I still consider myself a novice blogger. As of this date, I have been blogging for just under a year. What I have learned with my brief experience so far is that you never know if your article will be received as it is intended. I am not sure if this article will come across as controversial. If it does, it is not meant to be. I am interested in invoking a discussion on what constitutes a pet expert. Inspiration to write this came about because I have noticed in the blogospheres there are many self- proclaimed pet experts writing articles on pet health. When I look at some of their credentials, I sometimes see that there is no experience listed in the pet health field. Often what is listed is that they are an animal lover, advocate, or long time pet owner. In one extreme case, I saw a blogger write about a pet health condition admitting that none of her pets experienced it but knew several of their friend’s pets that did. Because of this, the blogger posted a lot of erroneous information. So I pose a question to two groups of people. To the fellow blogger and then the reader. First to the fellow blogger, do you feel qualified to write articles about pet health even if you have had no experience working alongside a veterinarian? If yes to that question do you feel obligated to quote credible sources or state a disclaimer in the article? To the reader when looking for information, does it matter does it matter to you who is writing the article? Do you as a reader prefer sources? Are you more likely to cross check information from bloggers who don’t have veterinary experience? Obviously I am focusing on pet health because that is my area of expertise but this is also relevant in other areas such as training, grooming etc.
When I refer to the term “pet expert” this could be interchanged with terms such as “animal expert”, “pet professional”, among other terms. Just to be consistent I will refer to pet expert as a descriptor throughout the article. I would consider a pet expert somebody who has an authority on topics whether it is through formal training, education, or experience. I realize experience could be subjective term for some people. For example I wouldn’t consider a person who has owned pets all their life a pet expert. I would consider those who have had experience working in a veterinary clinic, training facilities, or zoos etc. as pet experts. Everybody working in those facilities doesn’t have formal education but if they are working with multiple pets daily in different capacities that may give them pet expert status in my opinion.
First all I would like to state I have no problem with pet owners writing health articles. I know there are several of you who have pets that either have or going through a chronic medical issue. Many may feel compelled to blog about these experiences and have likely done extensive research on the issue. I also understand there are pet owners who are just good writers and know how to do great research, therefore writing articles with appropriate cited resources. But I have seen a few blogs with articles written on pet health articles with no cited sources or disclaimers. Even if the article has some factual information, the source affects whether to take this information seriously or not. If a pet blogger with no veterinary experience starts writes about topics such as when to give vaccines, medication, and diets, this can be a problem. There is a risk to misinterpret information even from reliable sources. A perfect example is a lay person attempting to interpret blood work results. I will have clients ask for their copy of their bloodwork then look up abnormalities on the internet. This is without knowledge that some changes can be normal based on the animal symptoms, what medications they are on, and how it relates to other values on the lab work.
As a veterinarian this is a big pet peeve of mine. Articles that have common clichés such as these are what your veterinarian won’t tell you. Your veterinarian offers this to you but is this really good? Then they are the articles that question intent of why we perform certain services such as diet recommendations, vaccines, prescription of certain medications, and surgeries. Many of them can be accusatory with many implying that it is all about the money. Can there be disagreements on hot button topics such as diet, vaccine protocols, and medicine? Sure they can. Even veterinarians have different opinions on these issues. But if the argument starts off with a negative tone toward veterinarians and without reliable sources, the argument is weakened. This is especially the case when it is coming from someone who has had no experience in the veterinary field.
Why is this a big deal? Veterinarians often have access to resources that lay people may not have the access. In many states, we are required to attend continuing education where we are updated with the newest innovation on healthcare. Also our experiences have a big influence on how and why we treat our patients. So I would think it would be inappropriate for someone who has never worked aside a veterinarian to tell me why I give vaccines, or my intentions of giving a medication, or performing a surgery. I am not against debating these topics as veterinary medicine is an ever changing field. These debates just need to be done in a constructive manner. Also those who join the debate need to make sure they have the appropriate knowledge from reliable resources.
Now that you have read my perspective, I am interested in hearing your thoughts whether you are a blogger or a reader. Here are some additional questions to consider. Do you believe that pet experts should stick to their own field or does it even matter? For example should pet sitters write articles on training, or should trainers write articles on pet health etc.? Looking forward to hearing your comments. Remember when you comment to check the box that you wish to be notified when someone responds.