Is It Malpractice to Not Refer to an “Alternative” Vet?

December 29, 2009 on 2:42 pm | In General Posts | Comments Off

I recently posed this question to a group of conventional veterinarians who, as might be expected, are not quite as open-minded about “alternative therapies” as the rest of us. My personal feeling is that if the conventional veterinarian has done everything possible for the pet, and that pet is still is not improving, it would be malpractice to refuse to refer the pet to a doctor who uses “alternative” therapies. Refusing to refer to another doctor who might help your patient simply because you don’t “believe in” that other doctor’s therapies is no excuse.

In discussing this issue with conventional doctors, the main objection seems to be that there is “no proof these alternative therapies work.” Knowing the volumes of data proving the effectiveness and safety of these “alternative therapies,” this comment by conventional doctors would be humerous if it wasn’t in fact tragic.

Every day I see patients for whom conventional medicine offered no help. Many of these patients are quite ill, and some are even dying. The recommendation by conventional medicine is to simply let nature take its course and let the pet pass quietly, or more often to intervene with humane euthanasia, ending the pet’s life (prematurely in my opinion.)

Knowing that “alternative therapies” will be lifesaving for many of these pets, I am frustrated when I realize how many pets die simply because the conventional doctor “doesn’t believe in” an alternative therapy that would likely improve the pet’s health and may save its life.

For now, I can only continue to do my part to educate pet owners not to give up just because conventional medicine prefers the recommendation of death rather than referral to someone whose “alternative therapies” could mean life. Little by little I and my holistic veterinary colleagues will continue to try to positively influence our conventional brethren and hope they one day see the light and realize the positive healing experience that can come about when conventional medicine can no longer offer help for a patient.

Pet Care and Veterinary Medicine-A Look Back at the First Decade of the New Century

December 28, 2009 on 2:04 pm | In General Posts | Comments Off

As the first decade of our new century comes to a close, I’d like to share with you some of the highlights of veterinary medicine over the past 10 years. There have been many exciting things that have happened, and in my opinion these are some of the most memorable.

Changing vaccine protocols

For many years I’ve been saying that dogs and cats receive way too many vaccinations. In the last decade, my belief has been validated by new recommendations by several major veterinary organizations (American Literary Medical Association, American Association of Feline Practitioners, American Animal Hospital Association.) Based upon research gathered over many years, these organizations and universities of veterinary medicine are now recommending most pets be vaccinated every three years rather than annually. While this is a big improvement, I and many of my colleagues believe that every three years is still too often. Based upon our own clinical experience, most pets only need to be vaccinated every 5 to 10 years. The best way to determine if and when your pet requires a vaccine is through the use of a simple and inexpensive blood test called an antibody/titer test.

New Therapies For a Serious Cancer in Cats

Vaccine associated sarcoma (VAS) is commonly seen in cats (and very rarely in dogs and other pets) receiving frequent vaccinations (another great reason not to have your pet vaccinated annually.) New research has shown that very aggressive treatment with surgery (ideally by a board-certified surgeon with experience in cancer surgery,) radiation, and chemotherapy can help these cats live many years and in some cases cure them of this horrible cancer. Integrating these three conventional cancer-fighting therapies with herbs, nutritional supplements, and homeopathics can also improve the cat’s recovery and longevity. Prevention is obviously best. Minimizing the vaccines your cat receives is the best way to prevent this cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment gives the best response; any suspicious lump or bump in your cat (or any pet) should be promptly investigated and biopsied. Neither you nor your doctor should simply feel a lump and decide to wait and watch it grow and eventually kill your pet! If a lump seems suspicious, remove it!

New Treatment for Cognitive Disorder

As in people, cognitive disorder (doggy and kitty Alzheimer’s disease) is the most common chronic degenerative neurological problem in older pets. New research shows that natural therapies containing the nutritional supplement phosphatidylcholine easily reverse this clinical signs of cognitive disorder and most pets. In my own experience, the use of the tested product (Cholodin by MVP Laboratories) can also PREVENT cognitive disorder in most pets.

Greater Focus on Pain Management

It’s hard to believe that prior to the previous decade, most veterinarians did not use analgesic/pain relieving medications in the majority of their surgical patients! The last decade has shown the release of several wonderful pain-preventing and pain-relieving drugs that should be used in all pets for all surgeries. While there are still some doctors that do not properly use pain-relieving/preventing medication in their surgical patients (ideally these medications should be given before the surgery as preemptive analgesia to prevent postsurgical pain,) fortunately the use of pain relieving medications is becoming more common. Since some doctors still do not use these drugs as often as they should, it’s important for pet owners to ask their doctors about the use of analgesic drugs before scheduling surgery for their pets. And fortunately, there are also wonderful herbs, supplements, and other natural therapies that can be used with or in place of conventional pain relieving medications to help pets with chronic pain.

H1N1-The Swine Flu and Your Pets

December 23, 2009 on 2:30 pm | In General Posts | Comments Off

While H1N1 has caused concern among people, a few pet owners have also expressed concern about the family dog or cat becoming infected with this virus.

Influenza viruses are not species-specific viruses, which means they can infect several species of animals, although infection and disease tends to be more common in the species after which the virus is named.

There have been a few isolated reports of infections in dogs and cats with the H1N1 virus. While a few cats did die from infection with the virus, most infected pets experienced no clinical signs or only showed mild clinical signs from which they recovered with supportive therapy.

The H1N1 virus is a very unique virus. According to the CDC, the virus contains genetic pieces from four different virus sources, which is unusual. The current strain of the H1N1 virus consists of North American swine influenza viruses, North American avian influenza viruses, human influenza viruses and swine influenza viruses found in both Asia and Europe.

Infections in dogs and cats occur after the animals are exposed to their infected and sick owners. While it is unlikely that the family dog or cat will get sick, it may be wise to limit exposure of the family pet (and other family members) to anyone in the house who is sick with the H1N1 virus.

Are Pets Property or Family Members?

December 22, 2009 on 7:55 am | In General Posts | Comments Off

Mike Gallagher was discussing an interesting case on his radio show involving the question of whether or not the family pet is considered property or is considered a family member. The case involves a family in Vermont whose dog was shot and killed by the next-door neighbor. The family wants to sue and recoup losses based upon their emotional attachment to the pet as a family member, but the law recognizes pets as property rather than family members.

As I hope to share with Mike sometime on his show, I think most people do consider their pets as members of their family. I know I do, and so do my clients in my veterinary practice. For many of these clients, their pets are their children as they do not have any children and instead devote all of their love, attention, and affection to their dogs or cats.

Currently, the law treats pets as property. This means that if a pet is killed (intentionally or accidentally,) you can only recoup the value of the pet (property,) which would not include any damages for emotional loss and pain.

While many people want the law to change to reflect the increased human-animal bond and recognize that pets are considered family members, there are always unintended consequences of any law. While I’m not opposed to changing the law, it is important to consider all implications before the law is changed. Here are just a few things that come to mind.

1. Increased malpractice costs. Currently malpractice insurance is very inexpensive for veterinarians when compared to medical doctors. A major reason for this is that pets are considered property, and other than the actual expenses involved with the medical care of the pet, owners cannot receive large payouts based upon the emotional attachment to the pet. If this changes, malpractice costs would increase, and this increased cost will be passed along to you at the time of your visit with the veterinarian.

2. Determining the value of the pet. How would a jury determine a fair value to place on the emotional attachment the family has to the pet? If I were to die, the jury would consider my income at the time of my death as well as any potential future earnings. This value could be awarded to my survivors as it would replace the income I would have made if I were still alive. Obviously most pets do not earn income for the family, so how would a jury arrive at a fair value? Here are 2 possible suggestions: one is to offer a numerical factor of the replacement value of the pet. For example, if it costs $500 to purchase another pet, a jury could offer a value (such as 2x, 5x, 10 x, etc. the replacement value) to cover emotional loss. Another suggestion would be to simply set a dollar value ($500, $1000, etc.) for any emotional loss regardless of the replacement cost of the pet. Having a set value for emotional loss written into law would prevent excessive jury awards but yet still allow a pet owner to receive financial compensation based upon emotional loss.

3. Watch out for “Animal Protective Services.” If pets are recognized as family members (“children”) by the law, what obligations would the human family members have towards the pets? Currently parents cannot abuse their children and must provide a certain level of care or they risk temporarily or permanently losing their children to the state based upon investigation by child protective services. This also involves legal responsibilities of proper medical care for the children. There are two recent cases of parents who declined conventional medical care for their children suffering from serious diseases and instead announced their intentions to treat their children with alternative therapies. Child protective services stepped in and a court ruled that the parents must submit their children for conventional chemotherapy even if they were opposed to it (this opens up many other questions that can be addressed in a future blog.) If pets are to be legally considered as “children,” the state may have the right to force you to have certain medical procedures done to your pet you might not choose. For example, the veterinarian tells you that your pet is suffering from painful dental disease and you refuse to spend money to have the pet’s teeth cleaned, could the veterinarian legally turn you into animal protective services and have you forced to have the procedure done at your expense?

Likewise, if your pet is discovered to have cancer and you choose alternative therapies rather than conventional chemotherapy, could your veterinarian turn you in and have the state intervene and force you to pay for and perform certain medical therapies done to your pet you would not choose?

While I’m all in favor of considering pets as family members, it is important to consider some of the potential consequences of this action and make sure all these consequences are well thought out for the law changes.

Tips for the Holidays

December 18, 2009 on 8:21 am | In General Posts | Comments Off

With the holidays quickly approaching, here are tips sent to me by a reader to make the time the bit less stressful for you and your pets.

Doorbells Can Be Stressful

Many pets are agitated by the sound of doorbells. If your dogs bark, run and jump when new people arrive at the house, or if your cat runs for cover, consider disengaging the doorbell and putting a sign on the door to ask guests to “knock please.” Provide an open cage large enough for your animal to stand and fully turn around in, and place it in a quiet room away from the commotion so your pet can choose when to join your party. This will also help keep your pet from running away during the frequent opening and closing of your door if you keep the cage closed.

Be Aware of the Temperature

Cats and other animals may seek out your car engine for warmth during the winter months, so honk the horn or bang on the hood a few times before starting the engine.

Watch for Chemicals on the Sidewalks

Your pet may like taking a stroll outside when the temperature dips, but many people use powerful salts on their sidewalks to combat the ice. Clean your pet’s paws after your outing to prevent its pads from becoming irritated and dried out.

Don’t Forget about the Pet Bird

Getting ready for holiday gatherings usually means extra cleaning before guests arrive. Fumes from rug shampoo, furniture polish and oven cleaner can be fatal to a bird if they enter its delicate respiratory system. When using these products, keep them away from birds, and open your windows to let the air flow.

Just Because It’s Cold Doesn’t Mean They Can’t Catch a Bug

Mosquitoes and other bugs can be a year-round problem. Remember to keep your pets on their regular heartworm preventive medicines, even during the winter.

Flowers are Pretty But …

Holly, amaryllis, mistletoe and pine needles can be harmful to your pet’s stomach. Go for the fake versions to keep your traditions, and your pet, alive.

If They Like Toilet Water, They’ll Probably Like Tree Water

Both cats and dogs may find Christmas-tree water irresistible, so if you add a tree preservative to the water, make sure it is pet friendly. Better yet, use a tree stand designed to prevent pets from accessing the water, which can harbor bacteria.

Be Careful with Christmas Trees

With its glittering lights and natural climbing area, the Christmas tree may offer a new place for your cat to play. Hang your most valuable or breakable ornaments near the top and cat-friendly ornaments on the bottom. And say ”No” to tinsel which can easily cause serious gastrointestinal problems for cats and dogs.

For more information on keeping pets happy and safe during the holidays, go to

Global Warming Again-Be Careful How Much You Breathe!

December 16, 2009 on 5:49 am | In General Posts | Comments Off

As you know, the EPA was just given the authority to regulate CO2, a natural byproduct of simply being alive. What’s next-will government tell us we should all breathe a little bit less so that we exhale even less carbon dioxide?

Don’t laugh-this could easily happen. Here’s why.

Simply look at the math. If there are approximately 300,000,000 people in the United States, and each person exhales approximately 1 ton of carbon dioxide each year, think how much less carbon dioxide we would have in our immediate environment if each person was required to exhale 20% less often. The decrease in carbon dioxide in our country would be staggering. Simply breathing less will do more to clean up our environment than any of the other proposals currently being discussed.
People who breathe more than the recommended amount (“heavy breathers”) would be fined for polluting the environment. And since certain foods increase our internal production of gas, pretty soon foods can be regulated as well in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and methane production.

I am certainly not proposing the government regulate how often I breathe, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that proposal is forthcoming once some “scientist” puts the pencil to the paper and realizes just how much less pollution we would have if only all of us would breathe less!

Dr. Shawn’s Organic Ear Wash Gets a Five Star Rating!

December 11, 2009 on 7:39 am | In General Posts | Comments Off

I’m honored that my ear wash, made from certified organic ingredients, just received the highest rating possible from Basil & Spice. Check it out at

The Only Way to Solve Our Health Care Problem to Stay Healthy!

December 11, 2009 on 7:37 am | In General Posts | Comments Off

I know that title of my blog may seem a bit odd, but it really is the truth. Staying healthy is the only guaranteed way to avoid the high cost of care necessary to treat chronic illness in our current medical system.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. If we focused on health (a healthy diet, exercise, stop smoking, maintain an ideal weight, and reduce our exposure to environmental toxins,) medical bills will be minimal and the cost of care would focus on preventive medicine rather than treatment oriented medicine.
Even for those people with chronic illness, focusing on returning them to health residents simply managing a disease will go a long way to reducing costs.

Unfortunately, our current medical and veterinary professions have not received the proper training and are not focused on wellness but rather on disease. Unless you or your pet is lucky enough to visit a doctor with a focus on natural medicine, any healthcare practitioner you visit is likely to focus on treating diseases with multiple medications, ultimately forcing you or your pet to become a pharmaceutical cripple. Since doctors do not have the training to focus on wellness care (and in human medicine, doctors do not have the financial incentive since insurance does not pay to keep people healthy) it will be difficult to fix our broken system.

As my colleagues Drs. Mark Hyman, Dean Ornish, and Michael Roizen stated in their illuminating editorial in the recent Journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, “Personalized lifestyle medicine is a high science, high touch, low-tech, low-cost treatment that is more effective for the top five chronic diseases in people than our current approaches. It is not taught in medical schools, practiced by physicians, or delivered in hospitals or health care setting.” As they report, personalized lifestyle medicine can reduce net health care expenditures approximately $930 billion over five years and result in dramatically better health and quality of life when used to treat the top five chronic diseases afflicting our human population.

Until we are willing to face reality, no government quick-fix, high cost solutiond for our healthcare problems will be of any value. People (and pets) will continue to get sick and become slaves addicted to multiple medications and surgical procedures, many of which would not be necessary if we focused on health rather than disease.

More On Global Warming-Look Closely at the Statistics before Drawing Any Conclusions

December 9, 2009 on 1:06 pm | In General Posts | Comments Off

I was watching TV this weekend, and one of the shows talked about global warming. According to this show, 10 of the hottest days in recorded history have occurred over the last hundred years. The assumption was that this increase in hot days occurred due to man-made pollution which has increased over the last hundred years.

Well that’s certainly one way to look at it, but as a scientist I have to ask the hard questions that others may not always ask.

Let’s examine that statistic just a little bit closer, shall we?

First, if we allow that it is actually true that 10 of our hottest days in recorded time have occurred over the last century, the obvious question is this: is it possible that there were 10 even hotter days in the Earth’s history that we don’t know about? In other words, is it possible that prior to recording Earth’s temperatures, there were actually 10 hotter days than what had been recorded? Since we’ve only been recording temperatures for a short period time, it’s impossible to say exactly what the temperature was millions if not billions of years ago.

Second, if we were to look at the 100 hottest days since we’ve been recording temperatures, it means that only 10 of those top 100 hot days occurred over the last century since we’ve been using fossil fuels. Another way to look at this is that 90 out of the top 100 hot days occurred BFORE we began using fossil fuels to the extent we are now using them.

Does this mean that fossil fuels are not contributing to climate change? Absolutely not. It simply means that maybe the use of fossil fuels does not have a significant contribution to climate change. If it did, it would make more sense that the top 100 or even top 1000 hottest days in recorded temperature have occurred over the last century since fossil fuels have increased in use.

Remember that we can phrase statistics however we want to do so to support our theories. Ultimately a very close and discriminating examination of statistics might present a different picture and lead us to a different conclusion.

Dr. Shawn’s Recommended Christmas Gifts for Pets and Owners Dr. Shawn’s Holiday Gift List For Pet Owners and Pets

December 8, 2009 on 3:35 pm | In General Posts | Comments Off

For Pet Owners

*Food Pets Die For by Ann Martin-this is a great book that is an exposé of the pet food industry. When you finish reading this book by my colleague Ann Martin, you will have the knowledge you need to select the best food to feed your pet.

*Unexpected Miracles-Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets by Dr. Shawn Messonnier-yes I know I’m biased since I wrote this book but the book is not only educational but inspirational as well. It contains many true stories of pet owners who were told there was no hope for their pets, and yet who found cures for their pets’ “incurable” diseases by turning to natural therapies.

*ArtPaw this out. You take your favorite photo of your special pet and Rebecca at ArtPaw turns it into a unique keepsake.

For Pets

* great fun toy for your cat or dog. My kitten LOVES this thing.

*Wally Bed-800-78-WALLY-a great comfortable bed made in a variety of sizes, shapes, and fabric patterns for your cat or dog. My pets love them!

*Through a Dogs great CDs of classical music that you play for your pet to calm its anxieties during stressful times (such as the holidays!)

*Natural Dog Treats-Henry and Sons- are some of my favorite treats. All natural, all vegetarian, and very tasty!

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