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I Found an Alternative to Dr. Google for Dog Owners #Pearl instead of Google for your dog health questions

When Zoey and Scout had diarrhea, I went to Dr. Google.

When Sydney was diagnosed with a partial cruciate tear, I went to Dr. Google.

When Rodrigo was diagnosed with arthritis, I went to Dr. Google.

I know that Googling ailments isn’t always the smartest thing to do, because you land in angry forums, sites with misinformation, or you end up convinced that your dog has cancer.  So I try to wait until the next day to call the vet.

Actually, I don’t try at all.

I’ve spent too many sleepless nights worrying about our dogs and Dr. Google offers some comfort along with a little misinformation.

But I keep thinking that there has to be something better.

There is!  I’ve found several sites where you can submit a question to a veterinarian for fee and although I understand that these sites can’t be free (if they were, I wouldn’t trust the information), it is kind of hard to get past the price tag.  But sometimes I just need to understand more about our dogs’ health and $39 for 3 questions with veterinarians seems like a good idea for a worrywart like me.

Paying for answers???

If you would have asked me 3 years ago if I’d pay a site to answer my questions, I’d say Hell No!  But too many trips to the veterinarian, too many people sharing their opinions on all things dog care, and too many tears shed have made me change my mind.

What I love about my experience with Pearl is that I could have a one on one with a verified professional (not just veterinarians).  I ask a question, I get a response (or a few), and then I asked follow up questions and have a one-on-one conversation.

Here’s what a worrywart worries about (this week)…

Someone told me that it’s difficult for dogs (and some humans) to digest chondroiton. Is this true?

Background: Someone in one of my many raw food groups shared this with me and I wasn’t able to confirm so I submitted the question on Pearl.

“Hi, this is Dr. Linda. I hope I can help with your question today. According to my pharmaceutical formulary, purified, low molecular weight chondroitin appears to be well absorbed from the gut. The problem is, not all chondroitin products are equivalent. Being a nutraceutical, there are no strict standards in the manufacture of these products as there are by the FDA over true medications & drugs. There are no standards accepted for potency, purity, safety or efficacy. So you get what you pay for. Some manufacturers, such as Nutrimax Laboratories, voluntarily submits it products for independent analysis & I believe sets the standard for all other products. They make a human & veterinary products & are the only ones many veterinarians recommend. I rely on them to keep my knees moving. I hope this makes sense & you find the information useful. Please let me know if you have further questions. Thank you.”

How does a veterinarian diagnose a partial cruciate tear in a dog?

Background: Sydney’s recovery from her partial cruciate tear has been short of miraculous.  I didn’t expect her to be doing so well so quickly. I month later, I’m still taking it easy with her with short, relaxed walks and no zoomies.  So are we just lucky or  does she have a partial cruciate tear?

“Hi there, my name is Sophie and I am a registered veterinarian. I would like to try to help you. Cruciate ligament rupture can be easy to diagnose if you have a small dog with an obvious tear. This can be diagnosed my manipulating the joint and testing for abnormal movement (these are called tibial thrust and cranial drawer). However in larger dogs this can be very hard as they have a great deal of muscle. Your veterinarian may need to sedate a larger dog to get enough relaxation to manipulate the joint and may need to take x-rays in addition. It is often useful to have x-rays to measure the degree of abnormality which can be useful in planning or deciding on treatment and surgical repair. All of this together with the history you give your vet about how this injury happened usually allows a diagnosis to be made. I hope this is helpful. If you need any more information please do not hesitate to reply at any time. All the best with your dog, Sophie”

How often should I clean our dogs’ ears?

Background: Our dogs hate having their ears cleaned.  Someone told me that we needed to clean their ears weekly.  I already clip their nails weekly, adding ears to our routine might be too much (for me).  A friend recommended using baby wipes for sensitive skin and that’s been great, but does it have to be weekly?

“Hi there, It’s great to hear that you are concerned about keeping Zoey’s ears clean! Now is an excellent time to start getting her used to the process so it isn’t scary or uncomfortable for her to have her ears handled in the future. Most dogs should have their ears cleaned monthly. This varies a bit, depending on her breed, how much ear wax she makes, and if she has hair that grows in her ear canals. Dogs with waxy or hairy ears may need more frequent cleaning. Make sure you use a gentle commercial cleaner made for the ear, not peroxide or vinegar or water, which can be irritating or keep the ear wet, making it more likely to get infected. For puppies, I recommend putting the cleaner on a cotton ball and using that to wipe out the ear rather than squirting cleaner into the ear canal, as that can be scary and uncomfortable. Never use q-tips, as these can go too deep and damage the ear drum. As with all things involving puppies, be patient, handle her ears a lot when you aren’t cleaning them, and use lots of treats during cleaning. Hope this helps! Be sure to let me know what questions you have.”

After asking my questions, I realized that this service is perfect for me.  Not only did I get answers, but they were detailed and thorough.  I didn’t have any follow up questions and it’s nice to know that if I do, I can have a one-on-one with a certified (and verified) veterinarian.

Update: after time has passed, I realized that we had a couple of health issues and I didn’t use this service.  Instead, I chose to reach out to people I know who also know our dogs.  I still think Pearl is a great service, because not all of us are lucky enough to belong to a circle of dog lovers who are also pet professionals, but I’m not 100% certain if this is a service I would use, but I’m keeping an open mind.

What question do you have about your dog’s health?


  1. Dr. Google – heh. That doctor has caused me many a sleepless night! When I had my first dog as an adult I used to rush him to the vet at any little thing (as I’m sure new parents do with human babies). One time we spent nearly $200 on an ER vet visit only for them to tell us to give him a Benadryl tablet. Ugh. So, after that I started looking online first before rushing to the vet. If it’s something that doesn’t seem life threatening or painful to my dog, often I can find great answers online (often via pet bloggers!!). When it is something that looks like it might be dangerous or hurting my dog, a vet that can lay eyes on my dog to diagnose is still my top bet.

    • I can totally see myself with a $200 vet bill. Once I start worrying, it’s hard not to go with it.

  2. Honestly haven’t had to use any online vet services thus far. Perhaps because both Harley & Leo are relatively young. Perhaps I need to look into something like this in the event “something happens” but I haven’t as of yet. Thanks for sharing.

    • The most I’ve ever done is a Google search and then from there, I ask our vet.

  3. I wonder if local vets would be willing to add a paid inquiry service? I’m not sure I’d pay a service online. But I’d be happy to pay my own vet or her vet techs for an email consultation.

    • I would do that too. The vet has our dogs history and if it’s a question (or series of questions) that don’t require a vet visit, this would be a great option and keep me off Dr. Google.

  4. Depends on what is one looking for, I guess; whether it’s an actual answer or research on the topic. I’m not familiar with Perl but I use either or There is even a free one,

  5. Wow! This looks like a fantastic service. I agree that paying for answers is a much better way to get more accurate answers. And these answers are very thorough. The answer you got about ear cleaning made a lot of sense and explains why I need to clean Pierson’s ears more often than Maya’s. Monthly is about right for him, not just because his ears are more open and collect more dirt, but because he has more ear hair and produces more ear wax. I like the idea better of using a cotton ball rather than the stuff squirted down the ear canal. We use a special dog ear cleaner designed just for the purpose, but maybe I don’t have to do that to Pierson after all.


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