The above title seems to be the tone of many websites I have seen recently in the blogosphere. Many of these sites pit holistic and traditional medicine against each other when they both can have their place. The purpose of this article is not to uplift or disparage one over the other. The plan is to clear up many misconceptions and misinformation shared on sites that have this tone. It was not until I started my blog a few months ago that I became fully aware of the vast amount of information that is shared about veterinary health on the internet. I had some ideas, but never knew to what extent. Not that I have a specific problem with differing views regarding pet health. Veterinarians themselves differ amongst themselves on how to approach medical cases. The main problem is the people sharing this information and how it is shared. When this information is prefaced by common generalizations such as “veterinarians are just interested in making money that is why they offer this”, or “veterinarians are just interested in making your pet sick with their chemicals” etc. I feel it weakens the validity of the information that is shared. The most popular topics seem to be regarding vaccines and pet foods. Everyone has an opinion when to vaccinate your pet and what you should feed your pet. The problem is people want to follow advice of everybody else except their veterinarian. This is because they believe we are just trying to take advantage of them financially. It is like veterinarians belong to some secret society that are out to take advantage of innocent clients with our “chemicals”. Unfortunately, this has resulted in bad advice spilling over to other topics such as when should spay or neuter your pet or how you should treat specific medical conditions.
The way semantics are used in these articles also have contributed to the negative tone toward veterinarians. I have seen the term “dangerous” used loosely toward vaccinations, medications, and specific surgical procedures. If everything that has a potential side effect is considered dangerous then everything in medicine cabinets are dangerous worldwide. With that logic then all house hold cleaners are dangerous . All food would be considered dangerous as well since most can be allergens for some people. Just because these things have side effects , it does not necessarily make them dangerous. As I mentioned in the article “Side Effects and your pet”, it is important that we are aware of these effects but costs vs benefits are considered in these decisions. This is contrary to the belief that treatment decisions are purely based on finances.
I would encourage you do research when it comes to your pet’s health. You just have to be cautious where you get this information from. So how do you know whose advice you should listen to when researching a topic? Well the messenger does matter. I talk about this in my earlier post regarding “Top 5 Reasons Why I am better than Dr. Google”. Why the messenger matters comes down to two words, “clinical experience”. I see many people posting health related information touting their experience with animals. They boast of having many years of owning animals, breeding animals, rescuing animals, or training animals. While these people may be experts in their particular field, they don’t always have true clinical experience. Yet some feel confident enough to claim authority on animal health issues. So what is clinical experience? Clinical experience is having exposure to multiple animals with varying illness and seeing them through from diagnosis to treatment. Why is this important? This experience allows one to recognize that not all animals respond the same to treatment, even those who have the same diagnosis. Veterinary medicine is not one size fits all. Many factors may determine how and what we treat a patient with. Two major factors that we consider are characteristics of the patient and the pet owner’s habits. An example would be certain pets do not take pills well, so alternatives such as injections or topical meds are considered. Regarding a pet owner’s habits, if they have a history of non compliance then it is likely the treatment protocol will be based on that history. Therefore, not all pets are treated the same. Another point is that not all pets respond to medications the same. Some may experience side effects of treatment while others may not. Those without clinical experience tend not to understand this and give blanket statements about how pets should be treated. Also I mention in my article “Being a Veterinarian: What does it take?” an owner’s perspective may affect how a patient is treated.
Let’s look at holistic medicine vs traditional as it relates to a client’s perspective. Holistic medicine deals with health as a whole. It not only deals with treating current ailments, it also deals with preventing future disease whether through diet, nutrition, or avoidance of agitators of health. Where traditional medicine may focus on treating current ailments and may have some holistic elements. So which approach do clients tend gravitate to? In my experience, a fair amount of pet owners only visit a veterinarian when it is necessary. When they do come in, they often want the quickest fix as cheap as possible. A perfect example of this is when I see a client for allergies they just often just want steroids and antibiotics. They are often uninterested in learning methods how to decrease recurrence of allergy symptoms. So what role does this play in veterinary medicine? Many treatments and vaccination protocols are based on this attitude from pet owners. If pet owners had more of a holistic attitude, there probably would not be a need for so many vaccinations or medications with potential side effects.
So let’s look at financial benefits vs. health benefits when it comes to clinical experience. I will use a common topic such as vaccines to demonstrate my point. In my clinical experience vaccines provide a major health benefit to pets when compared to pets who are unvaccinated. This is why I recommend specific vaccination protocols. There are many clients who are told to keep their puppies away from other dogs until vaccines are updated, they are many who do the opposite. So vaccines protocols are designed to help protect these pets despite the lack of compliance. Veterinarians with different experiences are likely to have alternate perspective regarding vaccine protocols. But even with a differing perspective, it is not likely due to monetary gains. Even if it was, vaccinations would not be the best way for a clinic to boost income. Less and less owners are coming to veterinary clinics for vaccinations. Many are either vaccinating their pets themselves or taking them to low cost vaccination only clinics. As a result, vaccinations contribute a small portion to the total profit of a veterinary clinic. In comparison, professional services like surgeries, and hospitalization of sick patients contribute the most. If a clinic is looking to increase profits scrupulously, it would be better not to promote vaccinations or regular veterinary visits. As I mentioned in “5 Top Reasons Why I am better than Dr. Google”, the most expensive cases come from unvaccinated pets and those who don’t see a veterinarian on a regular basis.
Can veterinarians be money hungry? Yes they can, but so can preachers, doctors, priests, fireman, lawyers, etc… You get the picture. Any human can have devious intentions. But being part of a particular career does not necessarily make them that way. I tend to believe that the negative tone of these websites are based on actual bad experiences with a veterinary clinic or veterinarian. The problem with this is that they take these experiences and extrapolate them as a bad stigma for all. This is not helpful because they don’t consider all the important factors that are involved in treating a pet. What some don’t realize is that we can all learn from different perspectives even if we don’t agree with them. Also to re-emphasize that veterinary medicine is not one size fits all. One protocol that may work well for one pet doesn’t guarantee it works well for others. If you are looking for the best care for your pets, it is important that you establish a good relationship with a veterinarian. In that relationship, there should be a strong understanding for what you and your pet stand for.