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Horse health in the internet age

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A search of the term ‘horse health’ using any search engine will bring up millions of virtual avenues for a horse owner to navigate.


The difficult part is weeding through all the information to differentiate the useful from useless.
This can be a daunting task, even for a trained professional like your veterinarian. Not all sites provide current or factual information and some sites are designed more to sell a particular product or service than to educate horse owners.


However, the internet can be very useful in helping you understand a complex equine health condition or gain further knowledge on specific topic.


Here are some tips on finding good online information and avoiding misleading sites:
1. Avoid sites that are trying to sell a product or service (unless recommended by your veterinarian).


2. Look to veterinary teaching hospitals, veterinary colleges, private veterinary practices or university-based websites.


3. Check the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ website (www.aaep.org).


4. Be very careful with public forums populated with other horse owners looking for answers and providing opinions. They are rarely moderated by a professional and often the opinions posted are not fact-based.


For those horse owners looking for more depth of knowledge on a specific diagnosis or for the latest information on research being done in a particular area, there is an up-to-date public database of all the scientific articles published in the various fields of veterinary medicine.
It is available through a website called Pubmed (www.pubmed.org).  


In order to use this site, you will need a specific area of research, topic or diagnosis and a scientific mind, as it provides the abstracts to almost all articles published on each topic in veterinary and human medicine.


This is also the site veterinarians use to look for the latest advances in research and study about each disease. You can read the abstracts for free but access to the entire article requires a purchase. You can also speak with your veterinarian as he or she may have access to the article.


In the event of a health emergency involving your horse, the internet cannot replace a veterinarian’s attention.


Unfortunately, in some cases, devastating results have been caused by delaying treatment of a sick horse.  If in doubt, give your veterinarian a call and discuss the options for any horse in distress before consulting the internet.


Chris Bell is an equine veterinarian and surgical specialist who operates Elders Equine Veterinary Service, with clinics in Cartier and Winnipeg. See www.eldersequineclinic.com.

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