It has come to my attention that there have been concerns raised among exotic veterinarians regarding the safety and efficacy of products from the online pet supplement company, Rabbit Medicine Chest (also known as Pet Medicine Chest). For more than five years the company has had an unsatisfactory record with the Better Business Bureau, and is being sued for the alleged use of false claims and unapproved ingredients by the Attorney General for the state of Iowa. (For more information on the lawsuit visit http://www.iowa.gov and search on Pet Medicine Chest).
Recently a veterinarian called Pet Medicine Chest to get information on a product (ingredients are not listed on the website) to determine if it was safe. The veterinarian was told the information was proprietary, even though ingredients are supposedly listed on the bottle, and was accused of being “one of those vets against herbal products”. This of course was not true, but brought to mind a growing perception of a dichotomy between conventional and complementary medicine.
Complementary Medicine: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Complementary medicine and alternative therapy are terms used to describe treatments such as acupuncture and herbal medicine which go beyond mainstream medical treatments. These modalities are advancing our knowledge of medicine and continue to show promising results when used appropriately.Over the last several years, complementary medicine has become more accepted and has seen a huge growth in revenue. Unfortunately, with more money to be made, we see greater incidences of fraud and unethical practices. The following are some general claims to be leery about when considering health products:
- Promises of a no-risk cure
- Broad claims that treat multiple ailments
- Advertisement by testimonials
- Claims of a secret ingredient
- Available only by mail
No One Knows it All
Huge advances in understanding pathophysiology, (that is the disease process), have been made in veterinary medicine over the last 10 to 20 years. New diagnostics and treatments such as MRI and gene therapy help us to understand more than most thought possible, but there is still so much we do not understand. We have a tendency to assume too much; what works in one species may not work in another, and even what works for one individual, may not work in another. More sound scientific studies are carried out every year on alternative treatments, but many more studies are needed to determine each treatment’s efficacy and safety over such a diverse variation of species.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate herbal medicines or natural supplements and it is often difficult to get the facts to make an informed decision on these products. Currently the FDA does not consider herbs as drugs, and therefore manufacturers are not required to test the safety and purity of their products. Studies have shown that the amount of herb in the bottle may be anywhere from 0 to 150 percent of the amount claimed on the bottle.
A Final Thought
Most people are aware that natural does not automatically equal safe (rattlesnake venom is natural), but we should always remember that anything which has a possible beneficial effect also has potential side effects. Please educate yourself before making health decisions for your pet. Always let your veterinarian know all medications (including supplements) your pets are on, and consult your veterinarian when making the decision to start alternative therapies.