Marketing pet products shouldn't shortcut vet consultation

Marketing pet products shouldn't shortcut vet consultation

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Dear Dr. Fox • I am reaching out regarding my client, Healthy Paws Herbals, a new line of medical-strength liquid herbs for pets that offers a natural way to help with itching, anxiety and pain — there really is nothing else like this on the market.

Created by licensed herbalist and Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Kyle Burton, Healthy Paws Herbals offers three liquid herbal extracts (Calming, Allergy, and Itch & Pain) that can be added directly to your pets’ food or water. — M.M., REVELE Public Relations, Los Angeles

Dear M.M. • I frequently receive solicitations and offers of remuneration from many companies seeking to market new pet care products. Because of failures in conventional health care practices and ever-increasing costs, people are seeking alternatives. I, for one, am an enthusiastic supporter of herbal, nutraceutical and other alternative and integrative treatments, health maintenance products and protocols.

The primary responsibility for health care and maintenance lies with every individual. However, I would not endorse any product like those from the company you are representing, which markets directly to the public, offering treatments to cure cats and dogs from various conditions such as allergies, itching and lameness. There can be several causes for such conditions, which these herbal products will not help; in fact, they could delay treatment, which would be obtained after a proper veterinary diagnosis.

In my professional opinion, clients such as yours who are seeking to “penetrate” the pet health care market — no matter how qualified with Chinese and other certifications, and who are not certified as, or partnered with, veterinarians — should market only to veterinarians. Once their products are established for use by veterinarians, clients such as yours can fine-tune formulations or abandon them, based on clinical evidence.

I have serious reservations about the direct marketing to consumers of various products with human and veterinary health claims, which may or may not be substantiated, and yet are generally denied by Big Pharma and its government agencies. The best solution as I see it, for your client in particular, is to have veterinarians refer clients to purchase these herbal products, or for the veterinarian to provide them in-clinic. Note: Over the years, I have endorsed very few companies, with two of the exceptions being PetzLife and VetzLife. They are very conscientious about their ingredients and have over 7,000 veterinary clinics recommending and selling their products, especially for holistic oral care.

Dear Dr. Fox • I was told that you have suggested that veterinarians who work in the farm/food animal sector are less compassionate and empathetic than those who work in the companion animal practice. I beg to differ, since I work in the farm animal sector, and I do care. Would you care to clarify? — Anonymous

Dear Anon • I appreciate this opportunity to explain and clarify. I contend that since food animals in general, and those in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in particular, are ultimately destined for slaughter, veterinarians and their clients generally have less emotional investment in the animals as individuals in contrast to the companion animal sector.

I have never intended to imply that animal doctors in the farmed animal sector have less empathy, but that they may be more protected or distanced emotionally because of the ultimate fate of these animals.

Research has shown that animal caretakers’ sympathetic and friendly attitudes toward farmed animals have a positive effect on their well-being and productivity, as documented in my book “Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health.” But these effects are surely diluted in modern production facilities, where the daily inspection of individual animals is physically impossible because of the sheer numbers crammed in “finishing” pens. Piglets are healthier and grow better given the freedom to play.

I sympathize with the challenges and moral distress veterinarians may face working in this sector, which may well account for the low recruitment of graduates entering this sector and the lack of large-animal vets in many rural communities. I also admire their courage and recognize that their involvement does not necessarily mean that they endorse such systems of animal production: The animals and the producers need them, especially to reduce the excessive use of antibiotics, anabolic steroids and other pharmaceuticals, including toxic arsenicals, in farmed animals people eventually consume. But ultimately CAFOs should be phased out — they are an abomination for the animals.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at Send mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Universal Uclick.

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