Anyone who’s been on social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, has seen that it can be a powerful platform for two-way communication. For the AVMA, social media has provided us with great opportunities to get information out to people and gather feedback from our members, animal owners and others.
Recently, our Facebook friends helped us correct some very bad information that threatened animal health. The network Animal Planet has a number of pet health-related articles on its site, and one of those articles was called to our attention last year because of its disturbing content. The article, titled “Treating parvo at home,” was written by the staff of HowStuffWorks. Among the disturbing statements was one that a dog would be “lonely” at the veterinary clinic while hospitalized, so treating the dog at home was preferred to seeking veterinary care. The article provided home treatment recommendations and discouraged pet owners from seeking veterinary care. As veterinarians, we all know that prompt care for parvo-infected dogs is critical to their survival, and any delays can be deadly.
When the article was first brought to my attention almost one year ago, I used the “contact us” form on the Animal Planet site and expressed the profession’s concerns about the article. I requested that they remove the article or replace it with one providing accurate advice. I received no response. Later, I was able to work through a connection at Discovery to get to some staff members in charge of the animal health pages. Although the staff members with whom I spoke on the phone seemed to acknowledge and agree with the AVMA’s concerns and said they’d look into it, I didn’t receive any further response. I don’t think that means they felt the content was OK; I suspect they had higher-priority and/or more urgent issues that concerned them, and this had to take a backseat.
Then, during the recent Labor Day weekend, a number of people posted their concerns about the article on our Facebook page. Several of them were upset over what they perceived to be AVMA “endorsement” of the content because AVMA was cited as a reference in the article (although we were never contacted by the authors). Given my lack of success reaching Animal Planet by traditional means, I decided to enlist the help of our friends and unleash the power of social media to help pets. I posted on the Animal Planet Facebook page, stating that we’d previously asked that this information be removed or corrected but the article remained on the site, and made another post on our own Facebook page asking for our friends’ help by liking, commenting and sharing the post. The two posts earned 1,143 likes, 387 shares and 365 comments.
First thing Tuesday morning, I received a call from Animal Planet, informing me that they’d broken the link to the article and would appreciate the AVMA’s help in replacing it with better content. With input from Dr. Dylan Frederickson and Dr. Kristin True, we prepared a new article and it was posted on the Animal Planet site on Wednesday.
Let’s hear it for the power of social media when it’s used for good!