As someone who has worked in both human and veterinary medicine, I feel especially qualified to share my experiences and thoughts on possible solutions to the healthcare crisis in our country. Since we don’t have such a crisis in the pet health industry, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how we handle healthcare and insurance and apply what works for us to the current situation facing our country.
1. Pet insurance-while most owners still do not have pet insurance, those who do appreciate it. Unlike the convoluted insurance industry in human healthcare, pet insurance is very straightforward and easy to use (similar to the way health insurance used to be many years ago.) Pet owners can choose insurance from any company no matter which state they reside in, and they can choose several different levels of care based upon their pets’ needs, cost of the policy, and amount of the deductible. Preventive care can also be chosen as an optional rider at a small extra fee; most owners choose this because they believe in the value of preventive care and the cost is minimal. Pet owners can go to any doctor they want with their pet insurance. As a doctor, I can charge whatever I want and pet owners can shop around to find the best care and the best rates for their pets. The pet owner pays me in full at the time of the visit and the pet owner files insurance claim, taking me and my staff out of the loop, which frees us up to concentrate on health care and reduces our expenses to the pet owner. Because the deductible applies to EACH visit, pet owners know they will have out-of-pocket expenses every time they come in for a visit, and therefore minimize unnecessary visits.
2. For those pet owners for whom cost is a factor, they have several choices as well. While we don’t have government funded hospitals as is the case in human medicine, there are for-profit hospitals that operate as low-cost clinics. Additionally, many communities have veterinarians who volunteer their time to host free vaccination clinics for those who are unable to afford this basic preventive care. Additionally, most veterinarians are willing to work with those who truly can’t afford the “best” treatment plan, and will design a treatment plan to help the pet at minimal cost. Finally, most veterinarians offer specials throughout the year to allow people to save money on the cost of preventive care.
3. Other than foolish and often unnecessary government regulations that often control how we run our businesses, the government stays out of health care for pets other than requiring rabies vaccines given at a predetermined schedule. Considering that pet hospitals are all capitalist ventures and must make a profit, the government does not control how we administer health care. There are no government panels which must pre-approve my treatments. The final decision regarding treatment given is between the pet owner and the doctor and no one else.
While there are certainly differences between healthcare in the human and veterinary fields, many of our problems could be solved by following the lead we have set in the pet healthcare profession. Many years ago, before the days of excessive government control, HMO and PPO’s, and “cost control,” health insurance functioned the way it was designed to do:doctors got to practice medicine rather than deal with insurance and government control, and the final decision was left to the doctor and the patient. Maybe if we tried to return to those “good old days” when things worked more efficiently, we could solve many of our problems without having government panels dictate what kind of health care we will be “eligible” to receive.
For those of you who have iPhones or know someone who has an iPhone, please check out my new iapp. It’s called Dr. Shawn’s Natural Pet Therapies. With it, you can quickly find information on how to use natural therapies to treat a number of common conditions in pets.
Here are some highlights of the app.
*It is the ONLY natural pet health app. on the market for the iPhone!
*The cost is only $1.99.
*Contained in the app is a coupon for $4 off the price of any of my certified organic pet shampoos or pet ear wash (when redeemed, it means the app is basically free!)
*And most importantly, some of the proceeds from sales of the app will benefit one of my favorite charities, Paws for Peace.
*You can learn more about the app at http://pawsforpeace.com/iphone/
*And please share your ideas for future updates with me!
Recently I shared my thoughts on the flu. These thoughts are not simply opinions but are directly formulated based upon hard scientific data and are not influenced by the emotions and fears that often accompany a discussion of serious diseases.
As expected, a recent blog of mine disturb some “pro-flu vaccine” folks. A local veterinarian even called my office and told my receptionist that he wanted to talk to me so he could “set me straight” about the flu.
Well, I didn’t bother calling him back as I really don’t need to be “set straight” about anything. The facts speak for themselves and all I can do is address the facts.
Here are some of the things that seemed most upsetting to him.
First I mentioned that the flu is not really that big of a problem for most people or pets. Most people and pets will not be exposed to the flu. Of those who are, most have healthy immune systems and will never contract the disease. Of those few who contract the disease, most will fight it off due to their healthy immune systems.
A very few number of people and dogs will get sick with the flu, and even smaller numbers of people and pets will need to be hospitalized due to the flu (or typically due to complications from the flu, namely secondary infections.) A VERY RARE number of patients will die from the flu (or more correctly, die from complications from the flu.)
Taking these facts into consideration, it therefore makes sense that most people and pets would not benefit from a flu vaccine.
The second thing I mentioned which really upset my colleague is that many doctors and veterinarians seem to jump on the latest vaccine bandwagon either out of fear or to increase their incomes.
What’s my proof?
Once again let’s look at the facts. The sales reps of the companies who manufacture the vaccines try to convince doctors that the flu is a horrible disease that will affect and kill millions of people and pets. The only solution is to vaccinate all of their patients. By causing fear, they encourage doctors to consider using the vaccine in their practices.
Sales reps also present economic models for profits that can be obtained by using vaccine. For example, if I vaccinated all of the dogs in my practice with the recommended number of canine flu vaccines, I could easily make $100,000 this year from vaccinating dogs against a flu virus that is unlikely to ever cause a problem in my practice!
While I’m not suggesting that all veterinarians who use vaccines do it purely from an economic perspective, it is tempting to draw that conclusion when an unnecessary vaccine is given to large numbers of pets knowing that large profits will be obtained.
I’m also not suggesting that no person or pet ever get a flu vaccine, only that we make rational decisions when vaccines are needed. For my practice, none of my patients currently require a flu vaccine. While I hate the idea of losing $100,000 in easy profits this year (some of which could be spent hiring more employees and reducing the staggering unemployment rate in our country,) I can’t morally justify doing a procedure which has no medical benefit to my patients.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you or your family members and pets would benefit from a flu vaccine, or whether you would benefit more keeping the money spent on what might be an unnecessary vaccine to spend on something better.
In an attempt to reduce the number of pets left animal shelters and ultimately euthanized, the Las Vegas city Council passed a new ordinance requiring most dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered by four months of age.
I’m certainly in favor of spaying and neutering pets for a variety of reasons: preventing unwanted litters, reducing behavior problems, and reducing medical problems. However, I’m not a fan of government telling us what to do. I have not seen any statistics which show that mandatory spaying and neutering reduces the number of pets placed in shelters. The overwhelming majority of the pets placed in shelters are placed there by pet owners who no longer want them or cannot afford their medical care, and spaying and neutering will not influence this at all and it is unlikely that the euthanasia rate will be significantly reduced. The best ways to reduce unnecessary euthanasia are to make sure that pet owners acquire the best pets for their situations (no large breed dogs in apartments, the right breed of dog or cat matched with the correct owner, etc.) AND to make sure people can afford the cost of pet care BEFORE they ever acquire a pet
Alternative Medicine and the Media Bias
Everyone who uses some sort of “alternative” or natural therapy knows there is a bias among conventional healthcare providers against these types of therapies. As a result, most people will not share their use of natural therapies with their doctors or veterinarians for fear of being ridiculed. Comments such as “there’s no proof that stuff works,” and “you’re just wasting your money on that junk,” are unfortunately all too common among opponents of natural medicine.
Unfortunately, the same bias extends to the media, many of whom are funded by the large advertising budgets of pharmaceutical companies.
What would you like some proof of my theory? Consider the following.
Throughout my career as a holistic veterinarian, I routinely pitch story ideas to the media (print, radio, and television.) These stories typically have a holistic slant to them, as my goal is to get the message to as many pet owners as possible that holistic medicine can help save their pets’ lives. Here’s just a sampling of some of the recent stories I and my publicist for my new book, Unexpected Miracles: Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets, pitched to all of the major media outlets (most of whom you would know if I named them.)
*Many pets still receive annual vaccinations even though current recommendations are for vaccines to only be given every three years.
*A simple daily treat containing natural therapies can prevent and treat Alzheimer’s in pets.
*Joint supplements can be used in place of the potentially more toxic drugs (NSAIDS) commonly prescribed to help arthritic pets, and tend to be more effective.
*Natural therapies can help many pets recover from allergies, especially those for whom potent medications such as steroids and cyclosporine are chronically prescribed.
*As discussed in my latest book, natural medicine can be lifesaving for those pets who have diseases that are considered hopeless by conventional doctors. Many of these pets are euthanized prematurely because the doctor does not believe in the value of holistic therapies, even when they have been proven to be lifesaving.
It might seem surprising that NO major media (zero, zip, nada) has picked up on any of these stories, especially since sharing this information with their readers, listeners, and viewers can improve and even save the lives of millions of pets!
However, since I’ve been pitching stories on holistic/natural medicine to the media for many years, their refusal to share this important information with pet owners is sad and unfortunate but not surprising.
I’m interested to see just how many of the national media pick up this story for release!
This is a question many owners face every day. Unfortunately, most choose to follow their doctor’s advice and end their pet’s life. However, for owners who refused to follow this poor prognosis, there may be hope for what appears to be a hopeless situation.
In my new book, Unexpected Miracles-Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets, I share true heartwarming and inspirational stories of pets whose lives were saved when their owners refused to give up. By finding an organic/green/natural approach to pet care, these pets are alive today.
Pets don’t have to die just because conventional medicine has nothing to offer. By using natural therapies, there is often ”hope for the hopeless.”
As is often discussed on Fox & Friends and other shows (Laura Ingraham, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Rush Limbaugh, Shawn Hannity, Bill O’Reilly,etc.) there are a number of reasons to take a close look at the current batch of health care “reform” proposals.
One reason to be concerned about proposals making their way around Washington is inadequate medical care.
One of the worst things to happen to the medical profession occurred about 25 years ago when co-pay was introduced. Until then, the patient was responsible for payment and would receive reimbursement from the insurance company if the patient met the deductible. When co-pay was introduced, it meant that anyone could go to a doctor and only pay $10, $20, or something similar.
As a result, everyone with any complaint, no matter how minor, visited the doctor’s office. Time spent in the waiting room increased dramatically. Time spent visiting face-to-face with the doctor decreased dramatically, often averaging less than five minutes per patient.
There is no way a doctor can properly take a history, perform a full thorough physical examination, and review the patient’s case with the patient in under five minutes.
If any of the current proposals become law, doctor visits will increase dramatically again and time spent with your doctor will be almost nonexistent. Incorrect diagnoses, incorrect treatments, and malpractice suits will likely increase as doctors have even less time to spend with their patients.
The solution is simple:”free” medical care isn’t free, and you really do get what you pay for.
For my own health care, I don’t want to be on the conveyor belt of 100 or more patients seen by my doctor today. I’d rather pay out of my pocket and have my doctor take a personal approach to my care, knowing the chance of successful recovery increases exponentially with time spent with my doctor.
Population and Individual Statistics and A Few More Facts Your Doctor Won’t Tell You about Flu Vaccinations for Your Family and Your PetsNovember 18, 2009 on 1:41 pm | In General Posts | No Comments
I believe that decisions on whether or not to vaccinate a family member or a pet should be made by you rather than your doctor or a medical board’s recommendation. This means you must get all the facts about the vaccine in question in order to make an informed decision.
In this regard, there are two types of statistics you must investigate even though your doctor and veterinarian are unlikely to share these with you.
The first is population statistics. This concept relates to how the disease acts in a population. For example, for both dog and people flu, most people and pets exposed to the flu will not contract it and get sick (interestingly, neither the dog nor people flu vaccines are designed to prevent people or pets from getting the flu, but only minimize the severity of the flu if the patient contracts it.) Those few patients exposed to the flu who actually contract the flu will experience a mild illness for just a few days. Very, very few patients actually die from the flu or from a complication of the flu such as pneumonia. Therefore, when looking at population statistics, it is unlikely that the average person or pet will contract the flu regardless of whether or not the vaccine is administered.
Individual statistics deal with the individual person or pet. Using myself as an example, I have never received a flu vaccine and do not intend to receive one. There is very little chance I will catch the flu based upon several facts-I eat well, try to get enough sleep, exercise, minimize my exposure to known cases of the flu, and take a number of nutritional supplements designed to strengthen my immune system to help it fight off the flu and other microorganisms. Additionally, I’ve only had the flu 3 or 4 times in my entire life even though I have never had a flu vaccine. For me, not getting the flu vaccine has kept me healthy. The same rationale applies to my dog who will never get a dog flu vaccine.
I’m not saying some people or pets would not benefit from a vaccine, only that the decision needs to be made in light of population and individual statistics. This is a much better approach than simply following the medical profession’s advice that everyone and every dog should get vaccinated against the flu even though 99% of people and pets are unlikely to benefit from the vaccine, and some patients will experience serious side effects from the vaccine. There is no need to waste your money if you or your pets are unlikely to benefit from the medical procedure. In my opinion, vaccinating all people and pets against the flu would be a big waste of money, only benefiting those who receive payment for this unnecessary service.
There is an interesting article in today’s newspapers about how a recent study showed that several cholesterol-lowering drugs (Vitorin and Zetia) were no more effective than the B vitamin niacin. While this may come as groundbreaking, earth shattering news to many in the medical profession, it’s something holistic doctors have known for years.
Unfortunately the medical profession and pharmaceutical industry has sold the public a bill of goods in promoting cholesterol-lowering drugs to reduce heart disease. While cholesterol-lowering drugs can be beneficial and life-saving for some patients, there are many other causes of heart disease in addition to elevated cholesterol levels. If you don’t believe me, think about how many people with normal cholesterol levels, usually young to middle-aged people, drop dead suddenly from heart attacks. Obviously elevated cholesterol levels are not the cause of fatal heart disease in these patients.
Other causes of heart disease, which are probably more important than elevated cholesterol levels, include elevated levels of C- reactive protein and homocysteine.
Coronary artery disease begins as inflammatory damage to the inner linings of the delicate coronary arteries. Once inflammation has destroyed the inner linings of these arteries, then cholesterol can be deposited within the blood vessel walls forming coronary artery plaque, which can contribute to heart disease. Without the inflammation though, cholesterol is unlikely to do significant damage to normal coronary artery walls unless the levels are extremely elevated.
Many natural therapies are quite useful in preventing heart disease, including coenzyme Q-10 (which should ALWAYS be taken by patients using cholesterol-lowering drugs to prevent serious side effects from statin medications,) fish oils, and B vitamins (which can reduce homocysteine levels and provide energy for the heart.)
Keeping cholesterol levels normal is important, but more important is using diet and supplements plus exercise to reduce inflammation in the body which can contribute to coronary artery disease, cancer, and many other serious diseases.
In my book, Unexpected Miracles: Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets, I share true stories from my practice of pet owners whose conventional doctors gave up on their pets. These doctors often pronounce a diagnosis and prognosis as “hopeless,” sending the pets home to die or offering to euthanize the pets and end their lives. When these owners inquired about an alternative source of pet care, they were often ridiculed, lectured to, or told to leave and never come back.
Well today I saw another such case. This involved a great little dog named Eddie. Little Eddie is a West Highland WhiteTerrier, just over one year old. Like so many Westies, he was diagnosed with severe allergies since puppyhood. His veterinarian treated him with all sorts of toxic drugs, including long-term use of steroids and Atopica, a very potent and expensive medication designed to shut down his immune system. He developed severe vomiting and diarrhea after using Atopica (well known side effects of this drug.) Because there was also a chance that he might have ingested a small bottle cap, his veterinarian rushed Eddie into expensive exploratory surgery. Of course there was no bottle cap in his intestines. When the owner stop giving Eddie his Atopica, his vomiting and diarrhea went away!
Because his owner wanted a more natural approach to care and didn’t want to keep giving Eddie these very expensive ($500 per month) and toxic drugs, she sought out my care. To make a long story short, it’s been several months since I first saw Eddie and he has recovered nicely from his allergies without the long-term use of his expensive and toxic medications. Through the use of herbs, homeopathics, antioxidants, fatty acids, and frequent bathing with my Dr. Shawn’s Organic Itch-Free Pet Shampoo, Eddie is doing very well.
I asked his owner what Eddie’s original veterinarian thought of his positive response to these natural treatments. She responded that the veterinarian told her she and Eddie are no longer welcome in his practice and he does not want to hear from her again! As she explained to me, he told her he is against these “witch doctor treatments” and will not work with any client who chooses to “subject their pets to unproven medical therapies.”
I then asked his owner what the veterinarian’s response was when she told him that the expensive and potentially toxic treatments he had prescribed did not help Eddie, pointing out that Eddie only improved when using my “unproven, witch doctor treatments.” She said that the veterinarian told her “I don’t care if he got better or not, those therapies don’t work and you’re no longer welcome in my practice!”
Unfortunately, Eddie’s story is not rare. I hear these stories every day in my practice. I share just a few of these heartbreaking stories in my new book, Unexpected Miracles: Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets. It saddens me to know that many in my profession don’t believe in the value of a different approach to medical care, considering these therapies “unproven,” despite thousands of years of success. And when a doctor says he doesn’t care if the pet gets better on these therapies as Eddie’s doctor stated, it’s obvious these doctors are only concerned about their bottom line rather than the ultimate health of their patients. Until this attitude changes in both veterinary and human medicine, patients will never experience true health and healing.