Tag Archives: CAVM

What’s so Alternative about Alternative Medicine?


There are many names that have been given to holistic medicine. These therapies are often known as Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine or CAVM. “Complementary” sounds nice. It’s nice to think we can all get along and work together. But, what about alternative? What’s that about?

Well, for some people alternative medicine means that they employ holistic therapies as a replacement of, or alternative to, conventional medicine. These folks simply reject all conventional medicine treatments and go natural.

The more common use of the term “alternative medicine” refers to modalities and practices that have are not accepted by the conventional veterinarian community. If holistic medicine is so great, why aren’t the majority of vets on board with it?

If you ask the skeptics they will respond, “Where’s the research showing these treatments are helpful?” I freely admit that there is not enough research into holistic modalities. I can give 2 reasons for this problem.

  1. Money! The studies required to “prove” the validity of alternative medicine cost $300-500 thousand dollars each. The majority of biomedical research is paid for by the pharmaceutical industry. That’s because they can patent the result and make lots of money. Since you can’t patent a natural substance, there’s no money to be made and nobody to pay for the research.
  2. Editorial Bias – One study found that medical journal reviewers (research gatekeepers) were 3 times more likely to favor a study if it showed the success of a drug than if it showed the success of a homeopathic remedy. So, the studies of alternative medicine never see the light of day.

And then there is confirmation bias. That’s a condition we all suffer from. People tend to stick to their current beliefs and look with suspicion on new ideas. Confirmation bias means that we judge information that we agree with as being more valid than information that we disagree with. Skeptics of alternative medicine will never be convinced that it works even when they see valid research.

So, there you have it. Alternative medicine will most likely remain alternative for years to come, or until conventional companies figure out how to make money off of it. That’s why probiotics are now acceptable in veterinary medicine. Purina discovered a good bug and patented their product made with it. The good news is that now conventional vets no longer look at me as if I have 2 heads when I talk about the benefits of probiotics.

Do you believe in alternative medicine?