Trust Me, I’m a Doctor
Welcome to 2020!
Happy 1st Birthday BLOG blog!
As it has now been a year since the original installment, I would like to review the basic tenets of BLOG blog. If you are a regular reader (to whom I refer as Bored Surfer), this will be a brief refresher. If you are new to this literary adventure, here is some helpful information to help you enjoy the journey. The complete list, in all its glory, can be found in the original blog post on the Best Care website (bestcarepethospitalomaha.com) under the Resources tab.
Sometimes things get past the editor. There are, I’m very sorry to say, occasional typos. There are also instances where a word gets lost in transcription from my original composition to the published product. Also, the template on the BestCare website has a tendency to superimpose a picture of a bowl of dog food on my monthly sign-off. I hereby resolve to get those issues corrected when possible.
I shall also attempt to cite sources for the actual factual information that is interspersed with my amusing, tangentially related musings. I must admit I am not versed in the grammatically correct method of citing things on the internet, but I try to at least list the source website. I would like to apologize to any sources I may have used without giving proper credit, but I can’t think of any offhand.
The purpose of BLOG blog is to educate and entertain the general public. It is meant for everyone (including the various agencies in various countries that monitor this sort of thing; you know who you are). It is not to provide specific veterinary advice for specific patients. If your pet is sick, please don’t waste your time trying to find the answer on the internet. Go to your vet. If you have a little extra time in the waiting room, however, feel free to catch up on the BLOG blog.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions concerning the BLOG blog, you can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Polite wording of such would be greatly appreciated.
I don’t know the names of all the pets of all the BLOG blog aficionados, and would not be able to list them all every time. I refer to “your pet” many, many times in the course of a composition, and get tired of typing “your pet” over and over and over again. To combat this, each month I assign a pseudonym to refer collectively to everyone’s unique companion.
Because BLOG blog starts out as a stream-of-consciousness thing, it almost always contains a reference to Stephen King. After all, inside your head is where he does his best work. Please note that my allusions to his works refer to the written version, not necessarily the movie, unless specifically stated.
Also note that I avoid using the words “pun intended”. As you have probably guessed, in the land of BLOG blog, puns are always intended.
And now, without further ado, I present to you, Bored Surfer, the first BLOG blog of 2020.
January can be a long, cold month (or a long, hot month if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere). It is also a new year and time for a fresh start. This season of optimism for the future usually lasts until the credit card bills come due. It also has some interesting holidays to consider.
Jan 3rd is Fruitcake Toss Day. I don’t know if this activity is judged on distance, accuracy, or style. I also don’t know if this is televised on one of the many sports channels when they have time to fill. I do know it should definitely not transpire in the vicinity of your fragile, priceless artifacts.
If you are a wise human, you may have an Epiphany and spend Cuddle Up Day (Jan 6) on your couch with a beloved companion.
Officially, Peculiar People Day is Jan 10. Unofficially, I, for one, prefer to celebrate it every single day.
Dress Up Your Pet Day is Jan 14. It’s probably best to skip this one if your only pets are piranhas, scorpions, vampire bats or death adders.
Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day is Jan 27. While the joy of bubble wrap should be recognized daily, you can use this day to unapologetically pop all the bubbles in the office. It is also a good day to salute Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes who (according to Smithsonianmag.com) accidentally created this wonderous product while attempting to make textured wallpaper. It is not necessary to don the bubble wrap suit and pretend to join the cult of Zoltan, unless you are still trying to discern the whereabouts of your car.
On the subject of Zoltan, if you google the name, you will get a wide array of results. Among other things, it is a Hungarian first name etymologically related to sultan, a fortune teller machine (similar to the one that turned a little kid into Tom Hanks, but one letter different, perhaps for copyright reasons?), an animated killer tomato, a data management system for Sandia (a contractor for the US Dept of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration, or so they claim at Sandia.gov), a craft beer, a village in Romania, an alien race in a video game and Dracula’s dog. If you consult urbandictionary.com, you can find an additional assortment of definitions. Most importantly for BLOG blog purposes, it is the name of the raven in the original gunslinger book. In honor of this bird (whose limited vocabulary does include that timeless ditty “beans, beans, the musical fruit”), I shall refer to your beloved pet as Zoltan for the remainder of this composition.
The internet has a vast array of information. In many cases, this is quite useful. For example, if you were wondering if Jimmy Stewart’s drunkard uncle in It’s a Wonderful Life was the same guy who played Scarlett O’Hara’s dad, you could easily find out that it is. If you wanted to know where you could see a real live platypus, you would find that the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is currently the only place outside Australia that has them. If you were looking for the world’s largest light bulb, you would be directed to Edison, New Jersey. And on a seemingly cold winter day, you could get a little perspective by checking the temperature in International Falls, Minnesota. While perhaps better known for gaming, it is also a godsend when you want to look up song lyrics, the currency used in Tajikistan, the release date for Viggo Mortensen’s next movie, a recipe for artichoke tarts, the rectal temperature of a pregnant killer whale, the frozen custard flavor of the day at your local Culver’s, the difference between necrophilia and necromancy, the driving route to Prince Edward Island, the longest German word, and a seemingly infinite multitude of amusing cat videos.
In other circumstances, the information is not nearly as helpful. Sometimes the search results do not provide the answers you seek. For example, if you google “how does a pancreas smell” you get results that reflect neither the fact that it is not an olfactory organ nor a description of its aroma. Instead you get results related to pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and steatorrhea.
Sometimes there are things that present themselves as informative but are really advertisements. This only leads to more questions. For example, how much would you pay for a Cap Snaffler? A Bedazzler? Do such things as Sauna Pants, the Uroclub and the Better Marriage Blanket really exist or are they figments of the imaginations of SNL writers?
But wait, there’s more! Sometimes the information is extremely biased. For example, you will get a very different perspective on climate change from Exxon than you will from the Sierra Club.
Sometimes it is a lot of hearsay with no research to back it up. Someone on social media may expound on the spectacular results they got from Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir. This is anecdotal evidence at best. Although they got good results, there may be dozens or hundreds of others who tried it but were not so fortunate.
Sometimes the research is shoddy or even fraudulent. Consider the cautionary tale of former physician Andrew Wakefield. In 1998, he and some colleagues published a paper in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet. He basically blamed autism on the MMR vaccine and recommended single vaccines (for which he was then filing patents) instead of the combo. Other problems with this work include another conflict of interest (he was hired by lawyers suing a vaccine company), a small sample size (12) that was not representative of the population and falsified data. According to the UK’s medical regulator (the General Medical Council) he acted with “callous disregard for the distress and pain the children might suffer”. This was not good research, but thanks to a big video press release, it went mainstream and caused a big stir. Although the study was eventually retracted, it first sparked a conflagration of commotion and undermined public health. In addition to directing resources from potentially helpful autism research to debunking his erroneous hypothesis, it cast unwarranted doubt on the safety and efficacy of childhood vaccinations. This, in turn, has led to lower vaccination rates, which fuels outbreaks of infectious diseases like measles. In response to his immeasurable “contribution” to public health, Mr. Wakefield eventually lost his medical license. He left England and moved to Texas, where he continues to spread misinformation about the danger of vaccines and profits from parents seeking help for their autistic children to this very day.
This leads us to the infamous Dr. Google.
I usually maintain a healthy respect for other doctors. It takes a lot of time, effort and student loans to earn that title. I do make an exception for Dr. Google. First of all, he is not a doctor. According to Wikipedia, Sergey Brin and Larry Page met while working on their PhDs at Stanford, but then the search engine thing took off and they did not finish their dissertations.
Not only does Dr. Google not have a PhD in anything, he has no medical training whatsoever. He has no clinical judgment and a terrible bedside manner. He does not respect your privacy and gives your name to charlatans. And no matter what symptom you consult him about he will tell you it is due to one of several horrible fatal diseases. Yet he is always available and works cheap, so many, many people consult him.
Unfortunately, the information he provides can do more harm than good. If you are a little worried about a symptom, an avalanche of information about a multitude of possible diseases can cause your anxiety to escalate. The stress from all this uncertainty can make you want to search for more answers and lead to “cyberchondria”. A more appropriate name for this particular flavor of anxiety would be Googliasis (roughly translated as a pathological condition caused by Google). After all, some doctors have the honor(?) of having the condition they were the first to describe named after them. It seems fitting that not-a-doctor Google should bear the name of this condition.
With the enormous amount of information available online, where can you find reliable content? For questions about Zoltan’s health and well-being, some (mostly) trustworthy sites are universities (especially veterinary schools), government sites (like the CDC), professional organizations such as the AVMA (the American Veterinary Medical Association), and veterinary hospitals. I am also partial to criticalcaredvm.com, which is a blog written by a particularly knowledgeable (and local) specialist, Dr. Christopher Byers (Dawktah Byahs in hisnative tongue). Cat owners (maybe “servants” is a better word?) can consult the Cornell Feline Health Center for a wealth of information on medical and behavioral issues. There is also helpful behavior advice for both canine and feline Zoltans at the Fear Free sites (fearfreepets.com and fearfreehappyhomes.com).
Although it is generally more helpful to search a specific condition instead of a symptom, you can still be led astray. Be sure to check the qualifications of the author and the date of publication. Beware of sites offering you miracle cures. You’ve heard it before – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
So, what do you do when Zoltan is sick? Take him to the vet, of course. Unless this is an ongoing condition for which Zoltan is currently being treated, you will need to bring her in for an exam and treatment. The vet needs to see Zoltan to evaluate his condition and determine the best course of action. This may or may not agree with what Dr. Google says, but it is the wisdom of a trainedprofessional based on Zoltan’s overall condition, not merely one symptom. You also get a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship which allows the vet to prescribe or dispense medication.
In short, don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Except for this blog, of course. After all, I am a doctor...
I must now bid you Farewell, Bored Surfer. Please join me again next month for another delightful, insightful edition of BLOG blog. In the meantime, consider carefully what you type in the search bar. Google (and the spies who monitor it) are always watching, taking note of your searches and deciding on which list(s) your name belongs.
Best Wishes for 2020! Dr. Debbie Appleby