Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Veterinary Care

“Much of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is offered either as an addition to conventional, science-based treatment or in situations in which conventional therapies are unavailable or ineffective. This doesn’t excuse offering treatments that haven’t been properly tested, and it doesn’t mean such therapies can’t do harm. However, such an approach at least avoids the harm that can come from delaying or rejecting effective treatment. 

However, sometimes CAM providers actually believe their practices are an appropriate and effective substitute for conventional medicine, even in the case of serious disease. This attitude is truly inexcusable when, as is usually the case, there is no sound evidence to support the belief and when irrational and inaccurate denigration of conventional treatments is used to scare people away from medicine that could really help their pets.” – from

The above paragraphs hit a chord with me in regards to goat care. I know of many people who tend to eschew all conventional preventions and treatments for goat problems, in favor of “natural”, “holistic” or “homeopathic” remedies. As goat owners we must always care for the animals with their best interests in mind. We cannot become so indoctrinated by the CAM ideal that we avoid proven conventional treatments or preventions. I know many people who don’t use chemical dewormers, never use antibiotics, or who won’t vaccinate their goats because they are afraid of the “chemicals” or “toxins” that may be in those things.

Be aware that herbs and homeopathic remedies also have chemicals and toxins in them. Wormwood that is found in many herbal deworming blends can be a serious liver toxin ( Belladonna, which is often used as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever is one of the more extremely toxic plants in the world ( And keep in mind that most “homeopathic” remedies are nothing but water. Homeopathy is the practice of diluting a toxic substance until the substance is no longer toxic and the water “remembers” the substance and is able to “teach” your immune system how to react to it. If you dilute something 30,000 times with water, the end result isn’t magic memory water, it’s just plain water. It’s true that sometimes there could actually be something in your homeopathic remedy other than water, but that’s not usually on purpose and more related to the fact that many homeopathic remedies are manufactured in third world countries using unfiltered and untreated tap water for the dilutions. Your homeopathic remedy probably doesn’t contain any of the original substance it’s supposed to, but it may contain bacteria, toxins, and heavy metals due to the water used (

I understand the tendency to turn to over-the-counter or over-the-internet herbal, holistic, or homemade concoctions to treat a sick goat. When the animal can’t tell you what is wrong, you are desperate to try anything. Also, when a licensed veterinarian is not available or too expensive (like in many of the areas of the North Country), you will turn to cheaper and more accessible alternatives whether proven to work or not. Add to that the fact that many veterinarians are not prepared to deal with goat problems and may not have prescription goat medicines on hand. So even if you do use a vet, they may not be able to help you. Finally, there is the strong myth that “natural”, “holistic” or “homeopathic” remedies are safer that conventional medications. 

When deciding which path to take in order to treat or prevent a goat problem, remember that most CAM therapies and treatments are not scientifically proven. Most of the evidence that they work is purely anecdotal or based solely on individual results. There is very little to no government regulation or oversight for herbal supplements, homeopathic remedies, and holistic concoctions. This means that anyone can mix up a batch of random stuff, call it “Magic Goat Cure”, and start selling it over the internet while claiming it cures everything from mastitis to CAE. To make it a real money maker, all the seller needs is two or three fictional “testimonials” about how some goner goat was magically cured by the stuff. It works even better when the seller makes up a fictional disease and claims that most of the population suffers from it and thus every animal should be on his patented and proprietary magic pills (

On the other hand, conventional therapies and treatments have to go through regulated and reproducible scientific studies. The drug in question has to be statistically proven to treat the problem in a majority of the population. And those findings must be capable of being scientifically reproduced in order for the drug to be approved for sale ( 

Some of the bad names that approved conventional drugs get for containing “chemicals” and “toxins” is because they actually do contain those things. Parasites, bacteria, and viruses are dangerous to goats because they are aggressive in their pursuit to grow, reproduce, and infect fresh victims. The biological forces behind these things are very strong, thus it is important to use a strong chemical or toxin to stop their infection and spread. 

Keep in mind that purposeful decisions to not use the appropriate treatments and therapies in your animals due to your personal beliefs is not always in the animal’s best interest. Choosing not to vaccinate for tetanus or use an antibiotic for coccidiosis prevention does not hurt you, it hurts your goat. It is our responsibility to care for the animals, thus it is our responsibility to consider ALL the tools that are available to us to use to keep them healthy. Ignorance is not an excuse for negligence!

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