My Drug Problem (No, Not That Kind)
When it comes to medications, conventional and alternative, I’m profoundly conflicted. I’m suspicious of the medical establishment, especially of its encouraging people to take drugs and then more drugs to counteract their side effects. But I have no problem taking over-the-counter pain meds, allergy pills and antacids, as well as prescription drugs on a temporary basis.
I’m even more suspicious of natural supplements and remedies. I remember deadly L-tryptophan in 1989 — about 1500 people disabled, and some 37 deaths — and various contaminated products from China. And even aside from taints, I don’t always believe in their effectiveness. My doctor prescribed Vitamin D, for example. I took it for a while, and then decided it was dumb since I live in the land of sunshine.
Turns out, it was being over-prescribed.
That said, although I no longer take any vitamins or other supplements, I know when I start developing joint pain, I’m going to turn to glucosamine and chondroitin before I opt for steroids.
Of Drugs and Dogs
I try to be even more careful with Frankie, whose body weight can’t absorb mistakes — and who can’t articulate the drugs’ effects very well. In some cases, it’s obvious: Flower essences like Rescue Remedy do nothing to calm Frankie’s car fears. But would something natural have helped his back pain, obviating the need for corticosteroids, which may have hastened the onset of his diabetes? I’ll never know.
My reason for ruminating about this issue now is the Animal Cafe interview that Dr. Lorie Huston did this week with Dr. Joel Murphy, who is responsible for formulating the remedies in the Renew Life pet care line.
Dr. Murphy, whose veterinary specialty is the treatment of birds, has been interested in holistic medicine along with traditional medicine since 1983, when he went to the Amazon to see how parrots might respond to their natural diets. There he became interested in nutraceuticals — a term I had to look up. According to Wikipedia, it refers to a food or food product that purports to provide health and medical benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.
I’m afraid that, in relation to pets, the word that nutraceuticals brings to mind is neuticles. Which is distracting.
Nevertheless, I was interested to hear how Dr. Murphy came to discover flower essences from the plants that he researched in the Amazon, and that he still goes there to get ingredients for the drugs for Renew Life. The fact that the pet line has his picture on the package means that Dr. Murphy stands by his results. “I don’t want people just to feel good that they’re using something natural,” he says. “The bottom line is that it has to work.”
The treatment I would be most likely to try on Frankie is for healthy joints. Dr. Murphy’s formula includes glucosamine, ginger, tumeric, juniper, yucca, garlic and Dragon’s Blood. That’s right, Dragon’s Blood, which, according to Dr. Murphy is very high on the ORAC scale.
I now know that Dragon’s Blood is the solidified red resin of the dragon palm, and that the ORAC scale is a method of measuring the antioxidant capacity of different foods and supplements, developed by scientists at the National Institutes of Health. It is believed that foods higher on the ORAC scale will more effectively neutralize free radicals.
I learned a lot from this interview. And it opened my mind a bit.
“There’s always a treatment for everything”
In general, I liked Dr. Murphy’s willingness to combine traditional and nontraditional treatments. He says of the use of his healthy joint formula: “We tend to reach for these remedies when a dog is already old and arthritic. By this time, I use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories for the pain.” Instead, Dr. Murphy suggests using them before any problems manifest, especially in breeds like Golden Retrievers, known to be predisposed to joint pain.
He also says that his natural drugs are designed to supplement traditional medications, and that they are harmless. “If a 10-pound dog consumes an entire bottle, he won’t get sick.”
This all seems very reasonable to me, and I was tickled by Dr. Murphy’s contention that “there’s always a treatment for everything.”
I’m curious to know: What’s your attitude towards traditional and nontraditional medicines? Do you use both on your pets? One to the exclusion of the other? How did you decide on your course of action?