Stop looking for (or giving!) health and training advice from strangers online!


This morning, as I often do, I picked up my phone and checked for any urgent messages or emails, then idly scrolled through various social media pages: TikTok, Instagram, Facebook. Then I read a post – or, rather, a string of comments on the post – that made me sit up in bed. The post itself made me roll my eyes, but the comments got my blood pressure

“Help! My dog has worms! What should I do?”

The post appeared in a local “Rants and Raves” page, where people typically complain about the service they received at a local tire shop or praise the new restaurant that just opened in town. And there were about 60 comments on the post. None, by the way, from any veterinarians or vet techs.

“Put a little tobacco in his food, the worms will be gone by tomorrow,” said one commenter.

“You can buy ivermectin at Tractor Supply,” said another commenter.

“I feed raw carrots and my dogs never get worms,” said a third.

“Tobacco always works for my dogs,” said a second tobacco fan. This was the comment that got me to sit up in aggravation, and within another minute, start reading the comments to my husband, who by now was wondering why I kept muttering and swearing under my breath. By the time the page moderator – or perhaps the original poster – deleted the post, I counted seven more people sharing their appreciation for feeding tobacco to dogs to rid them of worms. Never mind that no one knew what kind of worms the dog supposedly had, or for that matter, what the dog’s symptoms were that made the poster think the dog had worms. Not a single person asked the owner why they thought the dog had worms, or anything else about the dog. Everyone was just eager to share their advice.

It wasn’t all terrible advice; there were also two people who told the owner to not give the dog tobacco. And three or four commenters said the owner should take their dog to the vet.

I don’t want to sound like an out-of-touch elitist. I know that affording veterinary care is beyond lots of dog owners, and that a caring dog owner could easily spend a few hundred dollars in a simple visit to a vet, once the charges for the office visit, a diagnostic test, an overdue vaccine or two, and a dewormer are added up – and that could be devastating to lower-income folks, especially when perhaps an appropriate over-the-counter dewormer could effectively treat the condition.

But if you are going to look for information about your dog’s health online, for crying out loud, look for reputable sources! Not just random people! If you can use a computer (or a smartphone) for social media, surely you can look up articles on reputable sites (like this one!) that could help you determine whether your dog has worms, what kind, and what you can buy to treat them.

The same goes for training. Ask a general population of humans what you should do about a dog’s behavior issue, and you will be treated to the worst mix of garbage advice imaginable. Most of the training advice I see people offer each other online will make most dog behavior issues worse, if not get the dog euthanized because he bit someone in self-defense after being subjected to cruel and outdated, ineffective training “techniques.”

Asking unqualified people for advice is bad, but I’d suggest refraining from offering advice, too. Serious health and training problems should be addressed by people with training and experience, not just regular folks with opinions based on a dog they owned once, or that their mother-in-law owned.

But I guess that’s just my online advice!