Mary Fluke, DVM
Veterinarian at Mallard Creek for over 20 years
I attend at least 20 hours of continuing education seminars every year to maintain my veterinary license. This week I spent a day listening to Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, a nationally recognized veterinary toxicologist who (among other things) spent 13 years working for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline. The final topic of the day was Internet Rumors.
Not only is that super ironic (a toxicologist talking about toxic information), it was also apropos given that the folks at the poison control centers field tons of calls about internet rumors. That puts them in a unique position to know what the latest posts are that are making the rounds, or resurfacing again for the umpty umpteenth time.
Much of the information that I’m offering here is paraphrased from Dr. Gwaltney-Brant’s notes—I share it with her permission.
Internet rumors are the latest form of urban legend, a form of folklore that’s been around as long as there have been campfires. Usually the topic is something horrific or embarrassing, purportedly having happened to an actual person, sounding plausible, and seemingly intended to provide information to help the reader avoid a similar event. That’s all well and good, but in this day of “fake news,” such rumors can disseminate far and wide and FAST. Untrue rumors cause real harm to individuals, businesses, and, oh I don’t know, the country???
The common features of an internet rumor are:
So what’s a poor pet lover to do when he or she sees something on Facebook or Twitter saying that heartworm prevention kills dogs or the FDA is investigating a pet food company? For starters, don’t hit “share” until you’ve determined whether or not the post is real. The quickest way to avoid sharing an internet rumor is to check it on www.snopes.com or www.truthorfiction.com or your favorite fact check site. Most of the time you’ll find the answer right there and you can post the link on your friend’s Facebook page (or message the person privately if you still think it’s rude to embarrass someone publicly). If Snopes or Truthorfiction don’t give you the answer, try doing an internet search using some of the keywords or names from the post and see what that yields. I have learned a lot of very interesting thing in the process of fact checking internet rumors.
Just because there’s a website (www.[insertdrugorproductnamehere]killedmydog.com) doesn’t make something true. Get in the habit of fact checking with an open mind. You’ll be surprised what you might discover!