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Ontario Vets Trying to Control All Holistic Animal Heeling

There is a proposed draft by the College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO) that would require referral and supervision by a Veterinarian for any and all holistic care. You can read this document here.

I have a few things to say about this, as I’m sure you can imagine. To start, if you wish to express your thoughts about this proposal, send them by April 15, 2009 to:

Ms. Karen Smythe
Policy and Quality Assurance Manager
College of Veterinarians of Ontario
2106 Gordon Street Guelph, ON
N1L 1G6
Fax: (519)-824-6497 or (888) 662-9479


Words cannot express my fury at this proposal, but I’ll give it a try…

This document is proposing to subordinate ALL “Complementary and Alternative Medicine,” to the College of Veterinarians of Ontario.  The CVO deems this to include (but not be limited to): “chiropractic care; physical therapy; rehabilitation therapy; massage therapy; homeopathy; acupuncture; nutraceutical therapy; and phytotherapy.”

The document then goes on to state that “only veterinarians have the education, knowledge, skills, and judgment to evaluate and integrate complementary and alternative veterinary medicine into a treatment plan for animals.”

How on earth can conventionally trained vets be able to “evaluate and integrate” alternative medicine?!!

And it continues: “Therefore performing alternative and complementary veterinary treatments, therapies and/or modalities on animals constitutes the practice of veterinary medicine such that these procedures may only be performed by a veterinarian or by a non-veterinarian who is directed and supervised by the veterinarian, within the context of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship.”

In other words, the CVO is laying claim to ALL forms of healing and insisting that no one can touch an animal in a heeling manner unless under the supervision of a veterinarian.

This is an OUTRAGE.

Veterinarians receive very specific training and play a very important role in providing conventional medical care for animals that need that kind of treatment. This takes years of schooling and experience and they do a very good job at what they do.

It also takes years of schooling and training and experience to become proficient at other forms of medicine. A veterinarian does NOT have the knowledge to supervise this unless they have also undergone such extensive training. And how many have done so? A few weekend workshops does not a chiropractor, acupuncturist or homeopath make. These alternative heelers have spent years, or decades, in their training.

Let me give you an example to show how ridiculous this proposal really is. While living in the US, my dog at the time was treated by a very experienced acupuncturist who saved his life after conventional medicine failed him and recommended euthanasia. This acupuncturist had been practicing for decades and had even trained extensively in China. She TAUGHT acupuncture to veterinarians at the Tufts Veterinary College. And then they passed a ruling that she could only practice acupuncture under the supervision of a vet.  In other words, she could only touch an animal under the supervision of one of her own students.

Does this make any sense? It sure doesn’t to me.

Another concern: Some holistic philosophies contradict conventional practices. As such, it is impossible to practice both simultaneously. I am thinking specifically of classical homeopathy, the modality I use most with my animals. Will the CVO deem it an unacceptable practice and bar me from seeking this treatment for my animals?

The CVO is claiming that this move is for the safety of our animals, but in effect what it will do is limit access to skilled practitioners of alternative heeling modalities, while ensuring that CVO members get a financial cut of what does manage to continue.  In other words, it’s a power grab and a money grab.  

Is veterinary practice in Ontario hurting that badly?  Is it so threatened by people going to alternative practitioners that it has to resort to this?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  Every corner of this town has a vet clinic on it.  There doesn’t seem to be any restriction on how many people graduate and set up practice.  Ironically we have a horrendous shortage of doctors in this province, but vets are so plentiful that they are obviously desperate for clients.  So much so that they are trying to take over the practices of other people.  This is disgusting.  I guess it also explains why they push people to buy so many drugs and chemicals for their pets and bully their clients into completely unnecessary (and very harmful) yearly vaccinations.  Vets must be going broke and desperate times call for desperate measures.  But this is going to really hurt our animals, and that makes me sick.

The document in question continues as follows: “The provision of any unsupervised and/or undirected and therefore uncoordinated service by non-veterinarians will be considered the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine by the CVO. Individuals who offer such services may be subject to a CVO investigation and prosecution.”

This means that any one trying to continue treating animals holistically risks being legally prosecuted by an organization that has far more money than they do. So who’s going to take that risk? Most holistic practitioners don’t exactly make a lot of money.

The draft go on to state, “Delegation to qualified off-site non-veterinarians for the provision of complementary/alternative veterinary medical treatment may constitute acceptable forms of indirect supervision of the case, but only if the veterinarian has first performed a patient assessment.”

In other words, you won’t be able to go to any holistic practitioner without have a vet first assess your animal, and then refer you. That means having to pay for the assessment, and then trusting that the vet you go to knows enough about a dozen other forms of medicine to know what the animal needs, and also who best to go to.  Oh, and of course the vet (the CVO?) – with their oh-so indepth understanding of alternative medicine – is the one who will decide which of these holistic practitioners is deemed “qualified” to treat our animals.  

The very idea of this proposal is infuriating.  I disagree with much of conventional medicine, but it didn’t bother me as long as I was free to do what I wanted and was just left alone.  If this proposal goes through, that will no longer be the case.  And of course it will be a unilateral decision, so it will be up to vets to decide if they want to go ahead with this and I doubt anyone can stop them should they do so. 

I have been working nearly exclusively with alternative heelers for over a decade (homeopathy, chiropractics, acupuncture and naturopathy) and my animals have become stronger and healthier as a result. I have also worked with conventional vets when I’ve needed their help, essentially with diagnostics and trauma (which is what I believe conventional medicine does best).

Veterinarians have a very important job to do. But they shouldn’t be trying to be all things to all people. They can’t. No one can. They need to stick to what they do best and let others do what they are trained to do.

2 Responses

  1. I agree! This proposal is outrageous. If this is allowed to go through then it could extend to other practices such as those for humans. I have some pretty bad allergies – which contribute to flare ups of eczema. Conventional (traditional) medicine has really not helped me. A few months ago I began to go to a naturotherapist who specializes in allergies. I have undergone some treatment based on chinese medicine and miraculously.. the allergies have improved. Traditional medicine is not the answer for everything and those skilled in alternatives should absolutely be allowed to practice these alternatives. Regulating this would be denying animals the right to treatment even when it exists and there are people who are skilled in these practices. Would we do this to humans?

    It is all just a big money grab. The vets don’t want anyone else stealing a piece of their pie. Instead..we must medicalize everything..sigh.

    So glad you posted this!

  2. Yes, it is shocking and I hope everyone who is concerned about it will take the time to make their concerns heard! The subordination of holistic health to mainstream medicine simply must not happen. I’ve been in active discussion about this on a dog sport list serve. Interestingly, one of the vets who spoke out said she did not support this proposal because it was too much pressure on her to know all about holistic medicine and also to decide which practitioners would be “worthy.” However, she voiced her concern about not coordinating with holistic practitioners and said she’d really like them to send her reports after they see “her” patients. I can understand her concern, but a holistic practitioner replied that the one time he did do this, the vet threatened to take him to court for unlawful practice on an animal.

    The vets who have voiced their opinions in this discussion did not necessary support the CVO proposal (yeah!) but they all supported the underlying tone that only vets have the knowledge and skill to properly manage our pets’ health. I just find this so arrogant that I don’t know how to respond. Yes, they have been trained in one approach to health care and if that is the only approach you take, then they are the place to go. But if you don’t subscribe to their philosophy, why should they be the gate keepers? Besides, the only one ultimately responsible for my animals’ health (and for my own), is me.

    There is so much hostility between the different camps and this proposal by the CVO will do nothing but throw fuel on the fire. If conventional vets really want people to keep them informed of what is going on in the holistic realm, they are going to have to not only accept holistic medicine as a “complement” but actually respect these other practices as very valid approaches on their own. As far as I’m concerned, conventional medicine is a “complement” to the holistic approaches that are my mainstay.

    There’s a lot going these days, in terms of power struggles, both in human and animal medicine that I find very disconcerting. Definitely time to speak out, and speak out loudly!

    Thanks for caring!

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