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Important! I hope you will read this.

Important! I hope you will read this.

Why protectionist bylaws may affect the health of your dog

A few days ago, I had a very interesting conversation with my animal chiropractor friend. We like chatting about shop talk, sharing cases and venting our frustrations about veterinary bylaws that prohibit non-veterinarians from practicing. In some states and provinces, even highly educated and skilled professionals are not allowed to practice on animals. In some places they can practice, but only under the direct supervision of veterinarians. 

People put these rules in place and say they are essential to protect the safety of your dogs, but are they? 

Are humans less worthy than dogs?

I realize this question may open a can of worms. Many dog lovers believe that dogs and other living beings are equal in importance to humans and I am one too.

In most societies, laws put people in a position of greater importance. When a child fell into a gorilla enclosure in a Cincinnati Zoo, the police shot the endangered gorilla to save the child. Many people will agree that it was the right thing to do, but is this human-centric approach correct? Perhaps if the principle of equality was applied, both the gorilla and the boy could have been saved.

What do veterinary bylaws have in common with the topic of human-animal equality?

As I mentioned above, some veterinary regulatory bodies, such as colleges and associations, restrict non-veterinarians from practicing on animals.

Naturally, one must ask two questions.  

  1. Why isn't such a rule applied in human medicine? Is human safety suddenly less important?
  2. Why do parents have a choice taking a child to, for example a chiropractor, physical therapist or a homeopath, while animals lovers have to struggle in an environment that restricts non-veterinarians to practice only under direct supervision? 

Most human medical doctors understand that complementary healthcare practitioners can be invaluable in areas where doctors are not educated. Most people would consider it unacceptable if their chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapist, homeopaths or acupuncturists were not allowed to work with them unless they are supervised by a doctor.

Forgive me that I am not naming all the professions and healers. There are many very helpful modalities and it is not possible to name them all.  

The main question we must ask is:  Why do veterinary regulatory bodies impose restrictions, while the human medical colleges do not? Are animals suddenly more important than people? 

Deciphering the big WHY

More dog lovers understand the value of combining different modalities for the benefit of their dogs. It is also highly unlikely that a guardian would take their dog to a non-veterinarian practitioner to perform surgery, take X-rays or in an emergency.

The argument that some practitioners could lack skills is partially valid, but this also applies to vets. The animal lover communities are usually tight-knit and self-regulated. It does not take very long for an excellent practitioner's practice to be bursting at the seams, while a less-skilled vet practice withers away.

Don't get me wrong. I believe that every dog should have a vet as a primary care provider and that a large majority of veterinarians are well educated and skilled.

However, it is rather unlikely that your dog would be seriously harmed by a complementary practitioner, especially if she or he is skilled and well educated, such as a doctor of chiropractics. We also need to remember that doctor's error has been identified as one of the top three causes of death in the U.S. in a John Hopkins University study

Dr. Herriot's times are over

I have been in practice for a long time, but the longer I work with my patients, the more I understand the importance of health care teamwork. The Dr. Herriot times are over and veterinarians who are trying to be a jack-of-all-trades do not provide as high quality of care as those who are open minded and work in tandem with non-veterinarians. 

I have been referring my patients and taking my dog to other practitioners for years.  Chiropractics, acupuncture, rehabilitation, massage have been part of maintaining Skai’s health in addition to my care, healthy nutrition and all-natural essential supplements for dogs and I have seen amazing results. 

Is money the reason for animal healthcare restriction?

The answer is yes and no. 

I have heard many people say that veterinarians like money more than their patients. I strongly disagree with such opinions. Most vets truly care and, contrary to the opinions of the general public, veterinarians are far from the top earning professionals, despite needing a high level of education and skills. Being a vet is rewarding, but also a very stressful job. Part of the stress is running a very complex practice with high overhead. 

Who is behind this all?

In my opinion, veterinarians are not the main reason why the veterinary field is in such a dismal non-collaborative state and why these unreasonable restrictions exist (with some exceptions).

For many decades now, the close connection of veterinary medicine with big pharma and processed pet food companies has dominated the universities, professional conferences and research. All one needs to do is to look at sponsorships at events to see who brings the money and are "educating" us.

Slowly holistic approaches have been marginalized, ridiculed and in the worst case scenarios made illegal.

From a drug company’s point of view, natural substances and herbs are hard to license and difficult to profit from. Chemicals are usually cheap to make and can be licensed and sold for high profits without competition.

Holistic health care practitioners can't and don’t want to prescribe drugs. Personally, I have been able to reduce the use of prescription drugs by more than 90 percent!  Imagine what would happen to drug companies if such an approach to healing became the norm! They would cease to exist and that is why there is so much pressure to discredit holistic healing.

Is there a way out of this situation?

Of course there is. 

First, we need to consciously stop using the products and services of companies that act unethically or attempt to dominate the market. In most situations, there are alternatives to drugs. We just have to share the information and continue learning and passing the wisdom on.

Ultimately, we consumers have the power to create the necessary shift. No matter how large the corporations are, if their customers use healthier alternatives, they will either have to change or will cease to exist.

A part of the plan must be our opposition to bylaws that prohibit non-veterinarians from working with animals. Public and media pressure has proven to be very effective when it comes to creating a shift and we just need to be clear with the regulatory bodies. It is our right to choose! 

It should be all about you and your dog

No matter what we vets do, the focus should be on you and mainly your dog. My dog Skai is going to be 15 at the time of writing this article. Of course he is no longer a puppy, but he is still happy, playful and enjoys life. I have seen the same benefits in my other patients.

If you want to learn more about three simple principles of the healing cycle, here is some additional reading and a video. 

5 steps to getting a dream team for your dog

Why vets ban non-veterinarians from helping animals

PS: If you are aware of restrictions on any modalities in your state, province or country, please contribute to our list here. Our plan is to use this information to publish the results and work on making things better over time.

© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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