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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Why You Need a Good Old-Fashioned Modern Doctor for Your Pet

When I question an article I read on the web, usually one advocating the use of turmeric and coconut oil as a panacea for cancer, it’s inevitable that two things will happen:

  1. Someone says I’m a shill for either Big Pharma, Big Pet Food, or both;
  1. Someone else will chime in and point out all the flaws in the veterinary education curriculum, despite not having been a part of any of them.


It’s hard to argue with someone who has a pre-determined conclusion, so I’ve learned over the years not to waste my time. It’s too bad, really, because I do want to debate and learn, but some people are determined to make that impossible.


What many people don’t understand is that I question everything, including the current way we do things. Many veterinarians I know do as well; that’s why we’re generally considered to be a pain in the butt.


Pharma reps rolling out a new drug get grilled at conferences by vets. If they don’t have evidence that their drug is more effective, more convenient, or more cost-conscious than what’s worked just fine for years, the average practitioner has no plans to test the waters on their own patients.


On the other hand, we also question the status quo when the evidence suggests there is a better alternative. The push for better pain management is a great example. We have made great strides in the past decade in recognizing and addressing pain in companion animals.


Vaccination is another example of change coming from within. The AAHA Canine Vaccination Task Force has led the way in evaluating individual vaccines on the basis of efficacy, risk to patient, and duration of immunity. Comprised of world experts in immunology, infectious disease, law, and internal medicine, they are the group that recommended many vaccines be changed from yearly to every three years and defined “core” versus “non-core” vaccines to help guide clinicians in their individual patient recommendations.


When I graduated, Giardia, FIP and Corona vaccines were still routinely being offered to pets. I questioned it. I refused to administer them. I am not the only one who did. Questioning these practices leads to better medicine.


When alternative medicine is presented, we question that too. Sometimes the evidence shows it is a worthwhile practice, and it becomes gradually incorporated into mainstream medicine. Acupuncture, lasers, glucosamine supplements, and essential fatty acids are all examples of well-accepted practices that were once considered a little out there.


Which brings me to this last point: When I say something is loopy, I’m not just parroting a knee-jerk reflex from my years of indoctrination or whatever it is that people assume I’ve gone through in my training; I’ve given it genuine consideration.


When people ask me about raw feeding, I give them my genuine opinion: I think home cooked diets are the safest compromise. I have yet to see a single bit of evidence that demonstrates home prepared foods lose their benefit when you heat them to safe temperatures. And I’ve looked because lots of people really are convinced. But while I haven’t found it myself, I’ve found lots of examples of raw food run amuck and getting people and pets seriously ill. I am still open to evidence, and I always will be.


I think glucosamine, EFA supplements, and liver support supplements are great adjuncts to traditional medicine.  I know one veterinary oncologist who swears by medicinal mushrooms for certain cancers (in addition to traditional medicine). Heck, I even got certified in veterinary acupuncture. If I could afford a laser, I’d get one of those too.


I think if you want to feed your dog turmeric and coconut oil every day, knock yourself out; it won’t hurt him. Just don’t let it hold you back from regular screenings and aspirating suspicious masses, because at the end of the day, the evidence shows that’s still the best way to keep your pet from dying of cancer.


Yes, there are some stubborn vets who won’t consider looking at things from a different perspective, but they aren’t representative of us all. I’ll never stop questioning things. And that makes some people mad, from all corners. I guess that means we’re doing something right.



Dr. Jessica Vogelsang



Image: lassedesignen / Shutterstock


Comments  1

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  • Questions
    08/20/2015 05:45pm

    I totally agree that you can't "argue" with someone who has already made up their mind, regardless of the evidence. You can see the wall go up and nothing you say will get past it.

    I love the questioning that my vet does. If he's not 100% sure, he'll post on VIN (gosh, I wish I could get onto VIN, not just the non-medical people's corresponding site.) He'll share what he finds.

    Rarely, very rarely, will he say, "If it were my cat...." If he says that, I'm 100% behind whatever he suggests.

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