Saturday, January 17, 2015

Opinion Post: Chinese Herbs and Homeopathic Crap

Tell me the truth, have any of you ever used Chinese herbs on your horse?

At Guinness' vet check up two weeks ago, I came face to face with something I really hate... a homeopathic vet. Don't get me wrong! I love massage therapy for both humans and horse athletes. I think rolling out muscles is inherently helpful. But, when it comes to vet care (especially vet care relating to my horse's bones and tendons!), I like a vet that plays it straight and medical.

Full disclosure. This vet visit took me awhile to talk about because I feel that I was both taken advantage of a little, and really angry over the incompetence of the vet.

The vet at Guinness' check up immediately jumped in and started doing a chiro adjustment on him, without asking me first if I wanted her to. She suggested he was tight in his hips and over his back.

Well, yeah. The ground was frozen solid and extremely difficult to walk on. He wasn't moving around much. Hell, I was tight from walking around out there.

She told me he would feel much better undersaddle after his adjustment.

He did not. He felt good, don't get me wrong, but not "better". In fact, he felt just a great as he did the ride the day before. He's been loose and swinging and happy in contact ever since the accident. It's almost been suspicious.

So, the chiro work didn't help. It didn't hurt either. I was just affronted that I hadn't asked for it, and here the vet was doing "adjustments" to him. You guys know I am not one to spend money on frivolous things. This felt frivolous. Very much "owner soothing." I did not need soothed; I do not appreciate being pandered too. My emotions don't make healthcare decisions. All I needed was for a vet to tell me if it was worth spending extra money to have a few lingering swellings in Pig's legs examined via ultrasound.

The vet refused to say. She told me the hard fill around Pig's tendon sheaths in his back legs would probably just go down on its own with movement and time. Well, okay... Then she picked up his front right and flexed his leg at the knee.

"There's a slight bit of loss of range of motion in that knee. It might be permanent, it might not. No way to tell. Here, try this..."

Yeah. You heard that right. Instead of telling me that I might want to spend the extra money to check out the slight heat and fill in Pig's front right knee, the vet handed me a box of "Chinese herbs" and told me those would probably take care of the issue.

What the hell?
Someone tell me why this is better than bute? Or Surpass? Or an ultrasound?!
At that moment, I pretty much wrote her off completely. What kind of vet notices a loss of range of motion in a joint with a warm swelling and says "probably permanent?" What kind of vet doesn't recommend further diagnostic testing to make sure it's nothing damaging?

Oh as a closing remark, the vet told me to "lop the toes off his feet and he'll be much more comfortable. Those heels are very underrun. You might want to put shoes on him." Uh. No. I told her what my highly qualified and well-recommended lameness vet told me about keeping Guinness out of shoes. I then told her that he is sound with longer toes, probably related to the reduced range of motion in his fetlocks. "Oh no. Lop the toes off. I think you'll find he'll be much more comfortable." Lady, screw you. I held my tongue and just said, "It's something to think about" so she would leave. She obviously knows nothing about equine movement and I'm not about to take her advice. My trim work has kept Guinness sound and happy for almost three years now. I think those slightly long toes suit him just fine.

What the ...?
I threw the Chinese herbs into Pig's supplement box, and told the BO to go ahead and give him the packets with his grain. Again, it won't hurt.

He's been on the herbs for two weeks. The swelling in the knee did go down, but no faster than I think it would have without them. In place of the swelling is a small (about the size of my pinky fingernail) hard bump under the skin on the front of the kneecap. According to my resident medical professional, (ahem, husband.) it's probably just calcified scar tissue. There is no change to his back legs. He's still sound.

Ugh. I hate homeopathic vets. What a waste of money and time..

Still, he's sound and happy. I can't complain.

38 comments:

  1. Ugh, I would seriously be ticked when she started doing things you didn't ask for. That's so annoying.

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  2. So yeah, the whole chiropractic adjustment without asking you first is a HUGE no-no in my book. And I would have written her off the moment she offered me herbs instead of an actual assessment. I mean I don't mind homeopathic treatments - I'm willing to try them. However, that is not the first thing I would turn to, nor is it the first thing I would want a vet to suggest to me.

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    1. Homeopathy is never my first turn, either. I tend to like the support of studies and research...

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  3. Wow... that is very rude of the vet. I personally go to herbs as a first resort when anything is wrong and my best friend is a homeopathic vet/massage therapist so yeah... I'm totally into that. BUT here's the thing.... if Lady is a little "tight" in certain areas I don't call the chiro, I do some good loosening exercises under saddle and maybe get her massaged. Also a good thing to remember is that almost every horse will be tight through the girth area (because girths are "unnatural") and in the lower back/hip area at some point, especially if they are working in higher level disciplines and are really working your muscles.
    But yeah.... handing out adjustments and supplements like that. Wouldn't be going back there.

    P.S. I don't use Chinese herbs, but I do use chopped white willow bark instead of bute. Works a charm ;)

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    1. Willow bark is chemically similar to aspirin. Not surprised it works :) Is it cheaper than bute? I would think you would have to use so much!

      I think massage therapy can be incredibly helpful for sore or tight muscles. I think that good stretching and flexibility work can be wonderful, too. I find that a lot of tight or sore areas can be worked out through correct work, and that appeals to me as an athlete. I know my own sore muscles respond well to stretching, light work, and massage.

      My problem with handing out this homeopathy is not knowing whether there is an underlying physical issue that could cause a big issue down the road. You can't figure that out without a physical exam. Sigh.

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    2. Keeping to the fact track -

      Aspirin was originally derived from willow bark. Numerous modern medicines were originally derived from plants. Morphine (pain), tamoxifen (breast cancer), vincristin (leukemia) to name a few... Some (aspirin) were being utilized as plant based medicine prior to being synthesized.

      Homeopathy does not equal herbalism - homeopathic treatment uses very dilute tinctures derived form herbs while herbal medicine often involves use of the entire plant.

      Whatever we choose to believe in, medicine-wise, perhaps we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Some traditional medicines are based on (up to) 10,000 years of practice, whether or not western science can prove efficacy. And at one point not all that long ago, draining most of your blood was considered an appropriate treatment by "doctors".

      I'm not totally on one side or the other, but believe both modalities have their place - complementary therapies. As to your experience - I don't think I would have appreciated treatment from that vet no matter what style of medicine she practiced. Every barrel has a rotten apple or two.

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  4. I find this such a fascinating experience! I have never had a veterinarian (or doctor) offer, nay PUSH, herbal or homeopathic advice onto me before classical veterinary or medical advice. Fascinatinger and fascinatinger. While I do think that certain herbs or medicines are underresearched, if there is any value to them, you can bet your butt that the big, fat, American corporate medical system will figure out if they're worth investing in or not (though, this DOES let fall through the cracks many medicines/herbs that are only marginally profitable/work for only some patients/individual variation, blah blah etc.), so while I'm always willing to give herbs a go like you said, I also have a strong belief in what we already know of medicine.

    I'm curious, she was not your normal vet, right? Is she part of the practice? How did she come to be at your appointment?

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    1. Sadly, I have had vets push herbal and homeopathy before instead offering legitimate medical advice. I wonder if the Midwest is just full of an inordinate amount of livestock vets who are not well versed in sport horses. Probably.

      I also believe strongly in modern medicine. It's doing pretty good. And, in the cases of medicines/herbs that fall through the corporate medical system cracks, doctors usually know about them.

      I've had this vet out a couple of times for stitching out minor cuts and drawing blood for my yearly coggins. Usually if I'm dealing with lameness issues, I don't deal with her. I instead deal with the one vet in the practice who is pretty competent with things like joint injections. If there's a bigger issue (x-ray, ultrasound, actual advice - apparently), I have to drive 2 hours to Purdue Veterinary Clinic. Back in Ohio I had a great sporthorse vet clinic. I miss them greatly.

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    2. Yuck! I hadn't imagined that you wouldn't have "real" equine vets to work with. And driving two-hours for "regular" stuff sounds horrible! Although, if I am REALLY worried about something (which has happened a few times), I make the three hour drive to Alamo Pintado Equine - a premier sport horse clinic here in Central CA. But still ...

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    3. I've made the Purdue drive before (for an ultrasound). It's really not bad. But not having a trailer currently is making that a little more of an involved decision. :(

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  5. I had the same question as Nicole. How was it that she was your treatment vet? I've never had a vet appointment with anyone other than my regular vet, and I know all three vets at my vet hospital. Generally I schedule with Dr. Tolley, but if he's unavailable, I can also work with with Dr. A. or Dr. G. There are three or four other equine vets in town, but I've never used them. What a weird vet visit ... would be interested in hearing more about how she came rather than someone you know. That inspires me to write a blog post about how our local vet hospital is run.

    Outside of the weirdness of that, I would have been totally insulted and quite PISSED. What a quack. That would all make me doubt her license to practice veterinary medicine.

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    1. Yeah, Indiana has a lot of livestock vets who don't know a whole lot about sport horses. They are apparently okay with breeding stuff. Not very helpful for me...

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    2. I have a blog post ready for tomorrow about vets ... thanks for the inspiration. :0)

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  6. WHAT?! Offering you sketchy medicines doesn't seem at all ethical. Did you have to pay for the stuff, too?!

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    1. I'd assume so, but my vet office is way behind on billing. I guess I'll find out eventually...

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  7. Yeah I strongly believe that alternative medicine that works is called medicine (thanks Tim Minchin) so I'm SO not on board with the whole homeopathic deal. Especially if a vet was pushing it on you in lieu of giving you something else proven to work. I understand that some things probably do work but haven't been researched fully, but I'm not enthused about letting my horse be a participant in any kind of weird case study.

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    1. Haha! Love that you said that! I think that was the first sentence out of my husband's mouth when I mentioned "alternative medicine."

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  8. Okay, I don't like the situation you described. No one should have alternative practices shoved on them. BUT, I also believe in homeopathic remedies and have had great success in different ailments and injuries. I am lucky enough to have a highly reputable Holistic vet who prescribes the chinese remedies. She is one who uses a mix of conventional and alternative. With her guidance we go the holistic route if possible and use it to support if not. It has helped keep my horse out of surgery on her eye by reducing a sarcoid over time. It is nearly gone.
    Unfortunately experiences like yours show why so many people have negative thoughts towards holistic methods.

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    1. Sarcoids :( Pig had a sarcoid on his belly that was removed successfully, but I can see how you would not want to have to operate near an eye!

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  9. I have switched vets and farriers because they wouldn't stop pushing something that we repeatedly said no thank you to. Most herbs are illegal per USEF and FEI rules. I personally am a backed by science person so

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    1. Truth! I'm okay with just going along with the crazy lady for now, but only because we aren't planning on stepping foot in a recognized ring for another few months!

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  10. WOW. Regardless about how one might feel about herbs and homeopathy (which I think are both total BS, for the record) that vet was EXTREMELY rude and unprofessional. I might not have been as polite as you were about it! Adjusting your horse without your request/permission and then not even giving you any sort of diagnostic opinion on his knee AND THEN SHOVING STUPID HERBS AT YOU?! THAT IS NOT OKAY. THAT IS NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT OK. Whew.. got a little worked up there...

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    1. I think you might be channeling my anger! :) I've since heard some other things about this particular vet that make me trust her opinion even less than I did. (Is that possible?!) Apparently vet school doesn't have an ethics class like med school....

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  11. What an unprofessional vet! Barf.

    Many people at my barn are into what I call the "voodoo magic nonsense"- chiropractor, red light therapy, massage, essential oils, unblocking of the energies, etc etc. They swear it works for them and their horse, so more power to them, I guess? No one's very pushy, so I am largely ambivalent about their choice to use these things.

    That said, a few months ago, the chiropractor was coming to the barn. I had some extra money, so I thought, "Well, it probably won't *hurt* to have the horses done," and signed Moe and Gina up to be adjusted. Reportedly, Gina was totally out of alignment and needed serious adjustments. Moe (who was 19 and has spent almost all of his life as an eventer!) was apparently hardly out of whack. I rode both a few days after their appointments and didn't feel much of a difference. That was when I decided that voodoo witchcraft medicine was not for me.

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    1. I've used various bodyworkers for horses a few times. Some of them work for somethings some of the time. I think Courage has a little something going on that I'd like to have looked at, but no one I remotely trust is available and the whole thing is just so ehhhhhhhhh.

      So. Not impressed with that vet, would be annoyed.

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    2. Yeah. I've been pretty upfront in person and online about my distrust of chiropractic work on both people and horses. When done right, it's basically a good stretching session. When done wrong it can do nothing or even seriously muck up an existing problem. Chiros are not usually doctors, and don't have to know how much about the body.

      That said, I do have a lot of faith in good massage for relaxation and muscle work. That often goes further than anything to get rid of knots and trouble spots.

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  12. with Hafl recovering from his surgery, I am also feeding herbs - I mean, if the do not help, they do not harm. at least they are worth trying - your vet might have been a bit rude but I guess still in favor of the horse's health - but I know how difficult these can be sometimes... ;)

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    1. I just wanted a realistic opinion on whether I should get an ultrasound of the problem area. Shouldn't have been too hard. :/

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  13. That would have really, really pissed me off too.

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  14. I just found your blog through NotSpeedyDressage and enjoyed this post so much. Homeopathy was invented in Germany where I now live and I can't tell you how many times I've had people push me to use it. The more I learn about homeopathy, the more I believe in the placebo effect. Here is a great site, a bunch of people who apparently overdosed together on TV to try to show the world "There's nothing in it" - http://www.1023.org.uk/

    Oh, and my chiropractor started talking about my horse's hooves and hoof care and I told her I am willing to take her advice about the bones of the horse, but not the hooves, because she proved to me that I know more than she does when she started talking.

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    1. Ugh. People and good theory. I swear… I mean. I know my horse has supremely fugly feet. They look like he should be lame. But, they work for him. He's sound. Sounder than he'd been in years previous. I'm not going to argue with results!

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  15. I think people underestimate the ability of herbs and supplements to hurt their horse. I've written about it before, but Stampede had at least one seizure while on supplements recommended by a supplement company (a BIG name involved with several companies we all probably buy from) at less than their recommended amounts. Blood tests showed some messed up levels. Took him off the supplements and he was fine again. Nevermind that I fell for doing a hair test they offered in a moment of despair at Stampede's issues at the time. A big waste of my money and stress!
    Otherwise, I really think you should complain about the vet instead of pushing it aside. You are paying for the service and clearly paying for things you didn't want so the vet will continue to push your boundaries. It's always hard to criticize people but if you don't say something then the vet can't improve either.
    Just my two cents.

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  16. this is a great read for me - as i don't have a ton of experience workign with vets (never owned a horse) and can be pretty easily run over and 'owner soothed' into frivolous and expensive treatments... as you say, 'it's something to think about' ha.

    anyway, tho - sorry it was kind of a crappy situation and that the vet was a little whacked in the head. for what it's worth tho - that ingredients list was hilarious and i'm calling my mare 'ying yang ho' from now on lol

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