find reliable information on the internet about a specific problem, enter “veterinary college” after the name of the disease or symptom in your Google search. If you are interested in a specific supplement and you want to dig deeper than the web site selling it, enter “problems” after the supplement name in your Google search.
When faced with a serious medical condition we often reach for every source available. Nevertheless, when consulting Dr. Google I encourage you to be a savvy treasure hunter.
What’s your experience with Google info? Treasure or Trash?