A different view of animal health: Holistic veterinarians are growing in number, acceptance

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Ricki Brozman took the long, gleaming needle and stuck it right into the horse’s back.

Tango didn’t even flinch.

Instead, the gentle black Dutch twitched his ears nonchalantly and curiously looked around the barn, his eyes eventually resting on a box filled with tasty carrots.

His treat would have to wait, however. His acupuncture treatment wasn’t quite finished yet.

Being poked with needles no longer fazes Tango. It makes his back pain go away. But his peaceful demeanor during the procedure never fails to delight Brozman, a holistic veterinarian from Bucyrus.

Even though she’s performed acupuncture on every animal from dogs to cows for a decade, she never tires of that happy pang she gets in her heart every time she helps ease an animal’s pain.

It’s why she does what she does.

Her unconventional veterinary treatments, such as acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, have turned Brozman into a hero for her clients.

Every week, pet owners — from all over the Midwest — seek out her Prairie Village-based practice, Horizon Holistic Veterinary Care. Her natural remedies treat everything from cancer to arthritis.

Written By: Jennifer Bhargava
continue to source article at kansascity.com

31 COMMENTS

  1. There is a tendency to dismiss such treatments simply because you can’t see how they would work.

    It seems to me it would be very strange if Chinese herbal medicine did not work, even if the theoretical structure were bonkers. Basically it boils down to if the patient has this condition, give him this herb. They tried thousands of herbs and dried animals. Over thousands of years of experimenting, they bloody well should figure out which herbs work for which conditions.

    My personal experience was being given a shopping bag of herbs (including things like oyster shells, mushrooms, moss…) and told to make a foul smelling black tea. It worked on nausea that nothing else could touch.

    I would think studying acupuncture in animals would eliminate the placebo effect.

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      There is a tendency to dismiss such treatments simply because you can’t see how they would work.

      It seems to me it would be very strange if Chinese herbal medicine did not work, even if the theoretical structure were bonkers.

      I’m sure there are some that do, but the problem with strictly herbal treatments is that you can’t administer a precise dose which may be dangerous in some situations.

      • In reply to #2 by Kim Probable:
        In reply to #1 by Roedy:

        Im sure there are some that do, but the problem with strictly herbal treatments is that you can’t administer a precise dose which may be dangerous in some situations.

        To deal with that, they would have to use low doses compared with what we would in the west, and less toxic ingredients. They tend to talk not in terms of curing, but of strengthening.

        Pharmaceutical companies send people to rain forests to collect medical herbs and their uses to study for active compounds.

        It traditional medicines, drugs are often applied externally, which would presumably be less dose sensitive.

      • In reply to #2 by Kim Probable:

        In reply to #1 by Roedy:

        The typical traditional Chinese medicine prescription might contain 25 ingredients. This suggests that diagnosis need not be particularly precise. It also means the prescription could contain a fair bit of deadweight and still work.

        We should look at some of the problems with Western Medicine. Testing is a big one. Companies are permitted to discard field trials that do not show favourable results. New drugs do not have to be better that existing ones, just marginally better than a placebo. There is a financial incentive to bury negative information about drugs. Western medicine ignores ingredients if they cannot be patented.

        Whe

        • In reply to #8 by Roedy:

          We should look at some of the problems with Western Medicine. Testing is a big one. Companies are permitted to discard field trials that do not show favourable results. New drugs do not have to be better that existing ones, just marginally better than a placebo. There is a financial incentive to bury negative information about drugs. Western medicine ignores ingredients if they cannot be patented.

          I’m really not a fan of healthcare for profits. Unfortunately, that’s the way the world goes. But I’d rather spend more of my taxes towards well funded research. We can do it for some expensive, far-out, hard sciences through universities, with little to no short-term gains in sight. Why is it a difficult sell when it comes to combating diseases? Why do we even need a charities, cancer trusts, and them begging at the exit of supermarkets on Sundays? Well, soon enough. cosmologists and physicists might have to start practising.

          • BTW, my brother works in a public medical research lab in Paris, and he has a few stories to tell on how equally broken and dysfunctional the public sector can be. However, for most of the Umpa-Lumpa of public research, their heart at least is in the right place.
    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      It seems to me it would be very strange if Chinese herbal medicine did not work, even if the theoretical structure were bonkers. Basically it boils down to if the patient has this condition, give him this herb. They tried thousands of herbs and dried animals. Over thousands of years of experimenting, they bloody well should figure out which herbs work for which conditions.

      That is a good common sense argument. Unfortunately common sense is often wrong and I think it is in this case. If you look at the history of medicine it is filled with practices that were done for decades, even centuries and that we now know were of little value or in fact were more harmful than helpful. Blood letting for example. There are some cases where minor blood letting may have had some therapeutic effect but in the vast majority of cases it did nothing or was harmful.

      I do agree with one thing though, in medicine we often do things without knowing exactly how or why they work. Mental health especially is filled with examples. We have theories for why things like SSRIs work but they are all very tentative. Or in my case I get a shot once a week for my MS. But in reality no one has a good theory for why the shot I’m getting will lessen the MS symptoms, there is just strong clinical trials data that it will.

      So I agree herbal and non-traditional medicine deserves a fair shot. But they shouldn’t be granted any special status because they are ancient remedies, they should be evaluated by the same metrics we would evaluate any other treatment.

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      There is a tendency to dismiss such treatments simply because you can’t see how they would work.

      No there is not! Many treatments are used whose mechanisms aren’t understood. Ever tried ECT?

      It seems to me it would be very strange if Chinese herbal medicine did not work, even if the theoretical structure were bonkers. Basically it boils down to if the patient has this condition, give him this herb. They tried thousands of herbs and dried animals. Over thousands of years of experimenting, they bloody well should figure out which herbs work for which conditions.

      All that time and no one could be bothered to write anything down of any value or having enough anecdotal information to move on to a clinical trial that once and for all time and humanity proved the specific herb or treatment works? Can you guess why? Not to mention the part Mau played in creating TCM to substitute for medicine he knew the country couldn’t afford.

      My personal experience was being given a shopping bag of herbs (including things like oyster shells, mushrooms, moss…) and told to make a foul smelling black tea. It worked on nausea that nothing else could touch.

      Most of the anecdotes I have heard about a random potpourri of “TCM” herbs and stuff have had exactly the opposite effect, significant nausea. As Kim points out you are literally taking you life in your hands or should I say putting it in the hands of a salesman. For a safer herbal fix to your nausea try cannabis, it’s anti-nausea properties are second to none, even a lucky dip of TCM and it has never killed anyone. Simple and safe with a wee bit of fun and added bonus of significant appetite enhancement.

      I would think studying acupuncture in animals would eliminate the placebo effect

      No it doesn’t, extra attention from a carer and trusted pack member with no medicine is clearly exactly the same as extra attention from a carer and trusted partner with no medicine – even when the patent KNOWS there is no medicine. Try google, this is an incredible old myth that has been answered many times.

      Remember we also have no data on the “other” “conventional” “western” real medicine the horse was getting either. The most famous acupuncture promotional video from back in the day is famous for need massive narcotics too…

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      I would think studying acupuncture in animals would eliminate the placebo effect.

      How does one gauge the pain of an animal? It’s up to human interpretation and perception, so it’s VERY susceptible to the placebo effect. Also, how does this person know where these meridian lines or whatever are on every animal? Did the Chinese figure this out centuries ago?

      • In reply to #7 by Skeptic:

        In reply to #1 by Roedy:

        I would think studying acupuncture in animals would eliminate the placebo effect.

        How does one gauge the pain of an animal?

        I think you could do that is an objective way, vocalisations, fidgeting. It would be more accurate that asking a human who has so many
        motivations going. Even if you used people evaluating the vocalisations, there is no way the animal could give away whether it had a treatment the way a human could.

        It seems to me it would be a fairly simple thing to discover if acupuncture relieved pain in animals. How could we have gone so long with this in doubt?

        • In reply to #10 by Roedy:

          It seems to me it would be a fairly simple thing to discover if acupuncture relieved pain in animals. How could we have gone so long with this in doubt?

          It’s hard enough to do it in people. Creating a system of controls with an animal that can’t communicate effectively would be near impossible. Then again, this assumes you care about the scientific method. Anecdotes aren’t particularly useful in such cases.

          Acupuncture in human has for the most part been proven to be a placebo. I also wouldn’t dismiss alaskansee’s point about it working on animals. Particularly social ones like dogs.

          • In reply to #11 by Skeptic:

            Acupuncture in human has for the most part been proven to be a placebo. I also wouldn’t dismiss alaskansee’s point about it working on animals. Particularly social ones like dogs.

            I think the case was close some time ago. here’s Science Based Medicines take on it.

            Placebo Effect in Anmials “Of course, the fallacy of such an observation is pretty obvious to anyone with a logical/skeptical frame of mind, because it assumes that the therapies do work (even though there’s little evidence of that).”

            Science Based Medicine, the clue’s in the name.

  2. I don’t know about the medical practice acts in other US States, but in Alaska acupuncturists who legally practice on animals must either be licensed veterinarians themselves or acupuncturists under the supervision of a veterinarian. To say I am terribly disappointed that acupuncture was able to wedge itself into what was, at least in the case of the trained veterinarian, a science based medical education, would be an understatement.

    Having read Complimentary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine Considered by Rollin and Ramey, I highly recommend it to others who are interested in learning how to evaluate the claims of alternative medicine practitioners through reason regardless of the species (human or otherwise) in question.

    Mike

  3. In western medicine, the goal is to create a patentable drug. When the patent expires, you want the disease to rabidly develop an immunity to it. This happens far too rapidly with HIV drugs. Bugs develop immunity with a year or two. They are used in cocktails of 3 to 5 drugs to slow down the immunity process.

    Chinese medicines are used in huge cocktails, and each the ingredients is a massive cocktail. I presume Chinese medicine does not have a problem with immunity.

    • In reply to #9 by Roedy:

      In western medicine, the goal is to create a patentable drug. When the patent expires, you want the disease to rabidly develop an immunity to it.

      What a bigoted and prejudiced thing to say with not a scrap of evidence. I could never do such a thing. Do you have any idea how many of the medical profession you have insulted?

      Chinese medicines are used in huge cocktails, and each the ingredients is a massive cocktail. I presume Chinese medicine does not have a problem with immunity.

      This means absolutely nothing. TCM is a vast communist collection of old wives tales and propaganda. If you have A SPECIFIC drug that works get it out and stop trying to certify all of the crazy crap in one go. No medicine works like that – it’s one at a time buddy, just like “western” or real medicine.

      Supporting TCM or any other vast array of unconnected things as if they were related makes no sense at all. It’s like me supporting fungi as a cure for all ills, some might help but most will do nothing and a few will kill. Traditional Mushroom Medicine is as real as TCM, I just made it up.

      • In reply to #15 by alaskansee:

        In reply to #9 by Roedy:

        What a bigoted and prejudiced thing to say with not a scrap of evidence. I could never do such a thing. Do you have any idea how many of the medical profession you have insulted?

        Yip…he does that from time to time.

    • In reply to #9 by Roedy:

      In western medicine, …

      There is no such thing as Western medicine. When people get sick they use medicine, wherever they are, if available.

      When people get sick in China they resort to medicine.

      When herbs and tinctures, horns and wings prove their efficacy, they become medicine.

  4. “There is a tendency to dismiss such treatments simply because you can’t see how they would work.”
    No. There is a tendency to dismiss such “treatments” because they do not work. What’s at work here is the placebo effect. And anecdotal evidence doesn’t get you anywhere. Studies have shown again and again that homeopathy and acupuncture do not work.

    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=6060

    It’s really interesting how defensive even supposedly rational people get when it comes to this bogus ancient pseudoscientific voodoo nonsense.

  5. There is a tendency to dismiss such treatments simply because you can’t see how they would work.

    Modalities are also dismissed when they don’t work better than statistical anomalies, placebo, are harmful, or when more efficacious treatments exist.

    It seems to me it would be very strange if Chinese herbal medicine did not work, even if the theoretical structure were bonkers. Basically it boils down to if the patient has this condition, give him this herb. They tried thousands of herbs and dried animals. Over thousands of years of experimenting, they bloody well should figure out which herbs work for which conditions.

    This is too vague to respond to. To escape being pinned to the fallacy of personal incredulity, you should name the specific pathology that you are claiming is effectively treated by a specific TCM treatment so it can be examined.

    My personal experience was being given a shopping bag of herbs (including things like oyster shells, mushrooms, moss…) and told to make a foul smelling black tea. It worked on nausea that nothing else could touch

    The plural of anecdotes is not useful data. I’m happy you felt better but it would be medically unethical to say the least to formulate a treatment protocol for others using your example.

    I would think studying acupuncture in animals would eliminate the placebo effect

    How do you propose to communicate to a non-human animal that another species’ actions are really an attempt to alleviate said animal’s pathological condition? That knowledge is integral to any trial evaluating the efficacy of the placebo effect and currently there is no working model that demonstrably achieves such a requirement. In a poorly controlled trial, however, it is possible to fool the human observers into thinking sham medicine works.

    Mike

  6. There could be two possible scenarios when interpreting the response of the animal being treated. It could be that the animal is suffering discomfort during the procedure but not showing obvious signs of distress or the owner may have been mistaken about the level of distress in the first place. Either way, treating a creature unable to voice its reaction, seems to be unfair.

    Many owners project their own neuroses onto their pets. I think it’s a little like Munchausen by Proxy except with animals as the focus of the adult’s anxiety.

  7. My first instinct was that the placebo effect wouldn’t be a confounding factor if these procedures were tested on animals, but that would seem to ignore an apparently important part of the placebo effect: the feeling of being cared for.

    If an animal is in pain, and another, trusted animal (whether a human or another of its own species) seems to be taking care of it, that could have a powerful effect.

    I think it would be a mistake to assume that placebo effects work only in human animals, just as it might also be mistaken to assume that all unverified “traditional remedies” are ineffectual, or rely entirely on the placebo effect.

  8. I wouldn’t mind Chinese herbal medecine so much if it wasn’t directly responsible for driving the demand for rhino horn powder. Which in turn is directly responsible for the extinction of the black rhino and the near-extinction of the white rhino.

    • Oh and let’s not forget Antelope horns. On Sept. 8, a cargo full of those was seized by Chinese customs. Here’s an excerpt from the article in Euronews:

      “Chinese customs officials have seized €17million of antelope horns being smuggled across the border with Kyrgyzstan. They were likely going to be used for traditional medicine. Antelopes are classed as endangered species under the international convention on the protection of wild animals.”

      http://www.euronews.com/2013/09/08/antelope-horns-seized-in-china/

      So Chinese traditional medecine is contributing to the extinction of rhinos AND antelopes.

      • In reply to #24 by NearlyNakedApe:

        Oh and let’s not forget Antelope horns. On Sept. 8, a cargo full of those was seized by Chinese customs. Here’s an excerpt from the article in Euronews:

        “Chinese customs officials have seized €17million of antelope horns being smuggled across the border with Kyrgyzstan. They were likely going to be…

        Thank you very much, a good reminder and a fucking sad shame that TCM isn’t just harmful to the gulible, ill-informed and ignorant. Pity.

    • In reply to #22 by NearlyNakedApe:

      I wouldn’t mind Chinese herbal medecine so much if it wasn’t directly responsible for driving the demand for rhino horn powder. Which in turn is directly responsible for the extinction of the black rhino and the near-extinction of the white rhino.

      An encouraging note on that front – Prince William’s ‘Tusk Trust’ was just featured in People magazine. Untold numbers of folks will read this, including shoppers waiting in line. I think it is safe to presume there is more stock in what PW says than pa-pa’.

  9. I am retired now after a 40+ year career as a city veterinarian. I never had any part of acupuncture or any herbs-and-spices holistic stuff, but trust me–the placebo effect works on animals, because the owner wants to believe it for the animal just as he or she wants to believe it for themselves. There were treatments and procedures we did in the 60s and 70s in good faith, believing them to be real, legitimate, and science-based, having come from serious mainstream professional journals and textbooks. We sincerely believed in these treatments and procedures, and our confidence in recommending and performing them rubbed off on the owners, who reported that the animal benefited from them, and we doctors were happy that we had chosen the right things to do to help the animal patient. When later it was shown by better controlled studies that these were, in effect if not by intention, to be placebos, we quit doing them. What I am driving at is that there is such a thing as a placebo effect on the doctor too, and it spreads to the owner, who reads it into his or her perception of the animal’s improvement.

    True story: A client brought her old dog to me for routine yearly vaccinations. I noted that the dog was carrying a hind leg. I commented on this to the owner, who told me that the dog had been doing that for a few weeks. I very confidently told her that I could inject a cortisone drug into the joint, and that it would help the dog immensely. (We don’t do this any more–it all too often causes delayed deterioration of the joint after an initial improvement, but then that was the thing to do, again in good faith.) The owner trusted me 100% and eagerly agreed to the procedure. The gentle old dog tolerated my needle calmly. The owner took her home. A week later I telephoned to find out how the dog was doing. The owner was ecstatic. She said, “Oh, doctor, that injection was great! She doesn’t carry her leg nearly as high any more.”

  10. You can judge the success of any form of medicine by seeing how many treatments they reject over time. How many of the practices of Acupuncture and Homoeopathy have been discontinued in the face of evidence that they either do not work or are dangerous?

  11. I have a friend who is an accomplished veterinary surgeon. He recently considered adding someone to his staff with credentials for treating horses with either acupuncture or chiropractic. When I ridiculed his suggestion he cited countless studies in dubious journals and occasionally highly reputable ones.

    Not one study reported a horse ever crediting woo, despite some veterinarians imagining that they do.

    The key words peppering the studies my friend offered were ‘Epigenetics‘ and PNI, or ‘psychoneuroimmunology‘ but no meridian, chakra or karma rates a mention.

    • In reply to #29 by Len Walsh:

      I have a friend who is an accomplished veterinary surgeon. He recently considered adding someone to his staff with credentials for treating horses with either acupuncture or chiropractic.

      There are numerous reasons why faith healing (that’s what quackery is) gains a foothold in otherwise rational minds. Ramey and Rollin’s outstanding book that I mentioned breaks those reasons into six or seven sections. Some of the explanations are less risible than others but ultimately all of them betray the client and most importantly, the patient.

      The last few convention centers I’ve walked through that coincided with the largest veterinary continuing education conferences are filling up with more and more woo inventions each year. That the respective sponsors, be it the AAEP or AVMA, allow this without a fuss is despicable. The history of veterinary medicine is one of fighting to be recognized as a legitimate scientific discipline. That has been achieved. Embracing quackery is a step back toward the 19th century. I am passionate about fighting that and if you like, I will buy that book (e-mail me) for you so you can fend off your friend’s goofy ideas and re-orient him to his forgotten science-based training in school (if that is not already something you can do).

      Mike

      • In reply to #30 by Sample:

        In reply to #29 by Len Walsh:

        Ramey and Rollin’s outstanding book that I mentioned …

        Sample, I’m very sorry for the late reply. I’m afraid I missed your most helpful note.

        Thanks a lot for the valuable information, especially Ramey and Rollin’s text. That’s exactly what I needed and your generous offer is amazing but unnecessary. I share your passion to fight woo and am pleased to provide it myself to my friend. The fact that Ramey is an equine specialist will impress him I reckon, so I’m really grateful to you Mike!

        the largest veterinary continuing education conferences are filling up with more and more woo inventions each year.

        How terribly depressing. My friend is a very bright bloke who knows me sufficiently well that it offends me to be dismissed by him. Ramey and Rollin enjoy the authority which might make the difference, so thanks again.

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