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Suggestions for Advice Givers

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ALL cat health posts, even if they aren't about diabetes, belong here.

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Suggestions for Advice Givers

Postby Janet & Binky (GA) » Sat Jan 02, 2010 6:23 pm

One of the great things about the FDMB is the way people learn everything they can and then "pay it forward" by teaching other people. However, it's easy to cross the line between offering information and "playing vet". Here are some suggestions to help you to be helpful without unduly risking the health of someone else's cat.

  • Above all, do no harm. Be sure you are familiar with the particular cat's circumstances before giving food and dosing advice. Wrong advice on food and dose can have dire consequences for a cat's health. Don't give generic advice on these issues. Even something as beneficial-sounding as "Put your cat on a low-carbohydrate diet" can result in death if the cat is already getting insulin (yes, it has happened). If you do decide to suggest something risky, outline the potential risks and benefits for the recipient.

  • Explain your reasoning. If people understand why you're suggesting something, they are not only more likely to be successful with their own cat, they are also much more likely to be able to help someone else's cat down the line. (This applies to the person asking the question as well as all the members and lurkers who are reading the answers, hoping to learn something new.)

  • Know the subject. Read the Health articles here at felinediabetes.com and the FDMB FAQ, as well as the articles at Pets with Diabetes and Gorbzilla, know what's in them, and know where they are. Browse PubMed, and have a look at old posts in the FDMB Think Tank. Have a library of links handy that will help back up your points, and include them so that others can learn what you know. If you like to cite Steve and Venita's Wiki, contribute to it and help keep it up-to-date and correct. If you have time, read up on topics that don't apply to your personal situation; you never know when you'll have need of the knowledge.

  • Be willing to admit you don’t know. If you're not sure of the truth of what you're saying, or if you don't know whether your personal experience applies to the current situation, say so, and solicit clarification or advice. Some of the best discussions have occurred that way! Suggestion: start the discussion on Think Tank, or include the words "Tagged for Think Tank" somewhere in the conversation so that the Webmaster can archive it later.

  • Do outside research. Don't get all of your information from the FDMB; that just turns it into an echo chamber (or worse, a massive game of "telephone"). Learn new things and bring them into the discussion. Learn from others when they bring in new things, too; that's part of the fun.

  • Know the principles; know the exceptions. "Every cat is different" is not just a slogan. There are general guidelines that work for most cats, and then there are the cats that didn't read the manual. You need to know about both in order to help with the complicated cases.

  • Follow up! If you give someone advice, and they take it, follow up to see how they're doing, and to see whether the cat is responding in the way that you expected. This especially applies if you advised doing something unusual or risky.

  • Keep your advice public. Helping cats is a team effort, and it's undermined when people are receiving offline advice, unknown to the rest of the group. Many sets of eyes are better than one.

  • Don't act as if you're entitled to tell people what to do. You can offer help and advice, but it's up to the other person to decide what advice to take for their cat. They won't always agree with you -- that's life. If it makes you crazy, move on to someone who is interested in what you have to say.

  • Don't attempt to diagnose over the Internet, or make blanket assertions about a cat's health status. There's always a possibility that there's something that you don't know about the cat. Be aware that the cat may have other diagnosed or undiagnosed health conditions (such as renal impairment, pancreatitis, hyperthyroid or acromegaly) which may be complicating the situation or causing symptoms which look like diabetes. (Obvious exception: an immediate hypoglycemic episode with symptoms.)

Yes, it sounds like a lot of work, but it's worth it! You and your cat will benefit, you won't have to live with any ghastly consequences of your well-meaning but incomplete advice, you'll contribute to the FDMB's reputation for being a top-notch source of information and support, and generations of diabetic cats to come will rise up and call you blessed.
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Janet & Binky (GA)
 
Posts: 328
Joined: Mon Dec 28, 2009 8:51 pm
Location: West Coast, USA
Member since: February 9th, 2000

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