4 Tips for Choosing A Veterinary Reference That Meets Your Needs

September 26, 2023
4 min

Even the smartest veterinarian in the world is still a human being—not a supercomputer. We all have to rely on veterinary references to make and double-check our diagnostic and treatment plans. But how do you pick the right veterinary reference for you? Ask yourself these 4 questions. 

1. What type of veterinary content are you looking for? (Bonus: Is it easy to use?)

We’re busier than ever in practice. When you’re facing a full appointment schedule, time is always of the essence. We want to quickly locate the diagnostic and treatment information we need to treat our patient and move on to the next exam room (or sit down to eat lunch).

A comprehensive general veterinary reference that broadly covers all the most common clinical conditions we see every day is important. You’ll also want a reference with a consistent, common-sense format, so you can quickly find the information you need. 

Most publishers and providers offer free demos, limited samples, and/or a table of contents for you to review, so take some time to see how easy it is to find information when you’re in a hurry. The reference you choose should also offer a range of diagnostic and treatment options along a spectrum of care, so it’s relevant to your area of practice.

2. What format of veterinary reference do you prefer?

Some of us are paper lovers who love flipping through pages, whereas others would be happy to never crack a textbook open again.

Veterinary references come in more formats than ever, each with its own pros and cons. 


The more content these references include, the heavier and less portable they become. You may also find yourself competing with your colleagues for your favorite textbook or hunting down a misplaced copy.

While most textbooks are published to high academic standards, they may be out of date between editions—or even by the time they’re published. You’ll need to keep in mind the cost associated with buying new editions every couple of years. 


Digital textbooks typically match their print edition counterpart, but they’re more portable and offer the advantage of keyword search. But just like the print edition, they’ll go out of date between editions. 

Some require internet access, and others require you to download an application from the publisher, which can be inconvenient when you’re trying to quickly find information between appointments—especially if you’re switching between textbooks from multiple publishers. 

Digital subscriptions

These generally fall into the category of clinical decision support (CDS) tools. While the feature mix varies, CDS tools often include summaries of clinical conditions, diagnostic trees, client education tools, a drug reference, and other interactive elements, like calculators and safety tools. They are usually accessible from any internet-connected device and are highly searchable and easy to navigate (when well-designed). This makes it possible for you to quickly find answers to your questions and move on with your day. 

These references are more likely to be continually updated than textbooks. They also often include multimedia content such as images or videos and easily link to citations or other related information. 

Their digital connectivity also gives them major client communication benefits. Typically, you can show pet owners images or videos straight from the screen and send or print client education materials with a couple of clicks.

The main drawback of digital subscriptions is that they depend on a charged device and at least some level of internet access. This may not present a major obstacle to today’s highly connected practice, but if your phone battery is running low or you don’t get great service, you may need to keep a backup option on hand. 

3. How accurate is your veterinary reference?

You need references that provide relevant information you can trust, so evaluating the source of the content is critical.

Does your reference provide clear author information and does the author have the necessary expertise to write on this topic? Ideally, content should be written by specialists in a relevant field and should undergo a peer-review process. 

The information should also include citations or references so you can learn more or double-check the relevance of the content.

Unfortunately, we can’t assume textbooks are automatically reliable. Self-publishing allows authors to produce a professional-looking product without the traditional publishing process, which may mean important steps of review are missed. The system for reviewing textbook content may vary by publisher or process, and the information isn’t automatically peer reviewed.

4. How often is the information in your veterinary reference updated?

When you’re evaluating a reference, it’s important to look at how often the content is updated and reviewed for ongoing accuracy.

Copyright date is easy to find in textbooks, but remember: Copyright reflects when the content was published, not when it was written. There may be several rounds of editing—and several years—between when the content was written and when it was published. 

While digital content is easier to update, regular updates aren’t guaranteed. The content should indicate when it was initially written and when it was most recently modified. Be cautious when content doesn’t have copyright or update dates.

Get veterinary content you can trust

As veterinarians ourselves, we know it’s challenging to find everything you need in a veterinary reference in one place. That’s why we built Plumb’s Pro™. It’s an easy-to-use clinical decision support tool that provides trusted clinical support from diagnosis to discharge.

All the diagnostic and treatment information in Plumb’s Pro™ is original and written by experts in their field. It’s also peer-reviewed, continually updated, and accessible in seconds on any internet-connected device. 

In addition to diagnostic and treatment monographs, Plumb’s Pro™ also contains:

  • Algorithms to give step-by-step clinical decision support
  • Professional, easy-to-read pet owner handouts on drugs, clinical conditions, procedures, and preventive care
  • All the trusted prescribing support of Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs®
  • The first-of-its-kind drug interaction checker for veterinary patients
  • And more

When you choose Plumb’s Pro™ as your go-to veterinary reference, you can trust the information you find to help you make confident clinical decisions for your patients.

Want to see Dx & Tx in action? Watch small animal veterinarian Peggy Burris, DVM, use these clinical monographs while working up a case. Watch a demo.

Ready to add Plumb’s Pro™ to your practice? Choose your plan.