September 30, 2014 — It is with great sadness that we learned of the untimely passing of the highly accomplished Dr. Lori Huston today. In honor of her passing we are reposting this column which honors her most recent awards and tells a little about the person we knew for too brief a time. Our thoughts are with her loved ones, her clinic colleagues, all the organizations she touched and most certainly with the pet owners and pets whose lives she touched every day — Lea-Ann Germinder
This marks the return of our Goodnewsforpets Guest Interview feature since the relaunch of the site at BlogPaws just a few months ago. Dozens of guest veterinarians have been interviewed over the years for this column but the selection of this person is especially significant. That’s because Lorie Huston, DVM, CVJ is someone we met at BlogPaws then slowly came to realize shared our past, present and future too. She is the first veterinarian to serve as president of the Cat Writers’ Association, which was the first media member of Goodnewsforpets with special thanks to then president and founder Amy Shojai, when the site launched in 2000.
She recently was named the first veterinarian to win the prestigious Winn Feline Foundation Media Appreciation Award. Goodnewsforpets has championed the cause of the Winn Feline Foundation since original columnist Steve Dale brought it to our attention and the “she is everywhere” Susan Little, DVM, DABVP was Winn Feline Foundation president (now AAFP president-elect). Susan asked our parent company Germinder & Associates to rebrand its logo, still in use today.
Lorie has quite a few more firsts ahead. She and her board at CWA are changing the way the CWA organization meets the needs of cat writers and bloggers today. That’s why we are announcing the very first Goodnewsforpets sponsorship of the CWA meeting. We will be checking in with and promoting the conference over the next few months, but here is our very first interview with the very special, and now we can reveal, musically talented, Lorie Huston.
Every veterinarian has a story to tell about how they decided to become a veterinarian. What’s yours?
I’ve always loved animals and always played with the idea of being a veterinarian even as a child. But, when I was younger, I was active in music, playing both the piano and cello, and I really enjoyed that as well. My family, particularly my parents, were always supportive and encouraged me to follow whatever path seemed right for me. I wavered for a time between a career in music and one in veterinary medicine. But, as a musician, I had some talent but was never going to be the virtuoso that I would have wanted to become. A career teaching music didn’t appeal to me and I knew I didn’t have the ability to become a concert pianist and/or cellist, which would have been my goal. I was good at science and good with animals though. And I felt like I could become a top-notch veterinarian. So, I chose that path. I never looked back and don’t have any regrets. I love being a veterinarian and I love being able to help animals. I do still enjoy music though.
You decided to become a practicing veterinarian and then you decided to start blogging. Can you tell us how you got started?
I started blogging as a means of relaying accurate up-to-date information about pet care. Many of my clients were searching online for information and some of what they were finding was good. Some was not so good though, and some was even dangerous. Originally, my intent was to provide a source that I could send my own clients to. Before long, my blog was being read by pet owners across the US, in Canada, and even in the UK.
What is your favorite area of veterinary medicine to write about?
That’s a good question and I’m not sure I really have a favorite topic or area. I write almost exclusively about dogs and cats, because that’s where my expertise lies. And I particularly enjoy talking about new developments and advancements in health care and about preventive health care.
Now you are president of the Cat Writer’s Association. Is that a first for a veterinarian to lead the association? What do you hope to accomplish in your role?
It is a first. I was also the first veterinarian to be awarded the Winn Feline Foundation Media Appreciation Award. My goal is to help grow CWA and to increase recognition of our association. I believe CWA already has a lot to offer its members. I would like to continue to add new benefits and see our members take full advantage of all the opportunities afforded to its members. Ultimately, I believe our members are the people who can and should be responsible for delivering the message that cats make good pets and that they require the same level of care that dogs do. I think that we, as an organization made of cat lovers, advocates, and educators, have the ability to help solve some of the many problems facing cats as a species. We have members that primarily seek to educate and others that prefer to entertain. We do this, depending on the individual, through the written word, through images, and through the spoken word. All of these avenues have possibilities in fulfilling the goal of promoting the cat as a species.
We recently attended BlogPaws where you were presented with the Winn Feline Foundation Media Award. Congratulations! We also saw more veterinary bloggers and Mike Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP, CEO of the American Animal Hospital Association who we’ve interviewed for this column, announced the BlogPaws Nose-to-Nose Pet Blogging and Social Media awards at the conference in May. Why do you think veterinarians are taking such an increasingly high interest in blogging and bloggers now?
Honestly, I think veterinarians, as a profession, are still missing the boat when it comes to blogging and making use of social media. Too few take advantage of the opportunities afforded by these venues even now. I think it’s way past time for the profession to enter the digital age and realize that the message that we should be delivering is being delivered by someone else entirely because we’re simply not there. I do applaud those organizations, like AAHA, AVMA, AAFP, Winn Feline Foundation, and CATalyst Council (to name only a few), that are successfully getting their respective messages out. But I would like to see more veterinarians lending their own voices to the discussion and supporting these organizations openly via social media channels.
Can you tell us more about the Cat Writer’s Association and this fall’s new BarkWorld/MeowWorld Conference?
This year’s conference is an exciting change for CWA as we partner with BarkWorld. Each organization (CWA and BarkWorld) adds something unique to the mix and provides opportunities for attendees of the conference that just wouldn’t be possible without the partnership. CWA, being made up of professional authors, writers, journalists, broadcasters, editors and publishers, will provide access to the world of professional publishing to the bloggers and social media users that make up BarkWorld’s audience. On the other hand, BarkWorld provides access to brands and to learning opportunities relating to blogging and social media, giving CWA members a unique chance to learn the ins and outs of these venues. In today’s world, a professional needs to know how to use their blog and their social media avenues for promotional purposes. And BarkWorld will teach that skill. And, of course, there’s the obvious – that CWA brings information about cats while BarkWorld focuses on dogs. Networking, the opportunity to meet new people as well as catching up with old friends, also plays a big role in any conference like this.
How do you effectively combine traditional writers and bloggers into one conference?
I think of bloggers as writers, in every sense of the word. Granted, they publish online rather in print. And they may have a writing style that is a bit different than the traditional. However, I don’t (personally anyway) make that much of a distinction between the two. There is a great deal of crossover between bloggers and more traditional writers, with many writers functioning as both. Writing is writing, wherever it appears. I will admit, though, that there are bloggers of all levels of skill. Some write very well and others could use some improvement. (To be fair, the same can be said of traditional writers also.) Traditional writers have editors to which they must answer. However, on a blog, the blogger wears many hats, including writer, editor, publisher, and marketer. Blogs are, at least in the case of personal blogs, published without any oversight. I think many bloggers can learn a bit more about professionalism from CWA members, whereas CWA members can learn a lot about growing an audience and forming a network from many of the more successful bloggers.
Are there journalistic guidelines for writers and bloggers who write about pet products and information?
There are no guidelines for those providing information online. That’s something that troubles me deeply. It’s one of the primary reasons I started writing and blogging. Too many bloggers and writers offer information carelessly, without citing sources or providing attribution. Too many offer their personal opinion as fact, with little if anything to back up that opinion other than personal experience. Sharing personal experiences and opinions is fine, as long as the reader understands that’s what a writer is doing. But it rises to the level of becoming unprofessional and potentially even dangerous when personal opinion is presented as indisputable fact. Those who write about pet products must adhere to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines regarding disclosure. Essentially, that means that if a writer or blogger is compensated in any form (including free product), they must disclose that fact in the review.
How can a pet owner determine of the information given in an article or a blog is appropriate for their pet?
One of the most important things a pet owner can do is to check on the credentials of the writer or blogger providing the information. If there is a source quoted within the article or post, what are that person’s credentials? Are they actually qualified to be providing the information they are offering? References cited should be considered as well. Is the reference a respected journal, text book, or the proceedings from a reputable conference? Or is it the equivalent of the “National Enquirer”?
The other point I always emphasize is that, if you have a question about your individual pet, the best person to ask is your veterinarian. Even if the information in an article or blog post is accurate, it may or may not provide an appropriate solution for your pet. Each pet is unique, with different needs. Pet food is a good example. There are many people that extol the virtues of one type of diet or another because their pet does well on the diet. But just because my cats do well on a particular food doesn’t mean that your cat will. There are many different factors to consider – the pet’s species, age, overall health, the pet owner’s expectations, and much more. There really is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to pet food. The same is true for many other pet care issues and products.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk more about some of my favorite subjects – pets, CWA, our upcoming conference, and my writing efforts.
To register for the CWA conference, visit www.catwriters.com.
To contact Dr. Lorie Huston, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @loriehuston.com. Also please visit: www.lorie-huston.com or www.pet-health-care-gazette.com.