I’m sure this will offend the woo-devotees, but too bad. If it prompts even a few to think more critically about their responsibilities – and maybe even their beliefs – it’s worth deleting a bunch of all-caps screamer trolls.
The piece begins by assuming that complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) is beneficial for humans and suggesting it ought to be applied to animals as well:
Have you ever basked in the luxury of a professional massage? Ever been to a chiropractor to have that creak in your back fixed? Are you a true believer in taking Echinacea to recover from colds more quickly or gingko to improve your circulation? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you understand how alternative forms of medicine can benefit you. But did you ever think Spot or Fluffy might want to give these methods a try, too?
The problem? All of the “treatments” listed here – and most of the other “alternative and complementary medicine” options – have been shown to be (at best) ineffective or (at worst) dangerous. Follow the links out from the SkeptVet post and do some reading if you’re unfamiliar with the problems with chiropractic, echinacea, ginko, etc..
Adult humans can make at least somewhat informed decisions about their own medical care, and some, sometimes, can also benefit from (limited) placebo effect.There’s been a bunch of new research on the placebo effect recently: a usefully to-the-point post about it is here.
But animals cannot make these choices or even reap the minimal benefits of placebo effect, since in order for it to help, one has to know something about the pointless treatment and invest it with belief – which then reduces stress and sometimes causes some improvement based in that belief.
Animals probably do get some variable health benefits as a result of people being nice to them, just as we sometimes do – but that doesn’t replace our responsibility to also do something concretely, consistently useful and responsible when they are sick or hurt. Pan pipes and incense, so to speak (or thoroughly debunked practices like homeopathy) aren’t going to cut it. And while humans have the right to choose these things for themselves, to withhold proven and available medical care from animals who cannot speak or make informed choices for themselves is unethical.
The inevitable argument that veterinary care wasn’t available for thousands of years so using “traditional” remedies blah blah comes right back to these facts: good vet care that is far more consistently helpful than most folk remedies (some of which are great, some of which are actively harmful, others of which are just pointless) is available now. The good, effective practices born of years and years of agrarian experience are often now empirically proven and offered by vets: the ones that aren’t haven’t been proven safe or effective. Animal suffering is greatly reduced and life-spans are increased as a result of modern veterinary care. The massive, insane overpopulation problem of cats and dogs is our fault, not theirs – as are the genetic diseases resulting from our deranged habits of breeding for cosmetic traits. If we want to live with pets the way we’re living with them, we have some responsibilities.
Like vet care that’s evidence-based.
If I want to stick some hot rose quartz on my chakras while inserting needles into my feet and drinking water someone said once had an herb waved over it instead of going to the doctor when I find a lump in my breast or start puking blood, it’s my right to hurt myself.
It’s not my right to withhold appropriate medical care from animals for whom I’m responsible.