In the world of social media you are bombarded by information from many sources. A wise friend once told me in a tone of absolute sarcasm: “On the Internet, everyone is an expert. Just ask them.” How is a person seeking answers supposed to sort through it all to find true, accurate information? One of the best rules to follow first, when sifting through information: consider the source.

In the early days of my years in college, we neophytes were duly cautioned about gleaning information from the Internet when doing research for our papers. Of course, Wikipedia was absolutely verboten. As one professor said, “Anyone can put anything on Wikipedia whether it’s true,  accurate, or not.” But there were other caveats offered. The most important one was always “Consider the source.” Unreliable sources were discounted as much as if you hadn’t provided a source at all.

What are we considering? First – does the source have an agenda? Do they have some underlying motivation to twist, distort, spin or hide the truth? Do they have something to gain by presenting “information” that casts them, or a product or service they offer, in a favorable light? Then always be suspect. For example, if you are looking for information on a particular remedy, you don’t go to the manufacturer’s website expecting unbiased information. Secondly, does the source appear to conduct themselves in an ethical or an unethical manner? Have you heard other customers complain about unethical behavior? Things like making false claims, or bait-and-switch (when they advertise or show pictures of a superior product but are delivering something other than what they are showing or  describing).

On the other hand, just because someone is selling something does not necessarily make them unethical. We work with many vendors who are honest and ethical and value customer satisfaction as well as the health and safety of your bird. But we’ve also found several who absolutely are not ethical nor trustworthy. When you catch someone lying to you or engaging in shady business practices such as “bait-and-switch,” then nothing they say can be trusted and especially if what they are saying directly benefits them.

Here is a good example. We once purchased a supplement containing a ‘natural’ ingredient, Pau d’Arco, that was touted on the product’s listing as having “no known adverse effects or toxicity.” This information came directly from the page where this item was being sold. After buying the product, we consulted with our veterinarian – who is also a certified veterinary herbalist. She recommended AGAINST this particular product because it can interfere with blood clotting ability, which can cause hemorrhage. We contacted the manufacturer, who initially ignored our email, which was then copied verbatim into a second email and resent. They then claimed they got the first email but had no way to respond — even though it came through exactly the same email account and they were easily able to respond to the second email. I explained what we’d found about the product and suggested that they remove the wording “no known adverse effects” from their site as risk of uncontrollable bleeding IS a significant adverse effect – one that can prove DEADLY. I understand adverse effects very well. I got straight A’s in pharmacology.

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Obligatory adorable cockatiel picture. Who wouldn’t trust a face like this?

I’m a registered nurse, and currently studying to become a certified master herbalist. I can tell you that many herbal and OTC “natural” remedies are being sold over-the-counter and touted as completely safe, but one thing that MUST be stressed is that a drug is a drug – REGARDLESS of whether it is a naturally occurring drug or one made in a lab. An adverse effect like interfering with clotting is most definitely an “adverse effect” and should be listed as such. While searching for “Pau d’Arco” returned – not surprisingly due to the very commercial bias of the Internet – glowing testimonials on its use from websites selling it, adding the word “bleeding” to the search returned FAR different results – with warnings on this clearly labeled “adverse effect” from legitimate websites including informative articles from the University of Maryland Medical Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Drugs.com. We followed our vet’s advice and did not use this substance. Lesson learned: just because something is published on a web page on the Internet does not mean it is accurate or true.

If you are looking for information on bird care, please take the time to filter through the background noise of all the companies vying for your dollars. Most of the *best* and most accurate information is going to come from people who aren’t trying to make money by selling whatever they can to bird owners – whether it’s good for your birds or not. There are unscrupulous companies out there that will disseminate “information” that is really just an advertisement to convince you to buy things for your bird that may not be in the bird’s best interest. Look at all the websites that will offer things like toxic “bird protectors” that are really just mothballs in a can (active ingredient – paradichlorobenzen) – with instructions to COVER THE CAGE so your poor bird is forced to breath in CONCENTRATED toxic fumes! They often claim they are just supplying a consumer demand (for a profit, of course) but anyone who truly knows about and cares about the health of birds would not sell this hazardous product.

It’s truly a world of buyer beware and when it comes to your bird’s health, you must be extra-cautious about filtering through the greed-motivated offerings to find the best value in both savings and SAFETY for your little feathered one!

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