Social media – friend or foe?

As so often the extent to which social media dominates our response to events has been highlighted by a crisis. The equine herpes outbreak has littered the internet, with stories rising thick and fast out of the calamities.

Social media is fantastic. It has a role to play, but as a fact finder, it is about as reliable as a bucket with a hole in it. In the “good old days” a yard would have had a disease outbreak. Gradually, through chatting, farriers and vets travelling from yard to yard, the people in the immediate vicinity would learn of this. They would then be able to take necessary precaution and the the outbreak would subside and everything would go back to normal. With social media the news travels at lighting speed. The messages become garbled,and the truth is often discarded along the way.

People, often in good faith, dole out information to others, but there is a reason that vets and scientists spend so long training…Remember, your mates hour on google, does not equal many years of scientific training. If you are ever on any doubt about what to do, please consult a vet. Most vets will offer advice on the phone if you are seeking advice on vaccinations or what do to in the event of an outbreak. Other trusted sources are the Animal Health Trust a charity, providing science and care for animals and Dr. David Marlin, a renowned scientist. You may know of others, and please use them!

We can only do the best we can, and our animals can get sick even when we act to the best of our knowledge. But remember there is no such thing as a stupid question and vets would rather you asked that question. A question may just save the life of your much-loved animal.

A good team

We talk a lot about the importance of having a good team around us for our horses, a good farrier, a good vet, a good physio, a good trainer, a horsey friend who will come and help hold a horse, or put the jumps up for you, or simply go for a hack, but in fact it applies to so much more. I was reminded of this recently when I changed the vets I use for my dogs.

The old vet was fine, I didn’t have an issue or a problem, but I felt that they simply looked the dog over, vaccinated it and gave me a bill. There was no chat, no discussion about the best ways to do things. So I changed. The new vet spent 45 minutes talking to me about different points of care, and things that may work better for my dog. The level of communication was impeccable and I left feeling much more reassured that the care I had chosen for my dog was correct.

The same applies to us. We need a team of professionals just as much as our horses. I was once told to pick a few people to turn to for advice, and use them. Don’t ask everyone, as that gets confusing, and don’t just ask anybody, as their advice might be rubbish! So choose your people wisely and go to them when you need to talk things through.

So remember we all need a team of trusted professionals, not just your horse, not just your dog, but you as well. For if you are not well, happy and functioning to the best of your abilities, the chances are no one else will be either! So take a moment to look at your teams of people, starting with your own. And if you don’t have one, find one!

Why your vet knows best…

By Lizzie Hopkinson

There was a recent report into the use of wormer as a cure for headshaking.

Wormer may very well cure headshaking, however people were using wormer as a cure for headshaking based on other people’s anecdotal evidence on social media.

Wormer has been tested and researched and approved for equine use for the treatment of worms to the recommended dosage. The effects of over dosing with wormer are not known, but wormer contains chemicals so it is unlikely that it would have no effect.

The purpose of research trials is to find out whether something actually works. It is unlikely that something will work on every horse or every human, and the effectiveness of drug treatments often varies across subjects. But the purpose of the research is to investigate that.

There are many good things that have come about through the internet and the rise of social media, and there are some negatives. I am sure we all know someone who googles their health symptoms and self-diagnoses instantly with terrible terminal illnesses. There is a reason why they spend so long training doctors and why scientists spend years in laboratories.

I am not dismissing the notion that you can get quirky side effects from some medicines. However, it may only happen with certain circumstances or genetics, we don’t know. The worry is that people are seeing views expressed on social media on a par with consulting your vet.

If you have a headshaking issue with your horse, consult your vet. By all means read around the subject, by all means buy products to try out, such as the Shakeaze. But (please) don’t give the same weight to the opinion of “ponymadofwatford” who may have never have had a horse, but really loves them and someone in a pub said…, as your vet, who invested a lot of time and money into learning and training.