When the stakes are high, it may be unwise to trust the information you find on the World Wide Web.
This issue contains, among other things, an in-depth article about canine diabetes. WDJ’s ace team of canine health researchers/writers, CJ Puotinen and Mary Straus, have spent months researching this vexing (and increasingly common) disease in dogs. What causes diabetes? What’s the best treatment for it? What should I feed my diabetic dog? They’ve reviewed veterinary texts and reference materials, analyzed the latest studies, and have distilled what they learned into sound, practical information for you.
One of the things they did not do was repeat information they found on the Internet. Why? Because on certain complex topics, there is so much contradictory information – with at least half of it wrong! – that it’s almost impossible for someone to determine which information is reliable. Matters are made worse when the topic is freighted with a higher-than-average amount of popular “knowledge” and a lot of emotional baggage.
Diabetes is perhaps the perfect example of what I’m talking about. Almost everyone knows someone who has diabetes. Almost everyone knows that obesity puts people at higher risk of diabetes, and that diabetics need to be extremely careful about what they eat. So, as just one example, you will find site after site stating that fat dogs are at a higher risk of developing diabetes than thin dogs – but they are not! If you go to more solid sources, such as the veterinary reference book Encyclopedia of Canine Clinical Nutrition, you will read statements like, “Although obesity causes insulin resistance in dogs, there are no published data clearly indicating that obesity is a risk factor for canine diabetes.” And, “Despite the evidence that obesity causes impaired glucose tolerance, it appears that very few dogs develop overt diabetes as a consequence of obesity-induced insulin resistance.”
Here’s another example: On the Internet, author after author states that diabetic dogs will require an expensive prescription diet for the rest of their lives, as an important part of their disease control. Not true! In diabetic cats and humans, diet plays a critical role in reducing insulin resistance, so that additional treatment may not even be needed; in dogs with diabetes, no diet can eliminate the need for insulin.
The further you drill into the details, the more erroneous information can be found online. I can’t tell you how many writers – even veterinarians! – discuss canine and feline diabetes as if they should be treated the same way (not!) or discuss type 2 canine diabetes (dogs don’t get this form of the disease).
Everyone makes mistakes. But when I’m looking for reliable information to help with my dog’s health or treatment, I count on Puotinen and Straus – that is, after I’ve driven them both crazy with fact-checking and double-checking and rewriting and reorganizing and checking it all again!