Animal Naturopathy

Naturopathy is a pleasant-sounding term for an approach to health and disease that is quite different from that of science-based medicine. It is an example of an alternative philosophy that has great appeal for from a certain perspective but which, when examined closely, has little real substance.

What Is It?
According to the American Council of Animal Naturopathy (ACAN), naturopathy is an ancient practice, “naturopathy has been around since the fall of Adam and Eve.” According to more neutral and skeptical sources, it took shape in Europe in the late 19th century. ACAN defines naturopathy as:

a philosophy and system of prevention of disease first and then treatment of disease that avoids drugs and surgery and emphasizes the use of nature or natural agents such as exercise, water, herbs, etc. to assist the body in bringing its self back into balance and health.

As is often the case with alternative therapies, this is contrasted with a rather caricatured description of conventional veterinary medicine:

Today’s veterinarians are in the business of disease care, they hold doctorate titles from colleges that teach them anatomy, biology, chemistry and surgery. They are taught how to use modern, high tech equipment to diagnose while the pharmaceutical companies teach them which drug to prescribe or use to treat or suppress the symptoms of the dis-ease or illness the animal is presenting with.

The Six Principles of Naturopathy, identical to those espoused by human naturopathic organizations such as the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP),  describe the philosophy in more detail. Some key points are:

The body has the inherent ability to heal itself. This healing process is intelligent and ordered.

Every illness has a cause. Causes may occur on the physical, mental or emotional level. Symptoms are expressions of the body’s attempt to heal, but are not the cause of illness.

Animal Naturopaths use nature’s methods that minimize the risk of harmful side effects. Methods designed to suppress symptoms but not remove the underlying cause are usually harmful, their use is always avoided. [by which they mean most scientific medical therapies]

All aspects of that animal (physical, mental and emotional) are taken into account.

Illness is due to improper diet, habits, exposure to toxins and general lifestyle. 

Does It Make Sense?
The assumptions upon which naturopathy is based are questionable. The distinction between “natural” and “unnatural,” and the suggestion that the former is equivalent to “healthy” and the latter to “unhealthy,” is an appealing but ultimately vacuous idea. There is no clear line dividing natural from unnatural. Are cooking, farming, tool-making, wearing clothes, or other human behaviors that alter the world we live in inherently unnatural and unhealthy? Is it a matter of degree? Is it ok to cook plants as part of preventative or therapeutic medicine, but not ok to extract medicinal compounds from plants? It quickly becomes clear that the distinction between natural and unnatural is capricious and arbitrary, and it is not a sound basis for deciding what is healthy and what is unhealthy for us or our pets.

The idea that natural things, even if we could agree on what these are, must be healthier than unnatural things is pretty obviously false. Uranium, arsenic, botulism, rattlesnake venom, and many other “natural” things are harmful or even deadly. And clearly artificial things, like the growing of food crops, sanitation and water treatment, and medical interventions such as vaccines and antibiotics have improved the length and quality of human life far more dramatically in the last few centuries than all the efforts of the tens of thousands of years before we developed a scientific approach to understanding and manipulating our world. The fact that some of the things we create are harmful doesn’t validate the belief that anything human made is unhealthy and anything unchanged from its natural state must be healthy.

Naturopathy is, itself, a complex and purely artificial set of beliefs and practices that no other animal employs and that humans invented along with all of our other unique beliefs and behaviors. Calling it natural, and labeling scientific medicine unnatural is simply s statement of belief, not a factual or verifiable claim.

Because the philosophical basis for naturopathy is so vague and ill-defined, the actual practice of naturopaths encompasses almost any form of alternative therapy. Among the practitioners listed on the ACAN website as Certified Animal Naturopaths, you find practitioners of homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, iridology, and other therapies that are questionable or completely lacking in any validity. Whatever a particular practitioner chooses to define as “natural” is apparently acceptable within a naturopathic approach apart from vaccines, pharmaceutical medicine, and many other conventional therapies.

It is important to point out that this “board certification” in naturopathy is not recognized by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties which regulates veterinary medical specialties. It is equivalent to similar certifications for homeopaths, psychics, and astrologers in that it is invented by naturopaths to legitimize themselves and is not recognized by mainstream veterinary medicine. In fact, there is no requirement that those who take the various certification courses the ACAN offers be veterinarians or trained healthcare professionals. The ACAN web site states,

as long as you are 18 years of age or older, these courses are designed to educate no matter what level of current knowledge you may have. They prepare you to be certified in animal health coaching, nutrition consulting or animal naturopathy consulting or to inform and educate you just for your own knowledge to help your own pets if that is what you are looking for.

It seems implausible that a powerful approach to healthcare superior to modern medicine is also so simple that it can be learned and practiced by anyone without any scientific or medical knowledge. Surely such a method would have replaced all other medical practices before now?

Historically, naturopathy has been a vitalist philosophy, identifying disease as a state of imbalance in not only the physical body but the mind, spirit, or vital essence of a creature. This philosophy rejects predominantly physical causes of illness and instead considers the root of disease to be in non-physical, spiritual factors. As one proponent has put it, “vitalists analyze bodily illness mainly in terms of the spiritual factors that might be contributing to it…Disease, according to vitalists, is simply a more advanced stage of the stress that we exhibit when we persistently fail in the pursuit of physical and spiritual goals.”

Because this essentially dismisses all the progress made by science in understanding the causes and treatment of disease, and because it identifies naturopath as a purely faith-based practice, naturopaths often de-emphasize this element of their philosophy and talk more vaguely about the “inherent healing power” of the body rather than the “vital force” or spirit. It is true that the body has a remarkable capacity to heal itself and many ailments resolve without treatment, or in spite of treatment, which is one of the reasons ineffective therapies can appear to work even when they do nothing. However, naturopaths claim this inherent healing power is “intelligent and ordered,” which is a faith-based claim that cannot be examined or tested in any objective way. They also claim that this healing power can be supported by their recommendations and impeded by scientific medical therapies, which is contrary to a great deal of actual evidence.

One major problem with vitalism as a foundation for medical therapies is that its principles have to be accepted or rejected entirely on faith, which makes any claim one chooses to make immune from any objective evaluation. Given the unprecedented success of science-based medicine compared to all the methods that went before it, it seems unwise to go backwards away from the practice of objectively and critically evaluate medical claims by established scientific means.

Does It Work?
Of course the first step in answering this question is to define what “it” is, which as we’ve seen is difficult because there is no consistency to the specific interventions naturopaths employ. I have written before about homeopathy, TCM, herbal medicine, and many of the specific treatments naturopaths recommend. Many of these are unproven or clearly ineffective. Others, like herbal remedies, probiotics, and some dietary supplements may have some benefit. Categorizing them all as “natural” tells us nothing about which are helpful and which aren’t.

However, many of the recommendations naturopaths give, especially for humans, are identical to those given by conventional doctors. No one disagrees with the idea that clean, healthy food is essential for life, though what exactly this means may not be open to dispute. Similarly, clean fresh air and water, appropriate exercise, and a positive attitude are undoubtedly good for everyone, though they may not be the key to perfect health or immortality. The fact is that much of what naturopaths recommend may be perfectly reasonable, or even supported by good scientific evidence despite the fact that they are recommending it regardless of the evidence and based on a philosophy incompatible with science.

Like many alternative medicine proponents, naturopaths are happy to cite scientific research when it supports their beliefs and claims, but they are likely to dismiss any which does not. Because naturopathy is a vague philosophy encompassing many different practices, it is difficult to study in a controlled manner, and there is relatively little research on the general approach. A recent attempt at a systematic review of naturopathy found 12 studies that met the inclusion criteria, and while they appeared to show some benefits, they all had significant weaknesses and limitations that made it impossible to draw and reliable conclusions. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), the American Cancer Society, and other government and private organizations have stated that there is currently no real evidence to support the claims of naturopaths. There also appears to be absolutely no controlled clinical research on naturopathy in veterinary species.

That leaves only the inevitable testimonials. For reasons I’ve discussed many times before, individual anecdotes provide no real evidence to support or reject medical therapies. At best they can suggest potential benefits or risks to be examined more closely, but despite the fact that they are highly persuasive, they are not a trustworthy source of information about naturopathy or any other medical practice.

Is It Safe?
Again, it is difficult to comment on the safety of naturopathy as a general approach because it is so ill-defined and specific therapies are not consistent between practitioners. The risks of particular practices, such as homeopathy, herbal medicine, TCM, and all the particular alternative therapies employed by naturopaths can be considered separately. The biggest risk of the philosophy itself is that it often involves counseling people against seeking and using conventional medical diagnostics and treatments. Naturopaths are frequently opposed to vaccination, for example, which is a position that clearly places people and animals at unnecessary risk of illness and death from preventable diseases. Naturopathy, like any other pre-scientific and unproven medical practice, is not a safe or reliable substitute for scientific medical care, and eschewing conventional care in favor of naturopathy risks losing the opportunity to receive effective therapy in a timely way.

Naturopaths often present themselves as appropriate substitutes for primary care doctors, for humans and animals, despite the fact that many of them lack of any real scientific or medical training. Even in those instances when the therapy they recommend is reasonable (such as diet and exercise advice) or harmless in itself (such as homeopathy), these individuals are not qualified to detect and respond to serious health problems.

Bottom Line
Naturopathy is a vague vitalist philosophy that identifies the causes of disease as imbalances in the vital life force or spirit and in supposed dietary deficiencies or undefined environmental toxins. The basic principles of the approach are unproven and, in the case of the claim that the roots of disease are spiritual, untestable.

Naturopaths use a hodgepodge of different alternative therapies according to their personal training and inclinations. Some of these are clearly ineffective nonsense (e.g. homeopathy, iridology), others are merely unproven but at least plausible (e.g. herbal remedies, dietary supplements), and some are consistent with conventional medical recommendations (e.g. exercise, some dietary advice). It is difficult to study the overall risks and benefits of naturopathy due to the varied and inconsistent treatment offered by individual practitioners. There is little research evidence in humans and none in veterinary species to support naturopathy as an effective approach.

The risks of individual therapies offered by naturopaths are also varied. Some, such as homeopathy, have no direct effect at all, for good or ill. Others, such as herbal remedies, can cause harm directly. The greatest risk, however, from naturopathic treatment is that naturopaths often recommend avoiding conventional medical care, include vaccines, surgery, and pharmaceutical medicine. Substituting unproven, untested, or ineffective therapies for scientific medicine is not an appropriate way to seek health or treat disease.

 

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32 Responses to Animal Naturopathy

  1. v.t. says:

    The problem with naturopaths is that just enough common sense “med” (nutrition, exercise and the very few examples you’ve described) is practiced so that the rest of the woo is given some sort of legitimacy.

    Worse still, that they demand acceptance and respect from the scientific and medical community without ever having to attend med school, internship, residency, specialty training, CE, licensing, and be governed and regulated accordingly as is required of real doctors.

    We can thank idiotic politics for the latter. It’s unconscionable the direction this is going.

  2. Manny says:

    These are sound principles to determine what might be efficacious. However, this statement: “Substituting unproven, untested, or ineffective therapies for scientific medicine is not an appropriate way to seek health or treat disease.” is something that allopathic practitioners (MSM medicine) do all the time. Every MD has done this and continues to do this in everyday practice. Some examples: Giving seniors multiple drugs (some of which have not been tested in this age group) and expecting (or hoping) that there won’t be any untoward interactions–and many people are on more than 5 drugs at a time–and the docs expect to be able to predict the outcomes?

    How many surgical treatments are put under the rigorous scientific testing? How many treatments and protocols and drugs and regimens have been discarded over the decades? How much fraud and manipulation and various forms of publication bias and chicanery are perpetrated by drug companies all over the world? How many unethical experiments are perpetrated on the citizens of third world countries? Just like there was a “big” Bernie Madoff type in finance, and lots of little Madoff’s unheralded, there were big frauds like Vioxx in drugs, but how many “little” Vioxx’s are out there?

    And, oh yes, we aren’t even mentioning the thousands of deaths each year from medical mistakes, both preventable and not. Both in hospital and out. On Medicare patients and others. And how many MDs are peddling all kinds of self-serving quackery every day in clinics both here and abroad–especially in cancer treatments. They don’t call themselves “naturopaths”; they call themselves “doctors”, or “veterinarians.” You can find these guys all over the place.

    Allopathic medicine–main-stream medicine–what the average guy has to put up with when he gets sick–is full of recipe-laden, cookbook-style approaches, off-the-shelf remedies–whatever the current doc knows best–beset by vague guidelines (which continually change and set by anonymous committees) and diagnostic algorithms and trips down the “chief complaint” garden path. It is so prevalent that two ER docs from Brigham & Womens Hospital have written a whole book about it: “When Doctors Don’t Listen.” At least you’ll likely get more attention and better listening when you visit one of these naturopathic “alties” then you’ll get at your next 15-minute appointment with your MD.

  3. skeptvet says:

    The fact that many doctors who don’t identify as “alternative” and who practice primarily conventional* medicine don’t practice great quality evidence-based medicine is unquestionably true. It is also irrelevant to my critique of alternative practitioners and a form of tu quoque fallacy. On average, the care you get is far more likely to be based on sound science and evidence in conventional medicine than alternative medicine, which exists as a category specifically to protect the therapies under this umbrella from the standards of strict scientific scrutiny. Evidence-based medicine (EBM) as a movement developed to reduce precisely the inadequacies in conventional medicine you mention, and while it has a long way to go, it has made great progress. Alternative medicine has largely rejected these efforts and remains far more widely based on anecdote, individual experience, historical traditional, and other less reliable foundations. Conventional medicine has rejected its entire theoretical foundation (humoral medicine), and most of its most popular therapies (bloodletting, purgatives, etc.) and replaced them with more science-based practices in the last 150 years while, for example, homeopaths are rigidly sticking to the text, theories, and practices their founding father made up in the 18th century. Conventional medicine is nowhere near perfect in its adherence to the principles and methods of EBM, it’s a lot farther along than alternative medicine in applying science to its own practices. The results are obvious, as a brief survey of the history of human health in the last 2 centuries, and the resurgence of once vanquished diseases with the rise in anti-vaccine nonsense illustrate.

    There is also a great deal of truth to the notion that conventional doctors spend less time with patients and are far less effective at meeting their emotional and psychological needs. This is not a failing of science or EBM, nor is it a reason to seek unscientific or pseudoscientific care. It is a failing in the structure and economics of our healthcare system. It needs to be addressed in ways that improve how patients are treated while not degrading the quality of the therapies they receive, including the degree to which they are based on good scientific evidence. We can take better care of people without giving up on science and running into the arms of people selling placebos or untested, potentially dangerous therapies that they have no intention of subjecting to vigorous scientific scrutiny.

    *(“allopathic” is a label invented by Hahneman to mischaracterize his competitors and used primarily by proponents of unscientific therapies, so it’s a bit polemical)

  4. Pauline says:

    My mom almost passed away when the brightest of minds at UCLA’s medical centers weren’t able to find a simple bacteria. “What is wrong with you?” they would ask her, passed around her nervously and even get upset as if she did something wrong. Our naturopathic family physician saved her. She balanced her entire system with natural vitamins made out of natural plants. Call it what you will, but to paint the image clearer, my mother was anorexic before we found out about naturopathic medicine. She weigh half of what she used to. We all thought she had cancer, etc. Her weight today is normal, she eats more carefully and the level of her bacteria is being kept down by natural plants.

    I am not implying that anything “natural” is natural. At least not in today’s society. We still need to work on setting a good example for what we should trust and especially EAT. It’s just embarrassing that conventional physicians today knows so little about what keeps us alive, nutrition and nature (both scientifically proven theories).

    Understanding your patient’s mental state is also part of being an efficient physician. Stress is a leading cause to many diseases and the idea that naturopathic physicians take our whole being into consideration is not only professional but very scientifically (medically) conscious. Let’s not forget to mention that naturopathy runs the same lab tests that your conventional medical physician does. The only area that it’s still not qualified to assist 100% is in extreme cases of urgent care. Let’s get our facts straight or continue to write creatively.

    We also have to realize that unfortunately until today, there haven’t been enough funds invested in the research of naturopathic medicine, unlike it’s big “conventional medical” brother that is rolling on trillion of dollars per. hour. It’s unfortunate that medicine has become a business first. I hope that doesn’t happen to the field of naturopathic medicine.

    I envision a future where conventional medicine will join naturopathic medicine. Actually, that “medical revolution” has already began. Both physicians now work together to offer the best health care possible. It’s a growing modern concept.
    I am not supporting naturopathic medicine as a 100% perfect practice. It still needs lots of research to develop. And with the millions of dollars in funds invested yearly, so does conventional medicine. The question of validity comes from both sides, otherwise we wouldn’t be debating this topic.

  5. Art Malernee Dvm says:

    I am not supporting naturopathic medicine as a 100% perfect practice. It still needs lots of research to develop. >>> naturalpathic medicine is just the latest name for medicine that was called quackery in the old days. Naturalpathic medicine proven to work would be called real medicine.

  6. Pauline says:

    Art Malernee Dvm, I wrote “I am not supporting naturopathic medicine as a 100% perfect practice. It still needs lots of research to develop.” The same goes for conventional medicine. I also continued to write, “And with the millions of dollars in funds invested yearly, so does conventional medicine. The question of validity comes from both sides, otherwise we wouldn’t be debating this topic.”

    If I had the highest responsibility of a physician, I wouldn’t waste my time and I would start cooperating. I promise, you won’t be the only one.

  7. Art says:

    The Cleveland Clinic has decided to join them. I wonder how many patients and doctor referrals they loose hiring a naturalpath
    See
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/medical-marijuana-as-the-new-herbalism-part-1-the-politics-of-weed-versus-science/#more-31706

  8. Pauline says:

    There is not “them” in medicine. All physicians hold the highest of responsibility. Today both medical fields complement each other. Our world asks for open minded future medical leaders and lawmakers. Visionaries that will prevent and not treat. Not to be disrespectful, but isn’t it embarrassing how limited most conventional physicians are when it comes to our nutrition? It’s just the major building block of health. To take that thought one step further, what about our environmental health? We have to take all facts into consideration — hence the naturopathic belief, that our system should be treated as a whole.

    Or perhaps we don’t have time to take all those facts into consideration? Then maybe it would be fair not to ask for such a high price tag. There is a time and place for urgency but it should never get in the way of wellness.

  9. Art says:

    Any chance Pauline is a computer program?

  10. Pauline says:

    Art, if my brain were that of a robot (I am flattered btw :), I would find it very interesting and scary that a veterinary physician, which you claim to be, lowers himself or herself to such small talk replies. Do you carry yourself like this in your daily practice? Do you understand the responsibility that your profession carries? There is no excuse, unless retired of course.

  11. Holly Mourant says:

    I love the fact that people who have no experience and no training in the alternative, or natural modalities are suddenly experts on what is wrong with them. A natural approach which included diet, herbs and Homeopathy saved my son from a lifetime of medication. 6 years of veterinary medicine slowly killed two of my beloved pets. I was not going to follow the same route with my 3 year old son by beginning a lifetime of drugs for a condition that clearly can be healed, not treated. I am not discounting the role that medicine and drugs play in our lives but look at what over prescribing of antibiotics alone has done to the population? Perhaps if Doctors actually were healers and only prescribed antibiotics for life threatening situations we would not have the superbugs; the problem the medical world caused.

    Please stick to what you know and don’t pretend to be an authority in a field where you obviously know nothing.

    Holly Mourant, AHT, HIP

  12. skeptvet says:

    And I love the fact that you think only people who already believe in alternative medicine to the degree they practice it can judge whether or not there is scientific evidence it works. So only psychics can judge psychic phenomena, and only astrologers can address whether astrology is real? That’s the fox guarding the henhouse to an extreme degree.

    What I am an expert in is the business of using science to judge the safety and efficacy of medical treatments, a discipline known as clinical epidemiology or, more recently, evidence-based medicine. This means that my opinions on the subjects I write about are informed opinions based on science and the scientific method. The fact that you reject the scientific method in favor of your personal experiences and beliefs in pseudoscientific nonsense such as homeopathy does not make you an expert, merely a believer. As such, your opinion is no more informed than mine, and it is considerably less objective.

  13. Pauline says:

    “As such, your opinion is no more informed than mine, and it is considerably less objective,” said The SkeptVet, an anonymous blogger.

    The difference between most of the comments on here and your opinion is that you should be more informed. Unless your right to practice has been revoked.

    Is my healthy mom science proof enough for you to accept that natural medicine saved her life? I assure you, she wasn’t healing on her own.

    Natural and conventional medicine have joined forces in practice and in research too. Mayo Clinic is one of them and in many organizations are following in its footsteps. Did you know that they spent $500 million in research?

  14. v.t. says:

    Pauline,

    A quote you would do well to remember:

    “If you integrate fantasy with reality, you do not instantiate reality. If you mix cow pie with apple pie, it does not make the cow pie taste better; it makes the apple pie worse.” – Mark Crislip, sciencebasedmedicine.org

    And skeptvet is certainly not anonymous.

  15. skeptvet says:

    SkeptVet, an anonymous blogger

    Your disregard for facts continues to manifest in that you didn’t even bother to read the FAQ before making this claim.

    Is my healthy mom science proof enough for you to accept that natural medicine saved her life? I assure you, she wasn’t healing on her own.

    Of course not. If someone ill gets well and claims space aliens made them better, do we simply accept that without proof? Of course not. Belief is just belief, not evidence.

    Did you know that they spent $500 million in research?

    Who? On what research? Where is it published? You can toss out as many claims like this as you like, but nobody is obliged to take your word for anything.

  16. Pauline says:

    “Space aliens? Fantasy?” The kind of replies that you waste your time with…

    Mike, I’m glad you mentioned cow. Beef is another ingredient which my mom has slowly eliminated from her diet. It’s hard on a scared digestive system.

    A combination of natural supplements made out of natural vitamins and food helped detox and balance my mother’s whole system. It was followed by a calculated diet which eliminated grain, diary, anything that contains added sugar, pastas, etc.

    Before the visit to our naturopathic physician her body could not get better on her own. I regret the fact that she wasted so much times on different biopsies, colonoscopies, etc. She had lost so much weight during that time. Not to mention that one of the renowned UCLA medical physicians tried selling her his own medication that her body refused from the start. She became a lab rat in a very confident scientific environment. “What is wrong with you?” “Why don’t you eat?” “Very interesting that your body is rejecting my drugs…” <—- the last one worried me the most.

    Who? The Mayo Clinic. It's your job to teach us about that research.

    My word should not count. I am not a physician. Just a concerned citizen with real life experience. While naturopathy has worked for our family it differs from person to person and depends on each case. Personally, I trust their medical advice more than I do that of conventional doctors.

  17. Pauline says:

    *scarred digestive system

  18. v.t. says:

    So, Pauline, what’s this special bacteria that only naturopathy could cure?

  19. Pauline says:

    It’s a variety of bacterias. I’m specifically referring to the bacteria overgrowth. For those that suffer from this issue naturopathy can be a long lasting option to keep our system balanced. In my mom’s case she needs natural supplements such as oregano, garlic, digestive enzymes, etc. most of the time. I’m younger and I recover faster but I have to be very careful with my diet. I only take them a month out of the year and it makes all the difference.

  20. v.t. says:

    Pauline, why does she need oregano and garlic?

  21. Pauline says:

    You will have to consult with a certified professional. It differs from person to person. In our case oregano and garlic acts as a natural antibiotic that keeps our bodies from developing bacteria overgrowth. It’s naturally healthy to use these herbs in cooking too.

  22. skeptvet says:

    Do you have any evidence for this other than the fact that it sounds like it should be true? The human microbial flora is a complex ecosystem, and antibiotics, “natural” or otherwise, generally upset it with far-reaching possible consequences. The notion that something can have powerful beneficial effects with no risks just because it’s “natural” is complete nonsense.

  23. v.t. says:

    By “certified professional”, I’m going to assume you mean an ND (Not a Doctor). Thanks, but no thanks.

  24. Pauline says:

    Skeptvet, evidence is my family’s health. “Hospital” is not part of our vocabulary. So far these have been “the (and our) consequences.” If our story is not enough for you to understand how much naturopathy has helped our health issues then you need to take two steps: 1) Read my comments again 2) Learn to listen to your patients, (even if they can’t talk)

    It’s silly that you should take oregano and garlic so seriously. You probably consume it in your food every week. 🙂

    V.T. You remind me of the country people in the Medicine Woman Tv series. It was hard for them to imagine too that a woman could be the town physician. It’s okay, you are too contributing to society. And I truly hope that you never need the expertise of a naturopathic physician.

  25. Be Careful says:

    My husband is a neuroradiologist with 11 years of post-graduate doctoral training. He is board certified and licensed in many different hospitals and did his sub specialty training at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, AZ. His father is a retired large animal veterinarian, his oldest brother a practicing small animal veterinarian, younger brother a family practice physician in AK, sister a PA in UT, and other brother a hospital administrator with his PHD in public health in Atlanta, GA. We are closely associated with hundreds of modern medical professionals of all types and are obviously huge advocates of western medical practices. If the math were to be done, the education and training, along with the number of people and animals our family has worked with would be astounding.

    That said, there are two points that I would like to make:

    1. Our medical system is becoming more and more socialized everyday. With the ties of government and medicine becoming increasingly stronger, and with popular public opinion of our government deteriorating, patients are looking elsewhere for preventative treatments and disease treatment options for themselves and more currently their pets.

    2. Society and their views are changing. What once was uncommon and considered unconventional and risky is becoming the norm, socially accetable, admired as a status symbol, and even preferred.

    All that said, I feel strongly that there is evidence of positive outcomes for both Wesrern and Eastern medicine practices. All must be used and considered with caution and complete education and understanding to the best of ones ability.

    We personally eat a highly nutrient dense, whole foods diet, and exercise consistently. We also use essential oils, and herbs. All this is a preventative and healing first choice and lifestyle. Prescription medications and surgery are second to that. We know many, many physicians that share the same opinion and have had positive experiences with natural healing.

    Make well-informed decisions and keep an open mind as things change and alternative options become available. There are risks and benefits to both so choose carefully and wisely. Most strong opinions that are extremely biased one way or another should not be considered as a credible source.

  26. skeptvet says:

    I appreciate that you’re trying to defend your opinions in advance by suggesting that you are all smart and educated, but that is really beside the point (and actually an example of the logical fallacy known as Appeal to Authority). I have never suggested that folks who believe in alternative therapies, even those which are complete nonsense like homeopathy or “energy” medicine are stupid or uneducated, simply that the facts show them to be mistaken. Whether you are right or wrong about any particular claim has to be established on the basis of the evidence, not on the basis of who you are and what kind of schooling you’ve had. The same, of course, is true for me or anyone else, which is why I don’t use my own background as a defense of my claims on this site.

    As for “socialized medicine,” I think that claim is patently ridiculous since we have the least socialized (and in many ways the least successful) healthcare system in the developed world, but that’s a political question outside the focus of this blog, so I won’t get into a debate about it. If your point is simply that people are looking for alternatives to mainstream healthcare, that is partially true (though the statistics indicate the vast majority still rely primarily on mainstream medicine for serious medical problems and use alternative therapies as an “add-on” or when they have minor complaints). But again, it has nothing to do with the question of whether or not these therapies work. Popularity, even if it were real, would not be evidence of efficacy (that would be the Ad Populum fallacy).

    I feel strongly that there is evidence of positive outcomes for both Wesrern and Eastern medicine practices.

    Since there are no specifics, or even any definitions of what you mean by Eastern and Western, there is nothing to debate here. I would just point out that I don’t believe these categories have any real meaning. They are empty labels that don’t consistently attach to particular practices. The dominant form of healthcare by far in Taiwan, for example, is what you would probably call “Western” medicine, so I’m not convinced these terms have much use.

    We personally eat a highly nutrient dense, whole foods diet, and exercise consistently.

    Both perfectly conventional practices routinely recommended by mainstream providers and supported by good evidence.

    We also use essential oils, and herbs. All this is a preventative and healing first choice and lifestyle

    A lifestyle choice without good evidence to support safety and efficacy. What this suggests to me is that you are inconsistent in how you judge which healthcare approaches to use, not “open-minded.”

    Prescription medications and surgery are second to that.

    You mean you use science-based medicine when “alternative medicine” either hasn’t worked or your problems are too acute to play around with unproven therapies? This is how most people in the U.S. use CAM.

    We know many, many physicians that share the same opinion and have had positive experiences with natural healing.

    Ad populum fallacy mixed with Appeal to Authority fallacy.

    Make well-informed decisions and keep an open mind

    I absolutely do. Show me good scientific evidence for something and I will support it regardless of its provenance. Show me good evidence against something, and I will abandon it. That is what skepticism is all about. Where we disagree is probably what “good evidence” is, since you likely take anecdotes a lot more seriously than I do.

    Most strong opinions that are extremely biased one way or another should not be considered as a credible source.

    Like yours? I mean, you have a pretty strong opinion here.

  27. Be Careful says:

    Well, I stand corrected. Thank you for your amazing contributions the health and well-being of pets and their health. Keep up the good work skeptvet!

  28. v.t. says:

    Be Careful said: Society and their views are changing. What once was uncommon and considered unconventional and risky is becoming the norm, socially accetable, admired as a status symbol, and even preferred.

    Wow, “admired as a status symbol”? Not even close. Those who utilize alternatives are going backwards, not forward. There has always been and always will be purveyors of quackery and preying upon the desperate, despite all the evidence of effective medicine we have thanks to science moving forward.

    Sorry, but essential oils are not preventative nor healing in any shape or form (unless you count olfactory and psychological sensation).

    Lastly, a very timely article on an upcoming series on naturopathy (on another great blog), this starts with the so-called “education” of a naturopath:

    ND Confession, Part 1: Clinical training inside and out
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/nd-confession-part-1-clinical-training-inside-and-out/

  29. Nunaya Bizniss says:

    Most of what is stated here are clearly blanket statements from someone who lumps good naturopathy in together with bad the same way one should not lump good veterinary medicine in with bad, and this is plain comical. I’ve worked with veterinarians for a decade. I can tell you there are some that SHOULD NOT be practicing. They don’t use proper pain management techniques after surgery, they use medications with more side effects than the ailment they’re trying to treat when there are about a hundred better options that they’re too cheap or too set-in-their ways to utilize, and some of them go get those CE credits they’re supposed to keep up with but just sign in and walk out of the lecture hall.

    First off, advanced animal naturopaths OF COURSE have a basis in actual science. YES, science! Like, YEARS of it. Veterinary medicine even! Animal anatomy and physiology. Biology. Parasitology. Zoonotic disease. Surgery. And every damn thing in all of the Merck Veterinary Manuals. Of course it isn’t a veterinary degree, it isn’t designed to be! It’s a different philosophy that can be complimentary to veterinary medicine. I am using my studies to assist my long-time veterinarian clients with cases where patients of theirs can’t handle conventional medicine, or they’re in transition (dying, some post-op patients, cancer patients, or recovering from another disease). My veterinarian clients check them out first and then work with me to create a program for them. Maybe it involves some sort of vitamin, mineral, and trace mineral therapy to boost their immunity. Maybe it involves Acupressure or Healing Touch Therapy to calm them and help them relax after so much stress. Maybe I’m the last resort for the client whose severely allergic dog couldn’t even get help from the veterinary dermatologist, and I work with Chinese herbs, essential fatty acids, and nutrition. Don’t balk at it–that’s actually a personal story of MY OWN DOG that made me go into this!

    No naturopath in their right mind is going to completely side-step actual science. I rolled my eyes at the “death to vaccines” courses. I just believe over-vaccinating isn’t a good idea (which a lot of vets believe too!). Just like the good veterinarians, probably most of you reading this, most likely use Nutramax products. Guess what that is, guys and gals? Naturopathic medicine! There is not ONE product that company makes that isn’t naturopathic. Denamarin, Dasuquin, Cosuquin, Solluquin, Proviable, the cranberry product for urinary issues. All of it. It is all regulated and backed by science, but that just goes to confirm right there that you can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    One last thought, and then I’m done. Veterinarians are so quick to knock everything until human medicine does it, then it’s somehow exciting. Well, look at human medicine. Look at Cancer Treatment Centers of America employing Naturopaths. Just google “Cancer Centers with Naturopaths”. And that’s just cancer. Look at the public demand for this, it’s everywhere. The Whole Foods supplement people are more educated than most of Congress (kind of a joke, kind of not.). Eventually, if you don’t get on board with treating this way, your clients will find a veterinarian who will treat this way because they don’t want to pump chemicals with insane side effects into their dogs long term.

    Food/Nutrition/Herbs/Vitamins for thought….

    An Animal Naturopath who Works with Vets!

  30. skeptvet says:

    You can claim that naturopathic practices are supported by science, but the claim itself isn’t evidence this is true. You are factually mistaken about the supplements you list since they are not “regulated” (the Dietary Supplement Health and Education act, or DSHEA, prevent any requirement for evidence supporting safety and efficacy and only limits label claims), and many of these supplements have yet to be validated by good scientific evidence (as you can see from the articles on this site regarding glucosamine and cranberry extract, for example). Healing Touch is total witchcraft with no basis or support from science. I could go on, but your comment is a great example of the problem, that naturopaths falsely claim a scientific basis for practices founded on mystical nonsense (e.g. Chinese Medicine, Healing Touch) or only anecdotal evidence.

    I recommend people investigating naturopathy check out this site, from a former naturopath who has a lot of useful insights into the pseudoscience of naturopathy.

  31. v.t. says:

    Look at Cancer Treatment Centers of America employing Naturopaths. Just google “Cancer Centers with Naturopaths”. And that’s just cancer. Look at the public demand for this, it’s everywhere.

    Then go ahead and look up all the people who chose naturopathy, and other pseudo-med over proven cancer treatment. Many of them can no longer testify to the greatness of alternative medicine (which is an alternative TO medicine), because they’re no longer alive.

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