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  • Banfield Pet Hospital

Breaking Up with Dr. Search Engine—A Better Way to Triage Pet Health Concerns

New survey from Banfield Pet Hospital® reveals pet owners turn to the internet instead of their veterinarian for pet health advice

Breaking Up with Dr. Search Engine—A Better Way to Triage Pet Health Concerns

It’s 10 p.m. You walk into the kitchen and notice your plate of brownies is a few short. You look around to find a pair of guilty puppy eyes staring back at you. While panic starts to kick in, you realize your veterinarian’s office is closed, and you’re not sure if it’s necessary to rush Fluffy to the emergency hospital. Now what?

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A recent Banfield Pet Hospital survey revealed that in such moments of panic, 71% of pet owners turn to the internet instead of their veterinarian. In addition, 90% of veterinarians worry pet owners may unknowingly put their pet more at risk by taking bad advice from the internet.

Good advice, just a text away

Banfield is encouraging pet owners to nix the ‘net and text a vet using its new telehealth service for Optimum Wellness Plan® members. Vet Chat™ on the Banfield app provides on-demand access to one-on-one triage and general pet care advice from a veterinarian around the clock, every day of the year.

Molly McAllister, DVM, MPH, chief medical officer at Banfield, a division of Mars, Inc., wants pet owners to know they have options when looking for pet health support. “As veterinary professionals, we want to be there with you from puppyhood through your pet’s golden years—and also during those unexpected, anxiety-ridden moments between visits,” McAllister says. “We’re thrilled to offer a service that benefits our clients, their pets, and our veterinary teams, and provides our wellness plan clients with on-demand access to reliable pet health advice when they need it most.”

The problem with “searchengineitis” 

In addition to concerns about the negative impact taking inaccurate advice from the internet can have on pets, 90% of veterinarians surveyed also report needing to dedicate more energy and allotted appointment time toward correcting misinformation pet owners gleaned from the internet.

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It’s more important than ever for pet owners to be upfront with their veterinary teams: 75% of veterinarians report seeing owners fixate on certain signs and symptoms, omitting critical information, while 59% say they articulated the signs and symptoms differently than they might have before their online research, influencing the focus of the exam.

Changing the pet health conversation

Banfield also found 39% of pet owners admit they sometimes struggle to decide when to call the veterinarian – a difficulty faced by seasoned and first-time pet parents alike. In fact, 37% of pet owners say that, in general, they prefer to consult the internet first. Changing the narrative to reaching out to the veterinarian instead of the internet is imperative to ensure pets are getting the best possible care.

Pets aren’t the only ones who can potentially suffer from an internet scare—pet owners should be aware that pet health issues can also influence their own health. More than one third of pet owners (35%) report losing sleep over their pet’s health, and 17% report feeling ill themselves.

Now, pet owners can rest easier knowing on-demand advice from a veterinarian is at their fingertips 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year with Banfield’s Vet Chat.

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