Frequently, veterinary disease conditions that do not seem to respond to initial treatment are often dealt with by adding additional medications. Although in certain illnesses such as cardiac disease this may be an accepted and appropriate response, in other situations additional chemicals may serve only to cloud the short and/or long term prognosis. Consider, for example, the dermatological patient that may require steroids for initial relief soon may be showing signs of behavioral and biochemical distress as a result of this same drug. If gastric upset is the experienced sign then stomach protectants may be prescribed. Also as a result of the immune suppressive character of steroids a secondary bacterial infection may become present requiring the use of antibiotics. These antibiotics may upset the gastrointestinal system resulting in diarrhea and/or dehydration.
A second example is the case of the arthritic patient. In these cases anti inflammatory drugs may bring an initial relief but over time become reduced in their effectiveness. At this point the pet may appear depressed or lethargic. The question then becomes are these signs related to the illness or to the treatment.
The above is in no way intended to negate the potential beneficial effects of many pharmaceutical products. At the Brockton Animal Hospital we take an integrative approach utilizing both traditional Western medicine as well as complementary alternative modalities. However, it can become difficult to assess when symptoms are related to the disease condition or a side effect of the treatment.
It is important with your pet’s care (as well as your own) that you follow a few guidelines in order to reduce the likelihood that treatment will make things worse. First make sure that your veterinarian is aware of any medications or supplements you are currently giving your pet. Secondly stay informed about your pet’s treatment. It is important that you understand what you doctor suggests in promoting health for your pet. This way you are in a better position to work with your vet in accomplishing the goal of health for your dog or cat. Thirdly even though you may think that all medications and treatments are clearly written in your pet’s medical file it can be overlooked by your veterinarian in some circumstances. If your pet is on chronic medications ensure each time that all the medications are still necessary and that your doctor is aware of exactly how you are dosing. Finally be honest and communicative with your local vet in discussing what medications your are using and how compliant you are being with the dosage schedules.
No one knows your dog or cat as well as you do. If you think that something is not right with your pet’s health you are usually right. We are fortunate to live in a world filled with diagnostic testing and medications that can treat and cure many disease conditions. However we must always observe the first and most basic medical directive; “Do no harm”.