Personal health and nutrition information-seeking attitudes and behaviours of first year Canadian and United States veterinary students



Open Access Logo



Objective: To identify the primary sources of information first year Canadian and US veterinary students relied on for their personal health and nutrition information, and to explore their attitudes towards, and perceptions of, health information resources.

Background: Though the animal health information-seeking behaviours (HISB) of veterinary students have been explored, research regarding personal HISB of this professional student population is limited.

Evidentiary value: Participants were first year veterinary students (n=322) at the five Canadian veterinary schools and five randomly selected US veterinary schools. An online questionnaire was used to gather students’ demographic information, sources of health and nutrition information, and information-seeking attitudes and perceptions. This study may impact practice at the institutional level for veterinary educators.

Methods: STATA 15.1© was used for quantitative analysis; involving multivariate logistic regression models, univariate analyses, and measures of frequency.

Results: Results indicated high reliance on the Internet for personal health 213/322 (66%) and nutrition 196/322 (61%) information. While respondents revealed high trust levels in dietary recommendations from family doctors, 132/322 (41%) of students revealed their doctor did not provide any information on healthy diets. Students who reported the use of peer-reviewed journal articles for personal nutrition information were at greater odds of having confidence in knowing where to find nutrition information (Odds Ratio [OR] = 6.61, p<0.001).

Conclusion: Participating students reported a high reliance on the Internet search engine Google, and a general lack of guidance from medical professionals regarding general health needs.

Application: Veterinary schools should consider this information to enhance student information literacy skills, particularly to facilitate personal HISB, and consequently help in management of personal health throughout the growing demands of the programme.


Open Access Peer Reviewed

Author Biographies

Shelby A. Nielson, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

BSc (hons), MSc, PhD student, Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd E, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1 Canada

May K. Kamleh

PhD, Disease Control Epidemiologist, Harris County Public Health, 2223 W Loop South, Houston, TX, 77018 USA

Peter D. Conlon, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

DVM, PhD, MEd, Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd E, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1 Canada

Jennifer E. McWhirter, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

BSc, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd E, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1 Canada

Elizabeth A. Stone, North Carolina State University

DVM, MS, MPP, DACVS, previous Dean and currently Professor Emerita, Department of Clinical Studies, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd E, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1 Canada, and Professor Emerita, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27607 USA

Deep K. Khosa, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

BSc, BVMS, MANZCVS (Small Animal Medicine), PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd E, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1 Canada, and Academic Coordinator, Hill’s Pet Nutrition Primary Healthcare Centre, University of Guelph, 45 McGilvray Street, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1 Canada


Anderson, K. & May, F.A. (2010). Does the Method of Instruction Matter? An Experimental Examination of Information Literacy Instruction in the Online, Blended, and Face-to-Face Classrooms. The Journal of Academic Librarianship. 36(6), 495–500. DOI:

Basch, C.H., MacLean, S.A., Romero, R.A. & Ethan, D. (2018). Health Information Seeking Behavior Among College Students. Journal of Community Health. 43(6), 1094–1099. DOI:

Chen, Y.Y., Li, C-M., Liang, J-C. & Tsai, C-C. (2018). Health Information Obtained From the Internet and Changes in Medical Decision Making: Questionnaire Development and Cross-Sectional Survey. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 20(2). DOI:

Dale, V.H.M., Kinnison, T., Short, N., May, S.A. & Baillie, S. (2011). Web 2.0 and the veterinary profession: current trends and future implications for lifelong learning. Veterinary Record. 169(18), 467. DOI:

Escoffery, C., Miner, K.R., Adame, D.D., Butler, S., McCormick, L. & Mendell, E. (2005). Internet Use for Health Information Among College Students. Journal of American College Health. 53(4), 183–188. DOI:

Family physicians and nutrition counseling. (2010). Canadian Family Physician. 56(3). [online] Available from: [Accessed 27 March 2022].

Ferguson, L.A. & Pawlak, R. (2011). Health Literacy: The Road to Improved Health Outcomes. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 7(2), 123–129. DOI:

Giles, D.C. & Newbold, J. (2013). ‘Is this normal?’ The role of category predicates in constructing mental illness online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. 18(4), 476–490. DOI:

Hassan, T., Marchessault, G. & Campbell, M. (2007). Messages About Calcium and Weight in Canadian Women’s Magazines. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. 68(2), 103–106. DOI:

Ho, Y-X., O'Connor, B.H. & Mulvaney, S.A. (2014). Features of Online Health Communities for Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes. Western Journal of Nursing Research. 36(9), 1183–1198. DOI:

Hofmeister, E.H., Watson, V., Snyder, L.B.C. & Love, E.J. (2008). Validity and client use of information from the World Wide Web regarding veterinary anesthesia in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 233(12), 1860. DOI:

Jehn, C.T., Perzak, D.E., Cook, J.L., Johnston, S.A., Todhunter, R.J. & Budsberg, S.C. (2003). Usefulness, completeness, and accuracy of Web sites providing information on osteoarthritis in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 223(9), 1272–1275. DOI:

Kamleh, M., Khosa, D.K., Verbrugghe, A., Dewey, C.E. & Stone, E.A. (2020a). A cross-sectional study of pet owners' attitudes and intentions towards nutritional guidance received from veterinarians. Veterinary Record. 187(12). DOI:

Kamleh, M.K., Khosa, D.K., Dewey, C.E., Verbrugghe, A. & Stone, E.A. (2020b). The Perceived Importance, Emphasis, and Confidence in Veterinary Nutrition Education of First-Year Canadian and US Veterinary Students. Medical Science Educator. 30(1), 323–330. DOI:

Kamleh, M.K., Khosa, D.K., Dewey, C.E., Verbrugghe, A. & Stone, E.A. (2021). Ontario Veterinary College First-Year Veterinary Students' Perceptions of Companion Animal Nutrition and Their Own Nutrition: Implications for a Veterinary Nutrition Curriculum. Journal of Vetreinary Medical Education. 48(1), 71–83. DOI:

Lagoe, C. & Atkin, D. (2015). Health anxiety in the digital age: An exploration of psychological determinants of online health information seeking. Computers in Human Behavior. 52, 484–491. DOI:

Lai, N., Khosa, D., Jones-Bitton, A. & Dewey, C.E. (2019). Students' Experiences of Seeking Web-Based Animal Health Information at the Ontario Veterinary College: Exploratory Qualitative Study. JMIR Medical Education. 5(2). DOI:

Lichtenstein, A.H., Appel, L.J., Brands, M., Carnethon, M., Daniels, S., Franch, H.A., Franklin, B., Kris-Etherton, P., Harris, W.S., Howard, B., Karanja, N., Lefevre, M., Rudel, L., Sacks, F., Van Horn, L., Winston, M. & Wylie-Rosett, J. (2006). Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations Revision 2006: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee. Circulation. 114(1), 82–96. DOI:

McKinley, C.J. & Wright, P.J. (2014). Informational social support and online health information seeking: Examining the association between factors contributing to healthy eating behavior. Computers in Human Behavior. 37,107–116. DOI:

McLennan, M.W. & Sutton, R.H. (2005). Stress in Veterinary Science Students: A Study at the University of Queensland. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. 32(2), 213–218. DOI:

Mukherjee, A. & Bawden, D. (2012). Health information seeking in the information society. Health Information & Libraries Journal. 29(3), 242–246. DOI:

Nielson, S.A., Kamleh, M.K., Conlon, P.D., McWhirter, J.E., Stone, E.A. & Khosa, D.K. (2021). Understanding Incoming Canadian and US Veterinary Students' Attitudes and Perceptions of Their Dietary Habits and Levels of Physical Activity. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. 48(6), 747–755. DOI:

O'Carroll, A.M., Westby, E.P., Dooley, J. & Gordon, K.E. (2015). Information-Seeking Behaviors of Medical Students: A Cross-Sectional Web-Based Survey. JMIR Medical Education. 1(1). DOI:

World Health Organization. (2021). Track 2: Health literacy and health behaviour. [online] Available from: [Accessed 27 March 2022]

Percheski, C. & Hargittai, E. (2011). Health Information-Seeking In the Digital Age. Journal of American College Health. 59(5), 379–386. DOI:

Rennis, L., McNamara, G., Seidel, E. & Shneyderman, Y. (2015). Google It! Urban Community College Students’ Use of the Internet to Obtain Self-Care and Personal Health Information. College Student Journal. 49(3), 414–426.

Reynolds, M., Hoi, A. & Buchanan, R.R.C. (2018). Assessing the quality, reliability and readability of online health information regarding systemic lupus erythematosus. Lupus. 27, 1911–1917. DOI:

Rice, R.E. (2006). Influences, usage, and outcomes of Internet health information searching: Multivariate results from the Pew surveys. Internationl Journal of Medical Informatics. 75(1), 8–28. DOI:

Royal, K.D., Hunt, S., Scharf, V., Correa, M. & Mariani, C. (2018). Strategies Used for Making Healthy Eating Choices among Veterinary Medical Students. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. 45(3), 364–380. DOI:

Schleyer, T.K., Thyvalikakath, T.P., Spallek, H., Dziabiak, M,P. & Johnson, L.A. (2012). From Information Technology to Informatics: The Information Revolution in Dental Education. Journal of Dental Education. 76(1), 142–153. DOI:

Song, N. & Oh, Y. (2015). Investigating predictors of health information seeking and online health information seeking. The Gerontologist. 55(2), 691. DOI:

Taggart, R., Wardlaw, J., Horstman, C.L., Mason, D.R., Sidaway, B. & Havas, K. (2010). An Analysis of the Quality of Canine Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease Information Available on the Internet. Veterinary Surgery. 39(3), 278–283. DOI:

Tustin, N. (2010). The Role of Patient Satisfaction in Online Health Information Seeking. Journal of Health Communication. 15(1), 3–17. DOI:

van Weel, C. (2003). Dietary advice in family medicine. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrician. 77(4), 1008S–1010S. DOI:

Walsh, D.A., Osburn, B.I. & Schumacher, R.L. (2002). Defining the Attributes Expected of Graduating Veterinary Medical Students, Part 2: External Evaluation and Outcomes Assessment. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. 29(1), 36–42. DOI:

Weiner, S.A., Stephens, G. & Nour, A.Y.M. (2011). Information-Seeking Behaviors of First-Semester Veterinary Students: A Preliminary Report. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. 38(1), 21–32. DOI: