Canine Wellness Practitioner Junior Hudson sat down with the CAM4Animals team to find out more about their campaign

Published January 2019. Reproduced with the kind permission of Edition Dog

1. The integration of both conventional and complementary/alternative modalities has saved my own dog’s life. Do you believe that integration is possible, there seems to be distrust from both sides, could there be proposals of a middle ground based on credible scientific research?
CAM4animals would never suggest that CAM should take the place of life-saving drugs or surgery. Of course, integration is possible and many countries have healthcare systems that recognise this: Switzerland, India and Israel to name a few. We strongly believe that the way forward is through mutual trust and respect between conventional vets and those with CAM expertise. It is only through exposure to and embracing of alternative and complementary modalities that non-CAM-friendly vets will start to see the value that an integrated approach can add to their veterinary practice.

2. How did your ‘Poetry Project’ come about?
This is a project initiated by one of the holistic vets as she is a published poet herself. The idea is to collate submitted poems about animals, homeopathy and the current situation into a book that can be sold to raise funds for us. We are supporting and helping to promote this initiative.

3. How important do you feel complementary therapies are when helping dogs with arthritis?
Complementary therapies are essential if you want to actually address the cause and symptoms. Pain relief simply does that, relieves pain but leaves the compensatory problems unattended. A physio for example, can address the pain as much as possible by relieving painful soft tissue causes such as muscle spasm, fascial restrictions etc.’. This alone can give great relief but still hasn’t addressed everything. Assessing the dog’s lifestyle, home environment, and exercise regime is important and repetitive activities causing wear on the body can be replaced with helpful exercise and activities. Just changing the fl ooring in the home and not having a dog chasing a ball everyday can then stop the soft tissue issues building up again. Posture and poor movement habits may need correction – using a harness or hydro to help a dog load its hindquarters again once the pain has been managed. This doesn’t just happen on its own. Neither does core work and proprioceptive work to give back efficient movement, good solid balance and reflexes and therefore injury prevention. Ensuring the owner participates with a simple home programme is important because they want to be involved and it educates them and enables the treatment to be even more effective and a lower cost to them. A holistic complementary approach will include physical and biomechanical assessments, address diet, supplements and anything else that will give the dog all-round good health and the best building blocks for repair and maintenance. None of these things are addressed in a small consult room with a 10-minute appointment for a meds check-up. Meds don’t put the dog back together as far as possible again. Surgery is only part of a solution and sometimes without the follow up of all the above to re-establish good function and healing in the dog. Unfortunately, conventional vets are not taught many of these complementary options at Veterinary College so many are unaware of their tangible benefits!

4. What impact would a ban on complementary/ alternative therapies have on dogs who cannot have conventional treatments or do not require them?
The impact is huge. If owners no longer have access to CAM, two main issues arise:

  • Who is responsible should an animal have an adverse response to the conventional treatment forced upon it? And who will guarantee the safety of those animals currently thriving on non-drug modalities who are now forced to have drugs?
  • There is a fear that people will take matters into their own hands and turn to internet searches and social media groups for advice.

The effect on sensitive dogs forced to use allopathic drugs before using alternative options is obvious. We’ve all seen videos of animals convulsing following a drug or vaccine which has caused adverse effects. Of course, an owner and a vet wouldn’t want to see that happen again. Effectively the choice for a first-line alternative (and potentially more gentle treatment) has been removed now to the detriment of the animal, the owner and the vet.

A CAM4animals supporter stated recently:
Following a horrific leg injury, surgery, skin graft and numerous courses of unsuccessful antibiotics, conventionally, all we were left with option wise for Lizzie was to amputate her leg and hope that sorted it. Luckily my vet was happy to refer her to a homeopathic vet and following 2 prescribed remedies the infection cleared and the wound healed from inside out. I often wonder whether Lizzie would have needed the initial skin graft op, had we had the CAM options presented to us at the first stage of infection and non-healing.”
“Ralphie developed sarcoptic mange (scabies) and instead of using a chemical spot-on or dip (as per conventional treatment), a neem shampoo and spray, along with a homeopathic protocol, was used to clear the scabies up quickly. My vet was happy for us to try this course of treatment as the first option, and she was very impressed with the results at our follow up appointment.”
“I have no hesitations in taking the dogs to see my vet as I know I will get what I want (a diagnosis) with no pressure. However, since the statement, I have stuttered a few times in making an appointment, and have usually had a quick look online and in books. (And every time I, fortunately, haven’t needed to see a vet as whatever it was has cleared up). So even me, as a strong willed ‘you can’t make me do something’ has thought twice about the consequences of seeing a vet if I have no alternative option available for my dogs. Obviously, I would not hesitate to take my animals to the vet in an emergency or where there was any notion that they were in pain or suffering, or where delay of treatment would have a detrimental impact on them”

5. Is there or is there not a ban, on complementary, alternative therapies or both?
The RCVS Council will only allow veterinary treatment to be provided as an alternative if it is supported by “sound, scientific evidence.” They say that “the format of evidence that Council would consider is as follows:

✚ Systematic review or meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs)
✚ At least one RCT
✚ At least one well-designed and controlled study without randomisation
✚ At least one well-designed quasi-experimental study, such as a cohort study
✚ Well-designed non-experiential descriptive studies, such as comparative studies, correlation studies, case-controlled studies and case series
✚ Expert committee reports, opinions and/or clinical experience of respected authorities.”

Professional veterinary bodies who govern CAM qualified vets would say that the therapies they use all qualify with at least one of the above requirements. However, the RCVS are not reviewing any of this evidence, preferring to leave it in the hands of CAM qualified vets to provide it when challenged.

6. What can a pet owner do to ensure they still have the choice to use what they and their holistic vet wish?
There is still much confusion among vets and their customers. RCVS have emphasised that the position statement is ONLY their OPINION, i.e. it is not a rule. So, owners can ignore the statement IF their vet is prepared to do so too. Owners could also self-treat – which we think is a potentially risky outcome.

There is so much pet owners can do to make their voice heard:

✚ Ask your conventional vet to refer your dog to CAM practitioners and vets.
✚ Talk about the benefits of holistic veterinary knowledge with all your dog-loving friends and family, both online and face to face.
✚ Be loud and proud about all the amazing CAM options available.
✚ Share success stories about CAM treatments and therapies.
✚ Recommend your holistic vet or therapist.
✚ And last but definitely not least, join the CAM4animals team to do something practical

You can follow us and share our posts from the CAM4animals Facebook page, like and retweet from CAM4animals on Twitter and Instagram or maybe you have skills we could use. We need to see a huge wave of support for the holistic vets and practitioners who offer both alternative and complementary therapies. We’re clear that there are of course times when your dog may need conventional medicine but we want conventional vets to work alongside those vets and practitioners with
alternative skills. We need your vets, friends, families and neighbours to all know that these options are available and can be used as an integrated means of healthcare.

If consumers choice is removed then this ultimately will affect our skill pool. For example, the vets who know how to feed raw and help the increasing number of raw food companies and raw feeders, are all holistic vets. If we lose them and they are not replaced by new holistic vets coming through, then we lose our skill pool for CAM, for raw feeding AND for our invaluable integrated vet knowledge.

What we do know is that since RCVS changed their position on CAM, consumer awareness and support is
growing rapidly and demand for it is increasing!

7. What would you like to see in the coming months/year?
Ultimately, we want to see the November 2017 statement withdrawn. We’d love to see CAM fully embraced by the veterinary profession but this is clearly a big ask. Cam4animals has already offered to work with RCVS to achieve a way forward that reflects the needs of all stakeholders.

It is increasingly important for the RCVS Council to include and communicate regularly with the CAM veterinary and professional bodies too and involve them in decision-making processes. CAM4animals is happy to open up communication channels where we can in order to facilitate this.

We want to reach an agreement with the RCVS which ensures that the clinical judgement of each and every vet is respected and valued regardless of whether they propose an alternative, complementary or solely conventional treatment protocol. We want to see animal welfare and consumer choice go hand in hand and be driven by the need of an individual animal.

Words: Junior Hudson: Canine Integrative Wellness Practitioner, CIVT Associate (College of Integrative Veterinary Therapies), Behaviour-Nutrition-Holistic Health Specialist

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