Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

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I realise this subject is a bit off message for a vet who concentrates on improving home pet euthanasia for both animal and owner. But alternative medicine is a subject close to my heart.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (or CAM for short) refers to all those approaches to health that ‘western medicine’ doesn’t regard as being provable. Or at least, that is my definition… CAM includes many named approaches, but the main two are vet homeopathy and veterinary acupuncture.

Homeopathy and acupuncture

In human medicine in the UK, NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) have rejected homeopathy outright. Homeopathy will never be offered on the NHS. They do accept that acupuncture may be of benefit to some patients, and will allow its restricted usage on two specified diseases within the NHS (namely migraine and tension-headaches).

Over the last year, there has been a concerted effort within the vet profession to ban alternative medicines for animal treatment: A small group of influential vets have pursued a campaign which argues that animals receiving CAMs are suffering because they are not receiving western medicine. This group have been carrying out a somewhat hysterical crusade against homeopathy and vets who practice it. It should be noted that the vast majority of vets who do homeopathy also carry on normal vet medicine too. They often combine the two.

In the last month or so, the Royal College of Vet Surgeons – the organisation that controls what vets can and cannot do – has been formulating a plan to control the use of CAMs in animals.

The end for alternative medicine help for pets?

It looks like this small group of out-spoken, sectarian and conservative vets will win the day, and they will restrict the use of CAMs on animals. First to go will be homeopathy. It’s an easy target for scientists to derogate. The unfortunate result of stopping vets doing homeopathy will be that owners who want it will source their homeopathic ‘treatments’ online. They will then ‘medicate’ their animals without veterinary guidance. I don’t ‘believe’ in homeopathy myself, but even I can see a ban is not a good idea for our pet’s welfare. It’s only a small step from a pet owner giving their pet homeopathic treatments to giving them herbs and the like – which can be toxic and dangerous.

If you speak to people who have had their pets treated with acupuncture, a great many will say it works. Those vets that use it obviously think it works and these are highly trained veterinary professionals who often use ‘normal’ medicines and drugs too in their practice.

My fear is that if homeopathy is restricted or banned altogether, then a ban on acupuncture will quickly follow. And thousands of pets across the UK who currently benefit from its use will be left to suffer. Worse still, “underground” non-vets may begin to treat pets using acupuncture which is a disaster for their health and welfare.

My message to the vet profession is

“Watch out – don’t just sit around. Don’t let a few bullying people damage your hard-won right to treat animals how you think best. Go and tell the RCVS to leave CAMs alone – they do no harm (unlike many ‘normal’ treatments). And CAMs are administered by vets who always have the animal’s best interests at heart.”

Why am I (Quietus Vet) talking about this?

It’s because I feel pet owners should have as much choice as possible. They should be able to choose to have their pet treated without drugs if they wish. Or maybe have a CAM in addition to ‘normal treatments’. People are quite capable of making the right decisions for their pets and vets should remember this. I see this every day in my work – people are now choosing to have their pet spend their last hours at home. People call me to visit their home to help put to sleep their beloved dog or cat – many of whom would continue to suffer without our unique service.

Quietus Vet – Caring Pet Euthanasia – more choice.

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