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Anne

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We've had several incidents lately where members were providing what might be construed as medical advice on the health and nutrition forum (or elsewhere on the board).

I fully realize that those who offer that are probably very knowledgeable and more than likely know very well what it is they're talking about. I very much appreciate their participation in this site and their willingness to help other members. Thank you all for that. I also know that their sole motivation with dispensing that advice is to help the cats.

What don't we allow here?

That said, please understand that we cannot allow any form of what might seem like direct veterinary advice on this board. This includes, among other things:

1. Suggesting to posters that they should medicate a cat, be it a prescription or non-prescription drug.

2. Advising people to avoid following qualified veterinary advice provided by their own vet.

3. Suggesting that a cat does not need to be seen by a veterinarian for medical complaints.


Why are we so strict with these things?

1. It's illegal. Only a qualified veterinarian with an active license may dispense veterinary advice. Even if you are a qualified vet, we have no way of ascertaining that, so you won't be able to do so here.

2. You are responding to a question posted on an online board. With most issues, a vet has to actually examine the cat in order to provide a comprehensive diagnosis.

3. You may be exposing TCS to lawsuits over your advice. While we do clearly state in our TOS that we are not responsible for the content of the posts, it is still possible to sue. In fact, people can sue over anything, so if you don't mind, I prefer not to provide alleged reasons. (On a personal note, in case anyone thinks I am being paranoid here, I have had two lawsuits to deal with already over forum posts that were not made by me. It's expensive, time consuming and unnerving, even when you are 100% in the right.)

What kind of advice you can give:

You are more than welcome to discuss various health issues on the board and provide general information about diseases and medical
conditions of cats. As long as you make it clear that you are not offering a course of action for the particular cat, but only background material they may want to discuss with their vet, you're in the clear.

If you think someone is being given bad advice by their vet, feel free to suggest that they seek a second opinion by another qualified vet. Do not offer your own diagnosis instead, although you are welcome to explain what you think is wrong. Always qualify any ideas for a diagnosis by stating that this is your opinion, that you are not a professional vet and that no one can diagnose a cat online.

More often than not, we've had cases here where the tone of the post was the problem. Please remember that the tone is not easy to convey across a screen. In the best interest of the cats, please take special care to mention that you offer your own opinion, in a friendly manner. Words like "IMO", "I think", "maybe"... can really change a post.

Last, but not least, please do not be offended when one of our mods posts to a thread to remind people that no online advice can replace proper veterinary diagnosis and treatment. It is their duty to this site, as mods, to be posting that. Please don't take it as a personal attack on your views - it does not mean that your advice is not valid, only that we are committed, as a site, to educate people about the need to get a cat to the vet, just like they would take a human baby to a doctor, and not go post on some board asking for help.

Thank you everyone for your cooperation. I do value your contribution to the board and hope that we'll be able to maintain more fruitful discussions while following these guidelines.
 
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mschauer

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Jun 17, 2007
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I commonly suggest that someone try a digestive supplement to treat diarrhea. Would this amount to suggesting the use of a non-prescription drug? I don't ever suggest they stop a vets treatment. I just suggest it if a vet isn't currently treating the cat or is but the poster is just asking if there are alternatives to the current treatment.
 

abbycats

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Dec 12, 2005
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Originally Posted by mschauer

I commonly suggest that someone try a digestive supplement to treat diarrhea. Would this amount to suggesting the use of a non-prescription drug? I don't ever suggest they stop a vets treatment. I just suggest it if a vet isn't currently treating the cat or is but the poster is just asking if there are alternatives to the current treatment.
I got into a real jam giving one of my cats Acidophilus. I thought I poisoned her and took the capsules into the vet and had him check everything that was in them. He told me normally that should not have done that but she had a severe reaction, it tossed her right over the edge.
She had a such a bad reaction and it upset her tummy so bad I had to take her into the vet on emergency to get her eating again after 2 days of throwing up, she was really sick. That cost me about 300.00. I wouldn't have thought that it would have affected her that way. It's not that I got the information from this forum, but it's an example to what would normally not affect one cat but could toss another into bigger problems.
 
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Anne

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Thank you for sharing your stories, and I guess that sort of answers the question... Even OTC drugs and food supplements can cause trouble. Maybe not to all cats, but we never know what a poster's cat may be suffering from, in addition to the complaint they brought up.

Medora, yours may have been a good advice, but would be safer to say something like "I have heard that this and that may help in cases of... but please consult your vet before giving it to your cat". That way, you're giving her something to discuss with her vet, and she could maybe just call and ask. A vet that knows the cat's medical history would be able to ascertain the safety of giving the cat that particular supplement.
 

mschauer

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OK Anne, I'll do that. I usually make the suggestion by relating how a digestive supplement helped my cat. I'll be sure to always add asking a vet about it.

I got into a real jam giving one of my cats Acidophilus.
Acidophilus is actually a probiotic, not a digestive enzyme but I guess that doesn't change the point. Members *very* frequently recommend the use of probiotics without mentioning asking a vet first.
 

gayef

TCS Member
Veteran
Those of us who are breeders or long time cat owners do know of ways to help with things from time to time, but every cat is such an individual that what might work for one won't necessarily work for another as we've seen in some of the responses in this thread. It really is always best to consult with your trusted vet before doing anything - even if someone who seems knowledgable may suggest it. I am guilty of it myself from time to time, but since knowing of the possible negative results, I've tried to stop myself whenever I find myself doing it. Not only can it result badly for the cat in question, but it just reflects badly on TCS as well. Anne's liability is in question and I know we would ALL be horrified if anything were to happen to the site after one of us gave advice in good faith and someone sued.
 

rapunzel47

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Jul 20, 2003
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Originally Posted by gayef

Anne's liability is in question and I know we would ALL be horrified if anything were to happen to the site after one of us gave advice in good faith and someone sued.
And a further note on that subject: it is not necessary for one to be found at fault in such a suit for it to be a financially ruinous proposition. Defending is expensive and settling may not be a lot better.
 

kittymonsters

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Mar 5, 2007
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I know I get into this issue as well. I think the hard part is that we often forget that not all cat owners have good relationships with trusted vets.

I know many home remedies from past experience, but I also have a great vet whom I call every time before I treat just to make sure. I wouldn't think of giving anything if I didn't.

I need to remember that some people don't have this type of relationship for many different reasons. Not everyone knows that the information provided is for insight to be discussed with their vet.

I think what is great about the health and nutrition forum on TCS is that we can share so many of our experiences in detail. I know I would have been lost without the CRF sticky and the wonderful members who monitor that thread.

I would hate to lose this resource, there is nothing like communicating with people who have been there, done that. I mean everyday people who were scared and confused at first too.

Mods, please tell me that you PM posters when such an error is made. I would hate to think I have posted something that could be responsible for getting Anne sued and TCS shut down.
 

pookie-poo

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Feb 14, 2007
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I have a lot of experience with CRF and cats. I like to share my experience with others who are going through the difficult experience of a new diagnosis of CRF. I try to preface my comments with "talk to your vet about..." or "see if your vet will...", or "ask your vet if..."

It is important to do your own research and ask questions from people who have gone through these experiences. Knowledge is power. However, I also agree that you should always ask your vet if any of the treatments that you have discovered in your research, or discussed with others, is appropriate for the condition that your pet has been diagnosed with.
 

mews2much

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Nov 19, 2007
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I post on the crf thread and people have gave me advice.
I will ask my vet about the advice first.
People sugested pepcid ac for Coco in the crf group so I asked the vet and got it yesterday in liquid.
I know alot about Crf because I had cats with it before but there is alot that I didnt know on the thread.
It helps alot.
 

abbycats

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Dec 12, 2005
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I joined this forum when my cat Mort was dianosed with CRF and I got really good support from members. It made things easier to read about experiences with CRF. I always communicated with my vet about anything that might help my cat.

When I had the episode with the Acidophilus it was actually my breeder who suggested it and gave me some capsules. I already knew about Acidophilus and yogurt. I didn't think it would toss her over the edge like that. I was a nervous wreck for a couple days thinking that I poisoned my poor kitten. It was really strange but it happened. After we got her eating again and temporarily treated her for IBD she has been really healthy.
 

yosemite

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I worry more about new members that post for the first time about a problem and get information from members who say they have had lots of experience with a certain condition and to contact them privately. I don't want to know what they discuss in private but I sure worry that a newbie might take the information they get as gospel and discount the more careful advice of the more seasoned members here.

Some posters say they think "our" posts saying "go to the vet" is not helpful information, but aside from suggesting very safe things like adding pumpkin to the food for diarrhea or constipation, I do very much believe that if a cat is sick, the vet is the best place for the cat to be. Yes, some people don't have a vet, but they need to find one. They also need to find one that will help them with a sick pet even if they don't have the cash that day. That's why they need to find a vet so that in an emergency they have a relationship with that vet.

I for one do not want to play God with anyone's pet. I'd rather say go to the vet a hundred times than suggest something only once that did harm to anyone's pet.
 

sarahp

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Jun 7, 2006
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Thanks for the reminder! I have probably been guilty of this, purely because I've never thought of how I'm wording the advice, and to make sure I say "this is my opinion, but plese take your cat to the vet".
 

mschauer

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Jun 17, 2007
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Originally Posted by Yosemite

I worry more about new members that post for the first time about a problem and get information from members who say they have had lots of experience with a certain condition and to contact them privately. I don't want to know what they discuss in private but I sure worry that a newbie might take the information they get as gospel and discount the more careful advice of the more seasoned members here.
Regardless of how much more "seasoned" than others someone believes themselves to be, there is always the possibility that someone else possesses information that can be helpful to a poster. I don't think it is surprising that such a person would choose to communicate the information thru PMs if they have been made to feel unwelcome in the forums.

Personally I think the best way to learn is to gather information from as many sources as possible. The internet is a big place. There are a lot of people out there that constitute a huge knowledge base and of which the members of these forums only represent a tiny subset. It doesn't make sense to me to assume that any individual, whether they are a member of these forums or not, possesses a monopoly on useful information.

As Anne has made clear, none of us is qualified to give medical advice. All any of us is doing is relating personal experiences and sharing information. How "seasoned" does someone need to be to do that?
 

yosemite

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Originally Posted by mschauer

Regardless of how much more "seasoned" than others someone believes themselves to be, there is always the possibility that someone else possesses information that can be helpful to a poster. I don't think it is surprising that such a person would choose to communicate the information thru PMs if they have been made to feel unwelcome in the forums.

Personally I think the best way to learn is to gather information from as many sources as possible. The internet is a big place. There are a lot of people out there that constitute a huge knowledge base and of which the members of these forums only represent a tiny subset. It doesn't make sense to me to assume that any individual, whether they are a member of these forums or not, possesses a monopoly on useful information.

As Anne has made clear, none of us is qualified to give medical advice. All any of us is doing is relating personal experiences and sharing information. How "seasoned" does someone need to be to do that?
I suppose it depends on how you define "seasoned". As a longer term member I can only say that often new members in H&N are usually here because they've encountered a problem and often are in a bit of a panic. In those instances and because they often don't have much experience with cats or that illness they "find" this catsite and ask for advice. If they, in their lack of knowledge believe the advice being given is going to work for their cat and do what is suggested only to have their cat die or get worse it's this site owner that now has the problem not the person who gave the information in good faith. Unfortunately the advice given in good faith did not work the same for the new member's cat as it did for their cat.
 

mschauer

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Jun 17, 2007
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Originally Posted by Yosemite

I suppose it depends on how you define "seasoned". As a longer term member I can only say that often new members in H&N are usually here because they've encountered a problem and often are in a bit of a panic. In those instances and because they often don't have much experience with cats or that illness they "find" this catsite and ask for advice. If they, in their lack of knowledge believe the advice being given is going to work for their cat and do what is suggested only to have their cat die or get worse it's this site owner that now has the problem not the person who gave the information in good faith. Unfortunately the advice given in good faith did not work the same for the new member's cat as it did for their cat.
I think it is a faithful paraphrase of Anne's post to say that it should be made clear that a vet should be consulted before utilizing any advice given by any member of these forums. My post didn't say and wasn't meant to imply otherwise.
 
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