Judd Veterinary Clinic

301 East Spring Valley Road
Hewitt, TX 76643



Complimentary or Alternative Veterinary Medicine(CAVM)- Hope or Hype?

Many "complimentary" or "alternative" therapies are becoming common in veterinary and human medicine. The American Veterinary Medical Association(AVMA) has established a task force to determine proposed guidelines for CAVM.

More complete information is available on the AVMA website at http://www.avma.org/. CAVM is defined as "an heterogeneous group of hygienic, diagnostic, and therapeutic philosophies and practices whose theoretical bases and techniques diverge from modern scientific veterinary medicine".

Examples of CAVM now include, but are not limited to:

  • veterinary acupuncture
  • veterinary massage
  • veterinary chiropractic
  • veterinary homeopathy
  • magnetic field therapy
  • aromatherapy
  • nutraceutical therapy
  • low energy photon therapy

Claims for safety and efficacy of all veterinary therapies MUST be proven by the scientific method. Such proof can only be established through controlled scientific studies. At present, these studies are not available for the above therapies.

Therefore, CAVM therapies must be considered UNPROVEN at this time. Most evidence that exists supporting these therapies is anectodal (stories of experiences without scientific proof). There is no evidence supporting not only the efficacy of these therapies but also the safety.

If you are considering "alternative therapy" for your animal, it is important to consider several facts.
1. From a scientific standpoint, these therapies are unproven. Regardless of the experience or anecdotal evidence the "alternative" practitioner may provide, one must be skeptical of these therapies until they are scientifically proven. These therapies are not new to medicine(ex. acupuncture has been around for 5000 years), and if they were medically affective, it seems reasonable that scientific proof would be available by this time.

2. "Certification"-Today there are many classes that can be taken in which the participant can gain a "certification" in some area of therapy. These certifications are NOT recognized by the AVMA and are not the same as board certification. These classes and training are usually based solely of the policies and beliefs of the members of the organization sponsoring the classes and therefore the beliefs may not correspond to other experts in a certain field. At this time, none of these organizations have applied for recognition as a specialty organization to the AVMA.

3. From a legal standpoint, veterinarians practicing CAVM are required to inform the client of the potential benefits and risks and that the therapy is alternative. Non-veterinarians practicing CAVM must do so ONLY on a referral from a licensed veterinarian who has a client patient relationship with the specific animal to be treated. The referral veterinarian in this case is legally liable for the treatment as the non-veterinarian is not licensed.
In most cases, a veterinarian is NOT involved at all and these therapies are illegal according to the Veterinary Practice Act of Texas. The concern in this case is that no one with a license is liable for any harm that should come to an animal while under treatment and therefore no recourse is available.

For example, it is illegal for anyone, even a licensed human chiropracter (D.C.) regardless of the "certifications" they may have, to provide manipulations on an animal without referral from a licensed veterinarian.

These non-veterinarians do not have the benefit of veterinary education and do not have the background to make treatment decisions.

4. Only a veterinarian is trained to diagnose your animal's illness. Therefore, make certain a medical diagnosis has been reached and known proven medical therapies have been ineffective before considering CAVM. Also, ONLY veterinarians are legally allowed to make a diagnosis of an animal's medical condition.

5. As with any therapy, ask the practitioner to provide you with a projected cost. Be skeptical of practitioners of any alternative therapy that indicate your animal will require numerous visits over a period of time for a successful outcome.

6. Do not equate the term "natural" to be better and/or not harmful. Synthetic products are just as effective and sometimes superior to natural products. Natural products can be dangerous and natural therapies CAN cause harm to animals and people. Animals can be injured with chiropractic and acupuncture therapy. Animals and people have been exposed to contaminated herbal remedies. Also, the use of "alternative" therapy may cause harm if it delays the use of proven medical therapies.

For further information on facts about alternative therapy, go to the NCRHI Veterinary Task Force at http://www.seanet.com-vettf/ or "The Consumers Guide to Alternative Therapies in the Horse", by David Ramey, DVM., published by the Howell Book House, NY. This book is available on line at http://www.amazon.com/.