By Dr. Michael W. Fox, B. Vet. Med., Ph.D.k, D.Sc., M.R.C.V.S.
The role of the veterinary profession in preventing sickness and suffering in beloved dogs and cats should be central. But because of conflicts of interest, as between selling product for profit and putting the best interests of the animal patient before those of running a business, the veterinary profession bears similarities to problems with the human medical profession that have been called to question recently by the U.S Institute of Medicine (part of the National Academy of Sciences). Such potential conflicts of interest go deep into the veterinary teaching curriculum, where the influence of the multinational drug and pet food companies is evident at colleges around the world. The effects are seen in everyday veterinary practice.
Far too many veterinarians administer unnecessary annual vaccinations to animals. In dogs – who are harmed more frequently than cats by this practice – this can result in much suffering from chronic health problems such as allergies, neurological and joint problems, autoimmune and endocrine diseases. Cats are prone to develop often fatal skin cancer at the site of vaccine injection.
Cats suffer more than dogs from poor nutrition because they are obligate carnivores requiring a meat-based diet. Too many veterinarians are profiting from selling dry cat foods high in cereals and soy; these only too often lead to obesity, diabetes mellitus, urinary tract disease and inflammatory bowel disease, and other chronic degenerative diseases. The veterinarians then profit from treating these diseases and from prescribing expensive special dies that would not be needed if the cats had been fed properly from the start.
But dogs are not without diet-related problems, such as chronic skin and digestive problems, ear and anal gland infections, and a host of other maladies including depression and epilepsy. These clear up once the dos are taken off highly processed manufactured foods.
Rather than addressing what their patients are eating, far too many veterinarians put them on cortisone/prednisone to stop self-mutilation from scratching and chewing. Then new health problems develop, such as Cushing’s disease in dogs and cystitis and diabetes in cats.
Veterinary dentistry has become a highly profitable field. An estimated 75 percent of dogs in the US suffer from periodontal disease, which is also a common affliction of cats. Many of these patients have such advanced dental disease that, when undergoing surgical treatments, they die on the operating table. Highly processed food ingredients that are micro-particular, especially the high cereal and gluten content of popular pet foods, play a major role in this virtual epidemic in the canine and feline population. Some veterinarians are advising pet owners to have their animals’ teeth cleaned on an annual basis, and that means under general anesthesia that is far from risk-free.
Both dogs and cats suffer unnecessarily from adverse reactions to topical anti-flea and tick drugs that are widely promoted by many veterinarians and are sold over the counter with no effective government over-sight.
Diseases of hereditary origin that result from in-breeding and selection for extreme traits in both dogs and cats add to this tragic burden of man-made diseases in companion animals today.
Dr. Michael w. Fox is a well-known veterinarian, former vice president of The Humane Society of the United States, former vice president of Humane Society International, and the author of more than 40 adult and children’s books on animal care, animal behavior and bioethics.
Dr. Fox is a renowned advocate of animal rights and a sharp and eloquent critic of the biotechnology industry. As a professor, bioethicist and veterinarian, Dr. Fox has spear-headed the movement to foster the ethical treatment of animals and the environment since 1967. His advice to people who want to further this cause: Start by learning more about what you put on the end of your fork.