New Study Illustrates Need for Veterinarians to Ask Clients about Complementary Medicine Use with Pe

As the popularity of complementary therapies increases within pet owner and professional circles, a new survey from Colorado State University (CSU) shows that many pet owners do not tell veterinarians about the herbs, supplements, and alternative bodywork modalities used on pets. Some respondents said that veterinarians may approve of the complementary therapies, but they dont mention them during exams.

The omissions, which were not explained by pet owners, can jeopardize a pet’s health, said Narda Robinson, DO, DVM, MS, diplomat of the American Board of Medical Acupuncture, and professor of acupuncture at CSU.

“Although alternative and complementary medicine are considered to be helpful in improving the health and well-being of animals and humans, their use can be dangerous” if doctors do not know which therapies are being used, Robinson said. For example, she referred to consumption of St. John’s Wort, an herb used for psychological issues with pets that induces the liver to metabolize drugs differently. “It may sway the drug levels to be ineffective or toxic,” she said.

The CSU study, which involved 254 pet owners, showed that 65 percent of the pets treated at the CSU Animal Cancer Center used herbs, nutritional supplements, chiropractic medicine, and acupuncture. Sixty-four percent of the pet owners surveyed said their veterinarian might support the use of complementary and alternative therapies but only 35 percent talked about it with their doctors.

To improve communication with clients about all medical approaches, Robinson suggests that veterinary professionals ask clients regularly which herbs and supplements they are giving to pets.

“We need to stop thinking that just because they [complementary therapies] are natural that they are safe,” Robinson said. “The biochemical effects [of these modalities] needs to be acknowledged and studied.”

Most international veterinary meetings – including AAHA, the North American Veterinary Conference, the AVMA, Western Veterinary Conference and the Central Veterinary Conference – include sessions on alternative or complementary medicine, and Robinson expects to see an AVMA board certification specialty in veterinary acupuncture within the next three to four years.