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What Your Vet Won't Tell You and What You Need to Know
Even though I'm a holistic doctor, I was trained as a conventional veterinarian (unfortunately there are no training programs and veterinary schools that focus on holistic medical therapies.) Therefore, not only do I have access to both conventional and natural treatments for my patients, but I understand the philosophies of both types of medical care.
While I'm not against conventional medical care per se, I just think that in most cases there is a better way to maintain health than simply over-medicating ourselves and our pets. Additionally, I've learned many things since adopting a more natural holistic lifestyle and approach to my veterinary practice. In this article, I'm going to share some things that a conventional veterinarian won't share with you, either because he doesn't know this information or chooses not to believe in.
1. Your Dog Doesn't Need Vaccines Every Year
While many pet owners have heard this, unfortunately many have not and continue to take their pets to the veterinarian's office each year for their annual shots. Yet even conventional medical organizations including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association recommend that most dogs not receive every possible vaccine each year. Studies have shown that most of our vaccines in the market today are excellent vaccines producing many years of immunity. This means that with the exception of limited puppy immunizations and possibly a limited series of boosters given at approximately 1 1/2 years of age, most adult dogs do not need and should not receive vaccines every year.
In my book The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats I discuss a number of potential short-term and long-term problems that can occur as a result of pets receiving unnecessary vaccinations, including fever, pain at the injection site, nausea, thyroid disease, immune problems of the blood cells, and cancer.
Even if there was not an increased risk of these problems that are associated with repeated vaccinations, simply getting your dog unnecessary vaccinations just because "they won't hurt him" is a waste of money and in my opinion medical malpractice.
Immunization, like all medical procedures, should be personally tailored to the needs of each pet. Indoor pampered dogs and rarely go outside and never see another dog have different requirements for immunization than dogs which are traveling around the world and competing in dog shows.
This is not to suggest that vaccines have no place in preventing diseases in dogs. It is to suggest that vaccines are only one part, and in my opinion a very small part, of "health care." Annual visits (and for pets five years of age and over visits every six months) to the veterinarian are important to review diet, health care issues, the pet's weight, parasite control and prevention, and early detection of diseases that can occur as a result of blood testing and urine evaluation.
In place of repeated unnecessary immunizations, a simple blood antibody titer test can determine if and when your pet needs immunizations. Most commonly, the blood titer test is done to determine antibodies to distemper virus and parvovirus, the two most common viral diseases of dogs. If titers are low, immunization can be considered if the pet is healthy and does not have any other specific medical issues that must be addressed.
Finally, if your veterinarian remains skeptical of my recommendations, ask one simple question: "Where is the evidence that shows that my dog needs vaccines every year?" He won't be able to show you this evidence because there is none!
2. Your Dog Doesn't Need Chemical Flea Control Products
Most of my new patients are receiving monthly flea and tick control chemicals on an annual basis. Sometimes these chemicals are given by themselves, other times they're combined with monthly heartworm medications. Whenever I ask my new clients why they are using these products, their answer is always the same: "My vet told me my dog needed that."
When I then asked them if they have ever seen fleas or ticks on their pet, with rare exception they always answer "No."
The answer is not "No" because the products are not killing these pests but rather because that is not exposed to fleas and ticks, making these chemicals unnecessary, adding to the cost of healthcare for the owner, and in my opinion poisoning the dog with unnecessary chemicals. While I don't have a problem using monthly oral heartworm preventive medication on an annual basis in most parts of the country, to simply put chemicals in or on your pet to prevent fleas and ticks when the pet has no exposure to fleas and ticks just doesn't make sense to me. I know the use of these products results in significant profit for both the manufacturer and the veterinarian prescribing them (I used to make a lot of money prescribing them when I was simply treating patients using a conventional approach.)
Certainly if fleas and ticks are a real problem, rather than a theoretical problem, for the pet, I have no problem using these chemical products on a limited basis IF the inside and outside environments are also treated, preferably with natural therapies. And of course, integrating these flea and tick chemicals with natural therapies (such as frequent bathing with Dr. Shawn's Flea & Tick Shampoo, and judicious use of Dr. Shawn's Herbal Flea & Tick Spray) is also helpful and can reduce the amount of chemical preventive medications needed. But as is the case with vaccinations, simply to use all these chemical products makes no sense and I believe contributes to the declining health I see in many pets.
3. Homemade Food Won't Kill Your Pet
Most conventional doctors will tell you never to feed your dog "people food." Yet, "people food" is exactly what goes into dog food, although in many cases the quality of the "people food" ingredients is not necessarily healthy (food that is condemned as unhealthy for human use is legally allowed to be made into dog food!)
To maximize your pet's health, I offer my pet owners a choice: they can feed a natural or organic processed dog food (thankfully there are many more manufacturers that make these great foods today than when I started as a holistic veterinarian many years ago) or they can feed a homemade diet, either raw or cooked with a recipe I provide them (many such recipes are available in my book, The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats.) Since diet is one thing all pet owners can control, and since a healthy natural diet is the foundation of any holistic health plan, it's important to feed your pet the best food you can afford.
4. Natural Therapies May Be More Effective and Less Expensive Than Conventional Medications
While conventional medicine is usually best for acute problems, the natural approach is usually the best way to go when dealing with chronic problems that so often affect our pets. In general, natural therapies such as herbal remedies, homeopathics, nutritional supplements, and physical therapies including chiropractic, cold laser therapy, and acupuncture work as well as if not better than traditional drug therapies. In most cases, these natural therapies are also less expensive than traditional medical therapies. Even in those cases where a natural approach may at first appear to be more expensive, long-term costs as well as the benefit to your pet's health usually favors a natural approach. For example, allergic pets often respond very well to a combination of fatty acids, antioxidants, herbs, homeopathics, and frequent bathing with organic shampoo. The conventional approach would involve the regular use of oral or injectable corticosteroids, antibiotics, or both. While these conventional medical therapies may initially cost less than the natural therapies, the long-term costs can be higher due to increased veterinary visits to monitor liver, thyroid gland, adrenal gland, and kidney function (to make sure there are no problems with these organs as a result of chronic steroid and antibiotic usage.) Additionally, pets taking these medications on a regular basis often have secondary infections which must also be treated, adding to the cost of the pet's care. Finally, pets treated with chronic steroid therapy usually live shorter lives than pets using natural therapies; even if these therapies were less expensive than natural therapies, most owners would not want to shorten their pets lives to simply save money on pet care.
5. A Natural Approach to Health Care Can Prevent As Well As Treat Diseases
Finally, keep in mind that a natural approach to pet care can prevent (or at least minimize) diseases as well as treat them. So often, pet owners only think to turn to natural medicine when a pet is sick. However, using a natural approach to healthcare can also work really well to keep your pet healthy, minimizing trips to the veterinarian's office for illness.
While conventional veterinarians usually do a good job of treating illness, it's obvious that using natural therapies are much preferred in most cases. Additionally, when you consider all the benefits natural care can offer for preventing diseases and keeping pets healthy, I think you'll agree it's the way to go!
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