***A Polemic*** 

Once upon a time, it was a good idea to bring a book when going to the vet, to keep yourself busy while in the waiting room.  Unless, of course, you were lucky enough to go to a clinic that supplied old magazines to peruse.  Not so  today!  No siree – in the modern vet clinic, there is no shortage of stuff to read while you wait.  

I went to just such a clinic today (to pick up a copy of the health records for a rescue dog I am assisting with) and ended up waiting in line for few minutes.  That gave me the time to browse the walls, which were plastered with posters of all the horrible things that could happen to our pets: heartworm, gum disease, parvo, obesity and so on and so forth.  Fear, fear, fear!!!  Watch out – the walls screamed – the world is such a dangerous place that your pet is likely to keel over the second you walk out this door!

Unless, that is, you buy every one of the 8,432,562 products we carry to “protect” them before you leave.  Ignore the fact that these warning posters are all produced by the companies that sell the “solutions!”  And ignore that most of these and other products sold here (namely commercial pet food, flea and tick chemicals, yearly vaccines and so on and so forth) cause the majority of the health issues today’s animals suffer from!  Just keep spending money, and you can rest assured that you’re “doing everything possible” to keep your pet “healthy.” 

Sorry if I sound a bit bitter and sarcastic.  But this fear mongering – coupled with the pressure and guilt that if you question any of this, or wish not to go through with it, you are not only risking your pet’s life, but you clearly love your money more than your dog – that led me to spend $14,000 (yes, fourteen THOUSAND dollars) trying to save my old Jake from his mystery illness.  And in the process, most of the drugs and tests I put him through served to make his condition worse.  Of course I didn’t realize that until they finally diagnosed kidney failure and recommended euthanizing.  

That was the day that I stopped all conventional treatment.  That was also the day that he finally started getting better.  Too bad it was too late and the damage was irreversible.  But at least he lived for another year with good quality of life through proper nutrition (i.e. food I prepared for him myself) and holistic medical support.  

“Health” for today’s pet now pretty much equals drugs.  Yearly vaccines, monthly heartworm drugs and flea and tick chemicals, various specialty commercial foods, more chemicals to clean the tartar off their teeth (created by the commercial food) and so on.  All of these produced by the same companies.  And these companies educate the vets, who then tell us this stuff is great for them and that we need to buy it all if we want what’s best for our beloved companions.  

Does no one see the hypocracy here?  Are vets so exhausted from their long hours of study and work to not question the blatantly biased information they receive even a little?  

If you raise these concerns with the average pet owner, let alone a veterinarian, you are in for a world of hurt.  People get so upset and angry, and then very scared and defensive, it’s amazing.  I never used to understand this, but recently I read an article that explained the psychological phenomenon behind it: people think they are doing what is best for their pets.  So do vets.  If you question this, you are in effect questioning if they are good people.  Most people find this pretty upsetting. 

I know I was pretty upset when I finally realized that I had killed my own best friend through trying to “cure” him.  It’s not easy to see that the system is so very, very wrong when we are completely immersed in and surrounded by it.  By questioning the status quo,  I am not critiquing individuals.  I just want answers that make sense!  Standing in line today I felt like a criminal, waiting to be caught, because I don’t buy into the system anymore. 

I wonder if vets stop to think at all about the drug company billboards their offices have become these days.  I suspect not, because if they did, they would be suddenly ashamed I am sure.  I know they want to do what is best, and that many think these products are helping, but is that really the right reason to be shoving them down our (or actually our pets) throats?  Has veterinary medicine really degenerated to simply pushing pills and products, with no room for thinking and questioning anymore?  Sadly, in many cases, the answer is yes. 

Not long ago, while waiting in line at another vet clinic, I heard one of the techs lament that 95% of cats in their practice develop kidney disease.  She was telling this to a client – with a cat newly diagnosed with this disease – as a way of providing comfort: don’t worry, it’s pretty much inevitable.  It’s not your fault, it’s just the way things happen now.  And lucky for you, there are plenty of drugs and specialty foods we can sell to help.

As I watched the heartbroken cat owner (with whom I can deeply empathize) I wanted to scream, “Does nobody stop to ask WHY anymore???”  Asking WHY?! is the key – not just rolling over and accepting things as the ‘new norm.’  Doing so is what the pharmaceutical companies want us to do, because then we become dependent on them for our security.

Here are just a few questions that both vets and pet owners really need to start asking if we want to see true change in the health of our pets:

– WHY do we need to vaccinate every year, when humans don’t need to have this done and test after test indicates that dogs and cat’s don’t either?

– WHY do the same companies that make pet food educate vets on nutrition? That’s McDonalds teaching doctors the same for humans.

– WHY is corn the first ingredient in so many pet foods when never once in history has a wolf pack raided a grain silo?

– WHY is it OK to feed animals processed food every day of their life? Anyone see Supersize Me recently?

– WHY is the cancer rate in dogs over 50%?

– WHY do we need to use monthly heartworm treatment – when HW is carried by mosquitos – in northern climates in winter?

– WHY do 95% of cats develop kidney failure?

– WHY are we seeing a dramatic increase in health and temperament problems in both dogs and cats, occuring around the same pace as the dramatic increase in drugs and chemicals we give them?

WHY? WHY? WHY??? don’t people as WHY instead of just accepting these “new norms” with a sigh?

The good news is that there is a small, yet growing number of pet owners and veterinarians who are starting to rethink this blind acceptance of a-pill-or-product-for-every-ailment as “health.”  One clinic I work with now sells a locally produced grain-free kibble, instead of all those bags of prescription garbage.  This clinic is starting to send their vets to homeopathy workshops, and actually accepted and administered the homeopathic remedies I provided for my dog after emergency surgery last spring.  Furthermore, I’ve been told that all but a few of the clinics in my city have moved to a 3- or even 5-year vaccine schedule.  The city also accepts titers instead of a rabies certificate (further to loosing a law suit).  I even had a vet give me raw “recipes” when Jake was ailing (he was fired shortly thereafter, but still…).

So all may not be lost.  Perhaps the pendulum has started to swing the other way.  Who knows, maybe one day, in the far and distant future, we will walk into vet clinics with walls covered once again with artwork rather than advertisements.  And if they still feature health information, it will be material produced by research funded independently of the pharmaceutical companies.  And, if we’re really lucky, that change of decor will reflect a change of mentality and understanding of health along with it.

Well, here’s hoping.