Preventive Medicine for Animals
It is important for veterinary surgeons not only to deal with disease and injury, as they occur, but also to try to prevent disease and injury wherever and whenever possible, whether through education, management advice, nutrition or medical intervention. This is an important route to enhanced animal welfare, in line with holistic thinking, and is a major part of the AVMC‘s mission.
In the modern veterinary world, the notion of preventive medicine for infectious diseases is all too often left to vaccination, with insufficient emphasis on good nutrition, holistic management and education. While it has been proven that vaccination has achieved a positive impact on disease incidence, in the case of viral or bacterial diseases, it is also widely known that vaccines bring their own risks. Homeopathic methods have not been widely explored by the veterinary profession, to the loss of the animal community that the profession serves. Nosodes are a massively under-utilised resource for preventive medicine and some clinical trials demonstrate their benefit. The use of nosodes is a form of homeoprophylaxis and many animal ‘owners’ use them as an alternative to vaccination, apparently without penalty.
There is no match for a healthy diet (attuned to the evolutionary and biological needs of the species), a healthy environment and a healthy mind (i.e. not stressed or distressed) as a means of prevention of disease and to nurture a healthy immune system. A species-relevant natural diet is essential to maintain a healthy mouth and healthy digestive system, as the cost of feeding unsuitable manufactured feeds shows very eloquently, let alone its implications for general constitutional health. Farm or home management should allow optimal welfare, to reduce stress and to allow normal behaviours, to encourage a sound mind and body. In the case of horses, feeding, saddling, shoeing, grazing and stabling all require close attention, to optimise the health and welfare of the animal. We cannot, as holistic vets, leave correctible problems unattended (e.g. ill-fitting saddle, bad shoeing etc.), as these can significantly impede the healing process and potentially lead to problems further down the line. Avoidable problems should be avoided.
In the case of farm animals, a great deal of ‘preventive medicine’ can be achieved via good nutrition.
At the AVMC, we encourage all these management issues, whatever the situation or species and offer advice to clients on the best ways to achieve and to maintain the health of their animal charges. Wherever possible, we try to ensure that lifestyle and diet enhance welfare and health, without reliance on medication. Medication is only used where necessary.
The incidence of distressing chronic diseases in our animals is extremely worrying, from a welfare point of view. Incidence appears to mirror the amount of human interference to which the species is subjected. Chronic disease is prevalent in horses, dogs and cats, less so in other species. Why might this be? Could it be to do with what we do to these animals, by way of diet and vaccination? Although it may seem paradoxical, it may be that stopping vaccination (as long as a viable alternative preventive measure is in place) would do much for the prevention of insidious chronic disease and therefore for enhancement of animal welfare. Certainly, reduction of relentless boosting of vaccination would appear to be a logical first move. Annual revaccination is a habit without scientific foundation. The AVMC is willing to discuss this important issue, which we know creates a serious dilemma for the caring animal ‘owner’.