Travels With Kathi #8

Travels With Kathi #8 – Dr. Google

Dr. Google

During my years practicing veterinary medicine I have always preferred radio and television as the primary source for current events. As many people have switched over to the digital age and are relying on the Internet for their current events, call me a somewhat reluctant participant. So when I heard Google was considering changing their name to “Alphabet”, I began to ponder the impact Google has had on our lives, and on veterinary medicine.

Why would this company want to change its name, a name that has become listed in dictionaries as the definition of the product they provide? Company spokesmen say a change would prevent their operation from becoming outdated similarly to the name IBM. Was IBM’s decline due to the name or their decline in innovation? Oh well, I’m just a veterinarian.

The Origin

Where did “Google” come from? One version is it came from the misspelling of the word “googol”, a word coined by a 9-year-old boy to represent the number formed by 1 followed by a hundred zeros. Others say it came from the British slang term “throw a googly” which means to ask a hard or unanswerable question. Or maybe it came by merging the words “go” and “ogle”with ogle being a desirous look or stare. I guess naming a social phenomenon is just like naming a dog or horse. The only problem is, the originators couldn’t look up the definitions of words on Google.

The Experiment

What is the impact of Google on veterinary medicine? A significant number of clients call their veterinarian after consulting with Dr. Google. It seems reasonable I should try to understand potential problems that may be created by Dr. Google referrals. So I created a test; one Google search was “strategies for winning chess matches’; the second was “strategies for healing horses with laminitis.” The first represents a situation where I personally know a little about chess, but by no means know enough to be consistently successful. The second represents a subject where I have a lot of experience and have spent a great deal of time understanding the condition. The chess question hopefully will allow me to use Google to solve a problem at the same level my clients find themselves. The laminitis question allows me to understand what is available to my clients on Google searches

The chess “google” presents a good review of the rules of the game and defines terminology. Most posts attempt to organize a player’s thought processes and divide the game into parts then present strategies for each part. The posts do not provide experience or judgment. One must learn to recognize the opponents’ strategies in order to win.

The laminitis “google” also presents a general understanding of what laminitis is and a list of terminology. The search does not present a way to define the severity of the disease or how the severity defines what treatments are needed. There is a need for experience and judgment to develop the most appropriate plan for an individual horse with a very individual group of symptoms.


After reviewing the strategies for winning chess games, I have a better knowledge of rules and strategies. However, I am a very average player. After reviewing the search on laminitis, I recognize Google is a very good source for general information.
However, there is not a good strategy for treating a particular horse.

The best use of the internet for formulating plans for your horses’ health might result in relying on your veterinarian to identify the nature and severity of the problem followed by utilization of Google searches to help you understand the findings and stimulate questions to be addressed by your veterinarian. Try to identify certain web sites that have reliable information on all questions. Such a list would include veterinary schools and good equine programs. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from your veterinarian.

The Internet is also a good source for veterinary newsletters. Have you heard of the LEQMC newsletters?

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