Natural (Veterinary) Medicine

“We’re taking an all natural approach to Fluffy’s veterinary care.”

“We prefer all natural so and so treatments/foods etc.”

I hear it everyday. If I were a logic professor I would remind my “students” that “appeal to nature” is in fact a listed and documented logical fallacy. But this is veterinary medicine and people (including myself) can honestly categorize their relationships with their dogs and cats using almost any word but logical.

Professionally, I respect your right to treat your property (pets are property) in any way you see fit. Personally when I hear someone using the appeal to nature fallacy in my exam room a little voice in my head says, “Natural, you want to know what’s natural? Cancer is natural. Dying from an infection caused by a simple laceration is natural. The diseases and conditions I treat all occur naturally. The bacteria and viruses I vaccinate against are natural, they are also organic and gluten free. Natural is letting your pet suffer from degenerative diseases. Natural is my enemy. I wake up every morning with the sole intention of whipping Mother Nature into submission. Mother Nature is harsh and indifferent, she doesn’t care one way or the other if your pet is suffering, if they are alive or dead. I do.”

I typically can keep that voice silent. But it’s always there. Right now the naturally inclined reading this are thinking, “If natural isn’t better why do we see so much more cancer/diabetes/thyroid disease/kidney disease etc.?”  Those same arguments typically lead to blaming commercial pet food/vaccinations/medications for all the increases in disease. To set the record straight, that is completely true. If it weren’t for vaccines, commercially produced and regulated pet foods and the complete pharmacopia available to our pets, they would never develop any of the diseases we see our dogs and cats dying from. That’s because we see our dogs and cats dying at ages over 12, sometimes over 20. Without the protection of modern medicine, these dogs and cats would be lucky to see 7. I know, I know you grew up on a farm and had farm dogs that never saw the vet and ate with the pigs and lived to be 18. Ok. To that I would say two things. First, whenever I hear the argument that someone’s grandfather drank whiskey, smoked cigarettes, ate bacon every morning and steak every night and lived to be 99, it doesn’t encourage me to adopt those behavior traits in my own life. Same goes for the farm dog. Second, I have seen animals age quite a bit in people’s memories, sometimes even within the space of a single examination. I once witnessed a cat go from being 11 years old at 10:00 am to being over 19 by noon. I’m not saying you’re lying, I’m saying memory is a tricky thing.

For reasons I do not fully understand there are Veterinarians out there who offer natural medicine. I suppose wherever there is demand, someone is going to meet that demand. It just ain’t me.

Thanks for reading.

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8 thoughts on “Natural (Veterinary) Medicine

  1. Great post. People really need to think about ageism in animals as well as in people. The older you are, the more chance that you will develop a debilitating or fatal disease. One of the biggest reasons we are hearing more and more about these conditions is because humans and their pets are living much longer.

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  2. I agree with much of your article- it’s a shame that so many have fallen to the natural “trend”. That being said I also think it is wise to practice holistically- not just using corporation driven protocols.

    It is not uncommon for veterinary professionals to suppress symptoms using medication and failing to address the underlying cause of the presented illness. I have been witness to several clients bringing in a pet that was literally eating its skin off. After an exam or two they are given a prednisone prescription- to be refilled “as needed”. I can’t help but to ask why the animal is being repeatedly given a medication without knowing or understanding the underlying cause. My point is that the client was not viewed from a holistic point but instead the symptoms alone were treated.

    Alternative therapies have been successfully used for animals for years- some being over 3000 years old. Alternative therapy is highly effective in cases of post-operative recovery, spinal issues, arthritis, hip dysplasia, behavioral modifications, and many others. Massage alone is known to release endorphin’s; relax muscles; increase range of motion; improve circulation; improve digestion; and strengthen the immune system.

    So I have to ask- why wouldn’t we incorporate alternative methods into the practice?

    I believe that instead of being on one end of the spectrum- veterinary care should and could exist somewhere in the middle. Vaccination protocols could be separated into core and non-core categories, as well as individualized for each patient based on his/her exposure to disease and immune status and vaccine titer blood test results. As well as inform and offer clients of all other options available, such as massage, acupuncture, hydro therapy, aromatherapy and others you deem fit for the case.

    PS. Nature isn’t the enemy- Humanity is.

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    • Tamara thanks for your thoughtful post. I am not sure what happens with each and every skin case that gets put on steroids but let’s assume a dog is flea allergic, the owners are not compliant in applying a topical and the dog is miserable. By using a steroid is the veterinarian “suppressing symptoms” or are they working with what they have in front of them to bring as much comfort a they can to that particular patient. Alternative therapies may have been in use for millenia but that in itself is not proof of efficacy. Science may not be able to explain everything but it is the best tool we have for understanding the world around us. If a treatment modality does not stand up to scientific scrutiny, does it really truly have a place in a practioner’s armamentarium. I think not. By being in the middle, or accepting treatments or ideas based on their popularity or their persistence over time rather than their actual efficacy or usefulness, we elevate options that offer no actual solutions and encourage clients to feel good about their choices while their pets receive inferior or non-existent benefits. Vaccines are separated into core and non-core categories already. They are individualized and selected for each patient. In the practice you are in there are four vaccines offered routinely for dogs and three for cats. You will see variations of this but it is likely to go unnoticed because the variation between 2 and 4 is actually quite small. Titers offer no information on the effectiveness of the cell mediated immunity to mount an appropriate immune response. In my opinion they are a waste of clients money. It is entirely feasible that a patient with low titers would still mount a perfectly reasonable immune response.

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  3. I agree that “being in the middle, or accepting treatments or ideas based on their popularity or their persistence over time rather than their actual efficacy or usefulness” is absolute ridicule. The point of my prior post was that the veterinary world should be open to a spectrum. It has only been in the past 100 years that veterinary medicine has made major strides- can we really disregard thousands of years without a thought? The “proof of efficacy” is seen in the millions of animals it has worked for, these methods have shown success! We are tapping into the energies and the powers within our own bodies and animals bodies to encourage it to heal itself. We can use conventional western therapies and holistic medicine to have a complementary whole.

    Here’s an example- recently I brought my dog Magoo home from surgery. The Doctor had given him a shot of dexamethasone, and I’m sure some of the anesthetics were still in his system- he was drugged. He was drowsy, unstable on his feet, tail down, tongue out and miserable; all to be expected. When I fed him his evening meal he just watched me from across the room without an ounce of ambition to move- very strange for my 28 lb pug. I sat next to him and starting at his back legs working my way to his front I massaged him for twenty minutes or so. When I was almost finished he stood up, licked my hand and with his tail half way into a curl he went to eat his food, and lick the bowl clean. Another example, my family’s great dane suffers from a heart condition. On his bad days he will stand uneasy, his legs will shake, the back often giving out. On these days we have found that when we spend time rubbing him down, focusing on his legs and back, he shows immediate relief and improvement. The doctors gave him four monthes to live. Between a strict diet, medications, love and the occasional massage- he’s almost to a year. The “all natural” massage didn’t cure them- but it did improve them- without harmful side effects. Massage is a safe amazing tool! It nourishes joint health, immunity, coordination, stress, blood pressure, digestion, and quality of life! I could list story after story of natural healing- acupuncture, osteopathy, nutritional therapy, laser therapy, herbal medicine, body work, etcetera etcetera… There is a component to all of them that works so why benefit from them all?

    I am a strong advocate for the importance of vaccines. I am aware that there are already core and non-core categories, but in addition each plan should be individualized and options offered. For instance, the clinic that I currently work at give the leptospirosis vaccine series starting at 12 weeks of age and boostered yearly. If most of the clients were informed that leptospirosis is rarely seen in the northeastern states, nor does the vaccine protect against every strain of lepto, then many of the clients would probably decline the vaccine therefore eliminating that patients risk of immediate and long term side effects of it.

    I will agree that the titer rave gives a false sense of security for uneducated pet owners. Vaccine titer blood test results can be used to aid in determining when to give a vaccine. If canine distemper and/ or canine adenovirus type 2 test is taken and the result is positive- the animal can is considered immune and doesn’t need to be revaccinated. Vice versa- if the result is negative we know that the animal is susceptible to infection and should be revaccinated immediately. Titer tests can also identify large lapses in vaccinations so that the Doctor may determine if the patient needs a booster or a series to be fully protected. The use of this test is a tool to strengthen and ensure the safety and immunity of each animal. It should not be in placement of vaccines, but rather supplementary, because as you said the test only measures

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  4. …antibodies, not immunity.

    Additionally I do respect that the Doctor treating the itchy patients was able to give them immediate relief- but how long does that relief really last? 7 to 10 days? A month? And then the pet resumes suffering? I’m not saying there is a magical cure that alternate therapies could provide; my directive was an example of a single solution for what could be a holistic problem.

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