==> Life-enhancing factor No. 3: The right veterinarian!
Vets for pets: Source of life or death?
How to find the right veterinarian
Let's face it and be frank: Veterinarians are human too, and so exactly like with other people, most vets are rather mediocre than great. If you are a veterinarian too and you feel affected, you have to ask yourself why?
Just like other people, most vets too get trapped in what seems the easiest routine work. Because obviously, like everyone else, vets too try to make their work a routine, because doing things routinely makes things easy. And work must be easy, oh yes! Why put in extra effort if it doesn't promise extra income?
If you want the best for your dog (and for your bank account) you cannot be satisfied with a mediocre vet:
- The ordinary vet performs poorly in diagnosis (why put in extra effort if it doesn't promise extra income?)
- The ordinary vet prescribes his standard treatment comprising lab medicaments that provide him perks (why forgo extra income from the pharma industry?)
- The ordinary vet routinely vaccinates and gives boosters (in addition to perks, why argue for a titer if most dog owners are happy with the ordinary?)
- The ordinary vet has Royal Canin on his sales shelves (why educate on healthy dog nutrition if you can make extra income from the dog food industry?)
- The ordinary vet doesn't take the owner's dog knowledge serious (why should he, most dog owners are uneducated anyway, they haven't even heard of mygermanshepherd.org)
- The ordinary vet welcomes you back with the same dog health issues (he can try another round of lab medicaments on your dog - and the Royal Canin on his sales shelves is approaching its due date)
Like I said, if you want the best for your dog (and for your bank account) you cannot be satisfied with a mediocre vet. So see here how to identify a veterinarian that you feel is right for your dog!
In this MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL:
- The fundament of knowledge
- The world's two great belief systems among MDs and DVMs
- The resulting differences in medical and veterinary treatment
- Why this is crucial to understand
- Types of veterinarians
- Vets for pets
- What we look for in a veterinarian
- Vet Selection Criteria
The fundament of knowledge
Note that from childhood onward, anything we learn in life contributes to our belief system, and our belief system is the fundament of what we further learn in life. Most people are unaware of their belief system, and how much it impacts what they are willing to learn during their life. In many (but not all) courses of studies, academics learn to identify and to question their own belief system (and that of others they are expected to work for later).
Veterinary medicine is one such course of study. You can expect that at some point before getting their degree, every veterinarian has programmatically questioned why (s)he is doing what (s)he is doing the way (s)he is doing it. But that doesn't necessarily mean that questioning her own approach resulted in a change of her approach. Some veterinarians go through a fundamental change of their belief system only after decades in practice, and others never.
All of this equally applies to medical doctors (MDs) as well as veterinary doctors (DVMs).
The world's two great belief systems among MDs and DVMs
Historically, Europe was the center of the world, and so all initial projections of the 3D globe as a 2D map show Europe in the center. It is this what gave the terms "western medicine" and "eastern medicine" their meaning.
Until as recently as the end of the last century, people who grew up in the western hemisphere typically learned (and thus commonly accepted, see above!) that western medicine is science-based and remedies are found in clinical work in the laboratory, while eastern medicine is unscholarly (or even quackery) and remedies are found in the garden or mixed up in a barely lit backroom. And those who grew up in the eastern hemisphere typically learned that western medicine is still lacking the insight that eastern medicine has always had.*
The most fundamental difference between western and eastern medicine is (in my humble opinion) that western medicine is based on the belief system that people and animals are chemical and physical beings, while eastern medicine is based on the belief system that people and animals are energetic beings.
* Paradoxically, it was western scientists themselves who have meanwhile substantiated that mainstream western medicine indeed was (and still is) lacking the insight that eastern medicine has always had: The discovery of a variety of proofs in the realm of Quantum Physics has shown even the most dogmatic western DMs and DVMs that people and animals indeed are energetic beings, not chemical and physical beings. You, I and every other human being, and every German Shepherd Dog too - all matter in the universe - is a complex bundle of energetic fields. Atoms and their components actually consist of energy waves (strings). Weirdly, we still call it Quantum Physics though.
This fundamental difference has massive implications for the treatment of defects, diorders and diseases in people and animals - and which types of therapies are deemed sensible and helpful (and thus are covered by private health insurance policies or even by public health care systems)!
While in the last two decades some of the ordinarily "eastern therapies" have gained widespread acceptance in western medicine (eg massage, acupuncture and acupressure, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, chiropractic, osteopathy etc), others are still widely considered unsubstantiated or ineffective or even quackery (in this second group losely fall eg aromatherapy, homeopathy, reiki, shiatsu and reflexology, hypnotherapy, ayurveda, cupping, feng shui etc).*
* It doesn't matter here that some of these are more than a therapy (namely a belief system on their own) and that some of these were not actually developed in the eastern hemisphere - our Periodicals are not about definitions but about insight.
Note that the biomedical model of western medicine is based on Louis Pasteur's germ theory of disease, thus it focuses on - and has been very successful in - curing infectious diseases (disturbances from outside the body). While its successes with curing (gland) defects inside the body are already much more limited.
The real problem however is: In the so-called developed world it is now the chronic disorders incl. allergies that make the lives of people and dogs miserable (and that account for 75% of the US health-care costs!) - and then these chronic disorders kill the majority of the population, and the majority of dogs. And the biomedical model of western medicine has failed to successfully address our modern chronic disorders.*
This failure is the key reason why now an increasing number of people in the western hemisphere seek hope in the diagnostic and therapeutic approaches of eastern medicine (and are willing to pay for them privately out of their own wallet). And what is good for themselves must be good for their dog. You may never have even considered say acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, or feng shui for your dog, but those who consider these therapies for themselves normally don't take long before they also consider them for their dog.
* Almost funny: The chronic disorders for which we seek help from eastern medicine are predominantly affecting people and dogs in the western hemisphere! People and dogs in the eastern hemisphere are much less affected by these chronic disorders. Why? - See the next chapters.
The resulting differences in medical and veterinary treatment
The focus of the biomedical model of western medicine (also called allopathic medicine) is to treat a diagnosed defect, disorder or disease via its symptoms, while the focus of eastern medicine is to promote overall health and prevent the defect, disorder or disease.
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
Note that both approaches are a direct result of the underlying belief system:
- When in western medicine the MD and DVM learned that people and dogs are chemical and physical beings, naturally she sees the symptoms of a diagnosed defect, disorder or disease as the result of a localized chemical and physical disturbance in the body of that person or dog.
She will prescribe a remedy that alleviates the reported symptoms (eg painkillers, corticosteroids) or she may even directly address the diagnosed chemical and physical disturbance (eg antibiotics) - in this case she will present her effort as "targeting the cause" of your defect, disorder or disease. And if you report multiple symptoms, likely she will prescribe you multiple remedies.
- When in eastern medicine the doctor learned that people and dogs are energetic beings, naturally he doesn't bother about some symptoms that may result say from infection, gland defect, allergy, or autoimmune disorder. He doesn't even consider the particular chemical and physical disturbance as the cause of your misery.
For him, the genuine cause of your defect, disorder or disease is that the energetic fields in your body are misaligned, your body is not "in harmony" - resulting from, guess what, conscious or subsconscious stress factors, yes! Thus he will prescribe a remedy that may have little or no immediate impact on your symptoms(!), but that aims to rectify the energetic imbalance that facilitated the chemical and physical disturbance (your defect or disease).
This is the technical reason why medics who were only educated in western medicine - but nonetheless make judgements about eastern medicine - like to argue:
"The alternative or complementary therapies [they mean 'eastern medicine'] are either ineffective or have dangerous side effects or both."
Evidence of efficacy
These medics naturally cannot easily find evidence for the effectiveness of eastern medicine because they measure and compare how much the eastern medicine improves the symptoms of the localized chemical and physical disturbance caused by the diagnosed defect, disorder, or disease - and the eastern medicine doesn't even target this!
Thus the western concept of evidence that's based on clinically measurable localized changes in the number of parasites or pathogens or bodily substances cannot be applied to eastern medicine. You wouldn't measure the speed of a car with a thermometer, or blood pressure with a barometer, would you? An alternative concept of evidence would need to be utilized - but western medicine with its present biomedical model cannot accept any other form of evidence.
When medics who were only educated in western medicine argue with the risk of side effects when you use eastern medicine, it always makes me laugh: When you take a cocktail of chemicals mixed up in a laboratory (some of which may even be known cell poisons) - and worse, if you've been prescribed several chemical cocktails at the same time - you obviously risk much more side effects than when you take one (or even several) natural components!
While natural remedies (and not only herbs) can indeed have severe side effects too, how much more likely is this for concocted chemical remedies that don't even exist in nature?!
While clinical trials in western medicine (most times) successfully prevent remedies with severe short-term side effects from entering the market, it is the long-term side effects that have caused or exacerbated our modern chronic disorders: Allergies, Alzheimer and similar dementias, arthritis, asthma, autism, cancer and similar autoimmune disorders, diabetes, epilepsy, flatulence, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, etc.
It may seem sensible to facilitate both medical approaches in harmony together. Problems however arise where the suggested therapies conflict - and these conflicts are numerous.
Why this is crucial to understand
With the above, it should now be clear to you why painkillers, antidepressants, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories (corticosteroids and more recently NSAIDS) have become the standard blanket treatment for both people and dogs in western medicine.
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They are designed to suppress the diagnosed symptoms of a chemical and physical disturbance in the body (whether caused by an infection, allergy, gland defect, autoimmune disorder, stress, or chronic disorder).
But note that:
Example: Say, you start feeling really bad knee pain. If you're the "tough" type of person like myself, you'll be thinking "Ah well, by tomorrow it will hopefully have disappeared". Not the knee but the pain! You'll go easy on it for a while, you'll avoid load on that knee. However, it's getting worse this time. After two or three days - or after a week if you're really tough (stupid/poor like myself) - you visit your MD. Most MDs will now prescribe you painkillers and anti-inflammatories (antidepressants come only much later, when you lament your knee pain has gotten hold of your will to live, or something like that).
Note that nothing of this is meant to help your body to get rid of the cause of your knee pain. All lab medicaments you are prescribed are only meant to make you feel better by suppressing the symptoms of your misery. Because that's all they can do.
Even the perceived cause of a bacterial infection (say a nasty strain of E. coli) that a traditional western medic will most likely treat with antibiotics, a holistic western medic instead would most likely treat with a herbal remedy and a change in diet to strengthen the immune system.
This will often take a bit longer before your symptoms disappear, but:
- it takes longer because it first removes the associated imbalances in the body that allowed the nasty bacteria to give you bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting!
- it strengthens your immune system to better cope with all kinds of infections (bacterial, viral, and fungal) - while antibiotics weaken your immune system!
- it doesn't produce the severe long-term, chronic side effects that antibiotics entail - particularly those that reach your gut!
And an eastern medic wouldn't even consider the nasty strain of E. coli as the cause of your misery! Instead, most likely he would try to find out what brought your body's energy fields (or "Qi") so much out of balance that your immune system got so weak that it couldn't thwart the bacterial infection! And then he would address that genuine cause of your misery.
This may mean he prescribes a seemingly unrelated remedy, say taking a certain herb supplement or - to use an extreme - meditation! In any case, it will likely be a remedy that the western medic can only laugh off: "What can that possibly do for your E. coli infection?!!"
Since the medical approach of all three physicians is so very different, the outcome may be too. And what was successful for one patient isn't necessarily successful for another patient - and not even necessarily successful for the same patient at a different time! Whether person or dog.
The eastern medic knows this ("the energy fields are different"). The western medic realizes this after several rounds of different therapies tried on that patient have been unsuccessful.
In my opinion it is this trial-and-error approach - worse: using chemical cocktails concocted in a laboratory - that has made chronic disorders the dominant cost factor in western medicine.
Types of veterinarians
Obviously, there is not just one type of 'western veterinarians' and one type of 'eastern veterinarians'. As always, most are between the extremes. A DVM (and MD alike) that is open-minded to all medical approaches and therapies - and educated in a variety of them - and thus who looks at the patient's overall health and well-being, is often called a holistic veterinarian (or holistic people doctor alike).
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Note that open-minded to all medical approaches and therapies does not mean he will consider them all in your or your dog's case. It doesn't even mean he will trial them all during his career. And it also does not mean he is indifferent to all medical approaches and therapies that he studied.
But it does mean: This MD or DVM uses more like a sieve than a basic filter in what she learns in life and what she accepts to become part of her belief system (see this image). And so this type of MD or DVM is much more likely to prescribe a therapy that does not include any lab medicament at all - unless of course perks from the pharma industry are part of her belief system too.
Most vets are general vets, some of these in addition are specialized in a certain field (eg dentistry, neurology, dermatology) - for New York City I found a wonderful article about the top vets in New York (presumably). Very few vets restrict their work to their specialization only (if they do, they likely are an animal behaviorist or veterinarian microbiologist).
It is probably fair to say that most veterinarians in the western hemisphere (plus Australia and New Zealand) are conventional, general, small animal vets. Vets for pets so to say. I can't say how it is for example in India, so I won't say anything. If you can contribute your experience, please leave your comment below.
Vets for pets
In the USA, Canada, and Europe about 70 to 75% of all veterinarians treat primarily cats and dogs - including our German Shepherd Dog. Here again, most vets for pets are conventionally educated ('Western') vets with a general practice (vet office).
In most nations, veterinarians have to do their annual amount of hours of CPD (Continuous Professional Development), however I know from personal experience how little that contributes to staying up-to-date with the more recent scientific discoveries and veterinarian practices. Meaning: If you have a vet who is say 45 years old, chances are, most of his knowledge is based on what was taught 20 years ago. Meaning: Most of what he will do for your dog is based on what was done for a dog 20 years ago.
For example, take the topic of dog vaccination: Say since the 80-ies of the last century, as a Western vet you learned to start with vaccinations in puppyhood, and to continue with yearly boosters through to old age of the dog. To this very day (today) this practice has never been scientifically substantiated.
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Conversely, today we know that this vaccination frenzy has led to chronic side effects - affecting both the individual dog and herd immunity! - that make its benefits very much questionable (see our MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL on dog and puppy vaccinations). If you are still accepting that your vet is giving your German Shepherd unnecessary vaccination shots(?), you better read right now Stop the Shots to make better informed decisions about your dog's (and kids') life and quality of life (and your bank account)!
In fact, even famed US veterinarians(!) have confirmed to me in interviews that the practice of yearly boosters is just great for their business: "it gets dog owners back to the vet office to pay for an examination, and likely something else".
What we look for in a veterinarian
Now that you know all the above and you can take it into consideration when you're choosing a veterinarian, what does that mean how you will want to prepare for that 'adventure'?
Well, I can't know about you if you belong to the incognito bunch of folks that never left any comment here, but for myself it means:
- First, we need to decide if we want to be the sheep that follows the herd (see all the above that describes conventional Western veterinarians), or the shepherd that leads the herd? The dumb passive payer, or the educated active dog owner?
- I know what I want to be: the shepherd, not the sheep
- Then we need to have a short and easy but decisive list of vet selection criteria
- We also need to be sufficiently educated to stand up to the average ueberconfident vet - and if you've consciously consumed all two-and-a-half-years-of-Periodicals!!, you certainly are sufficiently educated; while if you haven't, you made a BIG mistake: they were free!
- And we need to know our own dog very well - incl. what (s)he digests well, what (s)he responds to and what (s)he is allergic to, what food and drink (s)he's getting, the dog's medical history, etc
- Then we ask local dog owners in our neighborhood which vets they know of, and which vets they actually visit and what their experience has been
- Alternatively or in addition, we do a quick Google search - I would do: "holistic veterinarian" [region] (ie I would put quotes around "holistic veterinarian")*
- Equipped with a list of at least three pre-selected vets, we then put the dog in the car and visit "our favorite vet" first
- "What you see is what you get" - thus we then consciously look at the premises and talk to the staff, and we mentally tick off our list of vet selection criteria
* For the North-American continent, you may be able to find the right veterinarian on the site of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) (they clearly aim to list holistic vets worldwide, but outside USA and Canada they don't have many members yet). Note though that the AHVMA only lists the holistic vets who were willing to pay the $197 membership fee.
I've had it that we were right in the middle of an examination, and I noticed that the vet was doing or saying something that I reject, and I took the dog and left the vet office merely with the words "I will not subject this dog to such incompetence". You should see the vet's face when you do that.
I don't mind leaving the impression of "oh what a stupid dog owner" if I can save our dogs from an ordinary vet's unsensible routine work (and my bank account from the associated bills, now and in future)! Normally though it isn't necessary to redecide in the middle of an examination: Our vet selection criteria allow to decide for the (probably) right veterinarian before (s)he even starts the examination.
Vet Selection Criteria
I've come up with a list of sensible criteria how to find the right veterinarian. How many and which of these criteria you use will depend on how serious it is for you to find the right veterinarian?
Likely those who aren't interested to engage in a discussion on high-end content as in our Periodicals also aren't interested to find the right veterinarian for their dog. Listless people - existing but not living. The walking dead.
- If the vet has a website, I'd spend an hour to go through it and see where she stands with her belief system, and what veterinary approaches and therapies she portrays on her site.
- Is this a conventional vet or a holistic vet?
- General vet or specialized vet?
- Whether conventional or holistic, what therapies does this vet focus on, what is her interest?
- An easy deal-breaker: What does the vet write about vaccinations?
- All these topics are also great to compare with what the vet says in conversations later!
- What advertisements is this vet running on her website? Does that match what she stands for, or is she contradicting herself already on her own site?
- Next, word-of-mouth: What have local dog owners said about this vet? Both positive and negative. - The worst are people who don't have an opinion, who stick with their vet only out of routine! Remember: The walking dead.
- Does the word-of-mouth match what the vet writes on her website?
- Only now I would bother to visit the investigated vet. Seeing a vet that doesn't make it through the above would waste my time!
- Next, premises: Is the vet office clean, does it appear hygienic or unsanitary? - Most hygienic: tiles; least hygienic: carpet!
- Can the waiting animals access water? Are they at risk of cross-contamination?
- Vet or salesman? Does this vet have more sales shelves than information leaflets? What kind of stuff is on the sales shelves?
- Finally, competence check - compare with your internet research (1) and with what you heard from local dog owners (2). Three key areas are enough, for example these are really helpful questions:
- "In this geography, which vaccinations are legally required for my dog, and which vaccinations would you recommend for my dog, and how often?"
- "What about ticks in this geography, which ticks are prevalent here, and what other parasites and dangerous wildlife do I need to be aware of?"
- "To stay healthy, what should I feed my dog, and how much?"
Ads on website and/or products on sale in vet office: For example, a vet would be contradicting himself if he claims to be (or is said to be) a veterinary nutritionist, but you see Royal Canin kibble bags in his office! Or, if he claims to be (or is said to be) a veterinary homeopath, but the first thing he prescribes for your dog is antibiotics, or anti-inflammatories (whether corticosteroids or NSAIDS)!
Hygienic vet office: We all know (from TV) that some dogs have to live in scruffy homes (the dog owner doesn't seem to mind living there too). But note that it is one thing to subject a dog to a pathogen-rich environment at home, and an entirely different thing to subject a dog to a pathogen-tsunami of hundreds of sick dogs that have gone through an unsanitary vet office. An MD that you choose for yourself and your family, and a DVM that you choose for your dog, both' premises have to be spotless clean, meticulous, hyperclean!
Competence check: Obviously you do what you want (please!), but if you ask me, I would not choose a vet that is elusive about any of these questions:
- Which vaccinations does the vet recommend? - He MUST relate this to your dog's lifestyle. If he doesn't ask where your dog is out and about, and just replies with certain vaccinations, I would walk away - because he is either incompetent or bogged down in routine work (see at the top)!
- Likewise, if he recommends a booster of a vaccine your dog has already received (yearly booster or any booster), he is incompetent: An educated veterinarian that is more interested in your dog's health than in his own office routine and income stream, will only ever recommend a vaccine booster AFTER a titer has been done that confirms that your dog has insufficient antibodies for the particular disease pathogen! Note that a titer does not harm your dog's health - but every vaccine does!
A vet who disputes this fact, again is incompetent. Remember that the vaccination risks are only acceptable if the vaccination has a benefit for your dog. If your dog still has sufficient antibodies, there is no benefit in giving the vaccine, neither for your dog nor for herd immunity! Instead, such over-vaccination will harm both your dog and herd immunity, as was clearly documented already in our Vaccinations Periodical.
- Local parasites and dangerous wildlife: Example, I once moved into the woods on a mountain, and I asked the local veterinarian about wildlife dangers for dogs. Thankfully she knew enough to warn me of a dangerous local species of centipede that can kill an adult GSD with its venom. Other than that she was a disaster - which I immediately realized thanks to my vaccination question - and Royal Canin kibble bags on her sales shelves.
- What food does the vet recommend? - If the vet is good, she will recommend you one or two books on dog nutrition and she will urge you to make easy and quick homemade dog meals. If the vet is bad, he will instead reply with a commercial dog food brand name. - Note that regardless how "great" that brand might be, this vet is bad because he failed to suggest that you LEARN about dog nutrition. Remember that most veterinarians have a very low opinion of dog owners' competence and intelligence. If you've booked the Dog Expert Interview Series, you learned this first-hand!
- How much dog food? - If the vet is bad, he will reply with a gram or cup amount per day that is based on your dog's weight. Conversely, if the vet is good, she will first enquire about your dog exercise regime and your dog training approach, and then relate this to the weight and age of your dog. - Why also relate it to your dog training approach? Because your training approach determines your dog's stress level! And stress, like exercise, consumes a lot of energy.
In the list above, did you miss vet reviews on the internet? Most veterinarians are insignificant, you won't find public reviews on such vets. Conversely, on prominent vets you will find public reviews - but you certainly can't afford a prominent vet if you can't even make the small investment to learn from the Dog Expert Interview Series - which would give you all the combined insight not just of prominent vets but of expert vets and expert trainers too.
Note that a merely prominent vet typically isn't "better" anyway, stardom is the result of marketing not of competence. The real benefit to the dog owner rather is: You know what a prominent vet stands for, what his veterinary approach is, his specialization, his preferred therapies, what he is best at, etc. So you can make a better decision if it's the right veterinarian for your dog.
Finally, note that a wise dog owner - regardless of his own belief system - will not bother what it was that ultimately helped the dog. The key is, the dog was helped! So I would suggest: Get not too much hung up about your chosen veterinarian's belief system and preferred veterinary therapies - unless it appears likely to result in more side effects than benefits? With antibiotic and anti-inflammatory therapies this is certain! Review above Why this is crucial to understand.
Be aware that with the above suggestion I make a clear difference between being rather easy with a veterinarian's belief system and preferred therapies, and being rather strict with which veterinarian I'd choose in the first place: The more thoughtful I am in choosing a DVM (and MD alike), the less I need to worry about the chosen physician's suggested therapy. Makes sense? Of course.
Nonetheless I would always carefully consider the physician's suggested treatment based on his diagnosis. And if the defect or disease or suggested intervention(!) is life-threatening or can be expected to have permanent impact on the quality of life (of myself or the dog), I would certainly get a second diagnosis (second opinion), or even a third.
==> In our next edition: The importance of stress-free vet visits <==
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