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This is a fork from this more-general question about scope. There has been some discussion of whether questions seeking medical information should be on-topic at all, and if so under what conditions. What say you?

(I'm going to start by self-answering with what I said there, but I don't intend to shut out other answers!)

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General medical information should be on-topic, such as:

  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of these three different treatments commonly used for $disease?

  • How often do indoor-only pets contract FIV?

  • $professional_publication had information about a promising new treatment for $condition a year ago; what further work has been done?

  • We suspect food allergies; what alternatives are there to the expensive prescription diet?

  • What is the general prognosis for $diagnosis?

Information like that is already available online (e.g. through VIN), and we also hope to attract veterinary professionals who may have questions of this sort.

On the other hand, questions seeking personal medical advice should be off-topic, such as:

  • Should I subject my elderly pet to surgery for $problem?

  • Should I vaccinate my indoor pet for FIV?

  • If I accidentally skip a dose of $medicine should I just skip it or double up the next one?

  • (Many personal details here, ending with) what should I do?

Taking a cue from other sites that can attract professional-advice questions, we should develop some disclaimer language for the "about" page and help center. See, for example, Mi Yodeya, which does not give professional rabbinic advice.

Sometimes a specific question seeking personal medical advice can be generalized to be on-topic. When possible this should be done.

From an answer originally posted here.

  • It's a good start at defining the line at any rate. – John Cavan Oct 9 '13 at 21:37
  • Tricky case in point: pets.stackexchange.com/questions/351/… (this is a detailed explanation that isn't really possible to give without basically copying a site verbatim). – John Cavan Oct 9 '13 at 22:15
  • @JohnCavan true. My concern with this question (which I noted in the comments there) is the future value. Unless you happen to be interested in how to save a choking animal and google it randomly, no one who actually needs this information will ever use it. – psubsee2003 Oct 10 '13 at 0:32
  • @psubsee2003 - I agree, but I can't seem to choose a reasonable explanation as to why I think it should be closed beyond "off topic medical" which hasn't been fully agreed to yet... – John Cavan Oct 10 '13 at 0:34
  • How is 'Should I subject my elderly pet to surgery for $problem?' really different from 'What are the risks and benefits of surgery for $problem in the geriatric population?' Or is the answer to 'Should I vaccinate my indoor pet for FIV?' different from 'What does the research show about the necessity of FIV vaccination in indoor cats?' – Julie Baumler Oct 10 '13 at 4:24
  • @JulieBaumler, the latter is a better formulation of the question, and in both cases if I saw the former I would recast it as the latter. We shouldn't reject questions we can fix up like that. I'm basing this recommendation on what I've seen on other sites that sometimes attract personal-advice questions, like The Workplace and Mi Yodeya. It's about making the question apply more broadly. – Monica Cellio Oct 10 '13 at 13:20
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Based on questions asked and voting, no one seems to have a problem with asking and answering personal behavioral questions, even though animal behaviorists are usually PhD's and Veterinary Behaviorists are DVM's with additional training.

This isn't VIN (Veterinary Information Network). I think that expecting pet owners to phrase medical and behavioral questions in a way appropriate to VIN is inappropriate. I think the appropriate thing to do is to expect the answers to be general and think of questions as pertinent case studies.

For example, if someone asks "I live in California. Should I vaccinate my lab for lepto?", an appropriate answer would be one that covers the risks and benefits of leptospirosis disease and vaccine as well as the fact that California Sea Lions are sometimes carriers and so the risk is higher if your dog goes to the beach, or like many labs, likes to go into the water. However the same answer (ie risks and benefits including regional and behavioral risks) should be given to the question "What are the risks and benefits of Leptosis vaccination?" or "I live in New Mexico, should I vaccinate my poodle for lepto?"

Another example would be questions about lab results. ie "My dog had a lab test and it showed a result of X, what does this mean?" could be answered with some general information about that lab and what different ranges usually mean, but not a diagnosis of that dog specifically.

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