This month, January 2013, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) House of Delegates is discussing Resolution 3, which states that homeopathy has been identified as an ineffective practice and its use is discouraged.
Evidently, the AVMA wants veterinarians to take a stand against the practice of homeopathy in veterinary medicine.
In hearing this, I question:
1. Why are veterinarians being asked to do this?
2. Is the AVMA going too far in taking this position in strongly recommending what treatments we veterinarians should not apply to our patients?
First, what is homeopathy?
In Homeopathy: An Introduction, the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) explains its foundations on two theories:
1."Like cures like" — the notion that a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people.
2. "Law of minimum dose" — the notion that the lower the dose of the medication, the greater its effectiveness. Many homeopathic remedies are so diluted that no molecules of the original substance remain.
Additionally, the NCCAM reports that "most rigorous clinical trials and systematic analyses of the research on homeopathy have concluded that there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition."
So why is the AVMA considering Resolution 3?
According to the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), the resolution was submitted by the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), which has asked "the AVMA to affirm that the safety and efficacy of veterinary therapies should be determined by scientific investigation, and when scientific studies deem therapies to be ineffective or unsafe, those therapies should be discarded."
Evidently, because homeopathic treatments cannot be scientifically proven to work, the AVMA doesn’t want veterinarians to recommend their use.
Where do I stand on this topic?
Although I have not been formally trained in homeopathy, I’ve had an academic introduction through continuing education. I use and see the benefits of certain homeopathic products in my veterinary practice (and for myself).
RESCUE Remedy, a "blend of 5 of the 38 Bach® Original Flower Remedies," is used for stress reduction. The result of its use is a calming effect in both people and pets. I use RESCUE Remedy Pet for my canine and feline patients that need help easing into being cooperative for acupuncture treatment, enduring the chaos of a boarding facility, or for taking the edge off for animals stressed by a multi-pet home or holiday celebrations.
Traumeel and Zeel (both made by Heel USA), which I also use regularly, are products geared toward reduction of pain, inflammation, bruising, and swelling.
I use multiple varieties of Bach and Heel USA products on a frequent and ongoing basis to help with my own stress and osteoarthritis pain management. Their use has permitted me to reduce my consumption of prescription and over the counter drugs (e.g., sleep aids and pain medication) that are known to have a variety of mild to severe side effects. I also use them in my veterinary patients to lessen their reliance on pain relieving and behavior modifying medications.
A placebo effect wouldn’t be seen in a pet, as our companion cats and dogs don’t have the capacity to anticipate that they should feel better after receiving a homeopathic product. Our pets will just improve (hopefully) or worsen (hopefully not), and unlike humans, won’t falsely do so just because they have a belief that a particular product will help.
Even though 100 percent scientific proof of a homeopathic treatment’s success may not be proven, the general safety of products following good manufacturing principles should be available as a complement or alternative to conventional treatments veterinarians can offer to our patients.
What Other Practices Are Being Discouraged by the AVMA?
A similar circumstance occurred this past August at the 2012 AVMA Conference when the AVMA made an announcement discouraging veterinarians from recommending Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets for our patients.
The AVMA’s anti raw-food feeding stance is legitimately founded on concerns about the potential for disease causing microorganisms (primarily bacteria and parasites) that could be spread between pets and people.
I understand the AVMA’s concerns, as we veterinarians must strive to promote our patients’ wellness without putting the health of our patients’ human caretakers at risk. My experiences managing immunocompromised patients, including my own dog Cardiff, who has Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia, and the pets undergoing oncology treatment at the Veterinary Cancer Group have led to my recommendation of cooked animal-sourced proteins over raw.
What are your perspectives on the AVMA’s discouragement of homeopathy and undercooked animal-source protein diets?
Dr. Patrick Mahaney