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Fake News and Dr. Google: The Veterinarian’s Greatest Virtual Foes

Remember when the Internet told us that ice cubes could be fatal to our dogs? Many pet owners now play it safe and don’t give ice cubes as treats… but recent news proclaims that many dog treats contain pentobarbital, so they can be dangerous, too! So what should we believe?

Given the rapid spread of “evidence” online, which can prove just about anything, how are pet owners supposed to distinguish fact from fiction? It’s so easy to use that search feature that comes preloaded on nearly every smartphone, and in an instant they’ve fallen prey to the veterinarian’s virtual nemesis: “Dr. Google.

Your clients are getting their information from a mixture of sources, including credible news articles, Facebook friends, neighbor recommendations, Pinterest, and of course search engine results. As we’ve seen via other current events, people are likely to believe what their friends say, with or without fact-checking. Those who do fact-check will often head to Google first, and the sheer amount of material online means that their chances of finding reputable answers are just about the same as their chances of finding fake news.

That’s where your social media channels and website come in. If you have a strong online presence, your practice’s real life doctors can be the ones who show up in search results.  

Overcome those “alternative facts” and “fake news” by:

  • Staying current – follow veterinary news outlets and pay close attention to the common questions your clients ask.
  • Varying your Continuing Education – pursue both your professional interests and industry advancements.
  • Competing for results – focus your Search Engine Optimization efforts to boost your visibility.
  • Posting regularly – don’t drop off the radar; post routinely to keep up with social media algorithms and stay in newsfeeds.
  • Advertising – use boosts and ads on platforms like Facebook to ensure that your content will reach a larger audience.
  • Being honest – you already know that practical ethics prevent you from diagnosing pets online; don’t be afraid to include this detail for appropriate topics. If a certain situation requires urgent or emergency attention, say so, and include your office contact details. This is best for patients and pet owners alike.

Think of client education creatively!  Complement your in-house handouts, invoice printouts, and doctor’s notes with online Pinterest boards, Tweets, and blog posts. If your message is consistent on all of these platforms, you’ll increase client compliance and combat misinformation.

For example, if you want your clients to use approved dog and cat parasite prevention rather than a DIY mixture of vinegar, garlic, and essential oils, let them know with:

  • Verbal recommendations during appointments
  • Reminder postcards when refills are due
  • Pamphlets explaining Lyme disease, heartworm, and tapeworm transmission
  • A YouTube video demonstrating how to correctly apply topical preventive
  • Pinterest boards featuring parasite and disease information, as well as your product recommendations
  • Facebook advertisements highlighting the array of products in your pharmacy
  • Retweets from reputable sources like the American Heartworm Society, the Companion Animal Parasite Council, or the American Animal Hospital Association

Meet your clients where they are – online and in your office. They already trust you to provide professional care, so give them the chance to trust you for between-appointment advice!

Don’t get us wrong; we love Google! In fact, we’re huge advocates of putting Google business offerings to work for your hospital. We’re just also aware that actual veterinary medical care needs to happen in the office, not on the Internet. So take steps to make sure that “Dr. Google” search results come from your practice!