I read it on-line, I saw it in a magazine, I heard it on television…….so……..it must be true! Is it? Not necessarily. That answer is unfortunate but true. Most of the information that is circulating is not “peer reviewed” or accurate. There may be enough factual information in the content that it sounds feasibleand thus the confusion circulates. Many writers of this “less than factual” information may have gleaned facts from other sources and extrapolated the information incorrectly. Others have simply avoided science or “fact checking” and prefer to disseminate opinions. It is very difficult for the average reader to be able to distinguish between fact and fiction or something in-between the two.
Is “Digital Media” up to the challenge?
Current surveys reveal that social media has become an increasingly prominent part of our daily lives. It is a source of entertainment, communication, relationships, and education. We share music and videos with friends. Some are “friends” we have never met!. We contact each other via messaging. We share our hobbies and interests with virtual strangers. And lastly, it has become faster and simpler to search the web for information more so than any other available source. Is the web a credible source of medical information? Is Facebook reliable? How do we insure that the author of that information istrustworthy?
The “go to” expert?
Digital media has become the “go to” expert for medical advice. WebMD entertains an ever increasing volume of traffic. People are seeking information on a wide variety of topics from bladder infections to Ebola virus. Who hasn't sought the advice of Wikipedia? The simple fact of the matter is that it is easy! Veterinary medicine is following in the digital footsteps of human medicine. This access to medical information has the capability to create an “educated consumer”…..but does it?
The current concern is not whether this information should be available. Of course it should! Rather, can we trust this information? Does digital media provide credible, reliable, and trustworthy medical information? Unfortunately, all too often, the answer is a resounding NO. The reader is at the mercy of these “so-called experts”.
Magic Potions, Please!
How many of us have considered making that call for the revolutionary wrinkle cream, the lotion that cures baldness, or that magic diet pill that promises a bikini figure (with no diet or exercise) in one month? The same process is occurring in veterinary medicine. There are claims of tests that will diagnose allergy via a hair sample, supplements that will cure any and all diseases, as well as claims of pet foods that will either kill your dog or cure your dog’s ailments! Each and every one of us wants the quick fix or magic potion! We think, “what if they are right?” and buy into these false claims.
As in all media outlets, the loudest and sometimes most controversial voice gets the most attention. Companies spend billions on advertising for one reason- it works! That fact does not bode well for medical integrity in the media. Medical information is being distorted and creating confusion. The reader/ consumer is at the mercy of the media. How do you know if your information is trustworthy? The Answer- know the source!
“Can digital media serve as a credible source of information?” Two veterinary dermatologists are answering this question with a resoundingYES and meeting the challenge within their realm of specialty. The launch of the website www.HealthySkin4Dogs.com signals the return of veterinarymedical integrity to digital media. These board certified veterinary dermatologists, Dr. Karen Helton Rhodes and Dr. Terri Bonenberger, are providing a reliable platform of information in the specialty field of veterinary dermatology for pet-parents. There are a number of sites that claim to be “experts” but these doctors are the “true experts”.
Why we are doing this!
Dr. Helton Rhodes and Bonenberger have over 35 years of combined clinical experience. They provide continuing education lectures for veterinarians, and author peer-reviewed journal articles and medical textbooks. These two doctors are considered experts in the field of veterinary dermatology. Through conversations with pet owners, they realized there was a need for greater access to reliable medical information as well as effective and easily accessible products to help their pets have healthy skin. The doctors saw the emotionally devastating effect that chronic skin disease had on these pets and their families. Dogs are considered family members and their comfort is vital! People want to be able to hug their dogs, have them sleep in the bed, and allow their dogs to play freely with their children.
“As dermatologists, we know how frustrated pet owners can become as they search for answers. We wanted to provide people with information they could trust since not everyone has access to a veterinary dermatologist. One of the hardest parts of our job as veterinarians is countering false information. Just because it is in print does not make it true!”
How can the consumer effectively decide what is true and what is not? There is no easy answer. Controversial sites have become more prevalent and there is no agency with the authority to oversee these groups. To complicate matters, some of the worst offender sites are actually managed by veterinarians or MDs with questionable credentials. Specialty medicine is now commonplace in veterinary medicine. The consumer/reader should take advantage of the various specialty groups. They are your credible source of information! Specialists have specific letters in their credentials: ex. ACVD (American College of Veterinary Dermatology), ACVS (Surgery), ACVIM (internal medicine). “ACV_” indicates the author is a specialist.
SOURCES FOR THE PET PARENT
Drs. Rhodes & Bonenberger, via their educational website and blog posts, are helping restore medical integrity to digital media. The sitewww.HealthySkin4Dogs.com has a “symptom checker” that allows the pet owner to search through photos coupled with clinical information. There is aresource tab that contains an entire library of information. Dermatology is a “visual specialty” and the website does not fall short of photos. The doctors have also developed the following to augment their new website:
Facebook page (Canine Skin Solutions, Inc.) with daily photos & dermatology tips
Facebook group (Canine Skin Solutions Group) with interactive conversation
Twitter @ CanineSkin
Instagram @ CanineSkinSolutions
Newsletter for email members to keep abreast of current information
Pet parents now have a reliable resource available at their fingertips!