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  News from the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association                                                    Summer 2010

Letter to the Editor

The following letter was addressed to President Michael Kaplan and the officers of the Greater Baltimore Veterinary Medical Association.

It would seem that “alternative medicine” has become a catch-all phrase for questionable practices formerly labeled quack and fraudulent. The FDA defines health fraud as, “Articles of unproven effectiveness promoted to enhance health, appearance or well being.”

I was reminded of this definition again and again during the Alternative Medicine lecture for continuing education given earlier this year by the GBVMA. Since your mission statement is to, “do all things ... to further high standards of care,” I felt compelled to comment on this presentation.

Though Dr. Chambreau had some salient points to make against standard veterinarian practices (i.e. over-vaccination and feeding dry food diets to obligate carnivores), I feel these short-comings were used to gain a foothold for modalities that, at best, were unsubstantiated and, at worst, dangerous and very capable of compounding animal suffering. These short-comings were also used to develop a feeling that alternative medicine practitioners should gain sympathy as an enlightened minority struggling against a self-serving, rigid, close-minded establishment.

There was a blurring of the terms “complementary” and “integrated” in such a way as to make one think that because some practices had merit, the rest deserved equal respect and consideration. The whole unsubstantiated jumble of homeopathy, Reiki, magnets, laser lights, Chinese medicine, flower essences, ayurveda, T -Touch and intuitive healers (which seemed to be unwieldy for the lecturer and audience alike) was wedged together with responsible modalities like diet, environment, stress and taking a good history.

Though some aspects of complementary medicine have genuine application and are supported by evidence based, scientifically proven medicine, there are many questionable practices that lack convincing data on safety and therapeutic efficacy. It is the duty of alternative medicine practitioners to conduct suitable studies and provide sufficient evidence that these modalities work in ameliorating disease processes. Not to declare, as was the case in this session after advocating highly questionable practices, “We don’t know how these things work,” or in one exuberant outburst “It’s magic!”

The very real possibility of extending pain and suffering in sentient animals who cannot speak for themselves was, for me, the true danger and sorrow in this lecture. We have all taken an oath to alleviate animal suffering; and we should strive to uphold our standing in the community as professionals of sound judgment and rational principles who treat animal pain and disease in a proven and effective manner. I hope you will take this into consideration when scheduling speakers in the future.

Janet M. Davis, DVM.

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