Animals are dying from preventable diseases because some vets are using “unscientific” homeopathic treatments, experts have warned.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) said that vets were harming pets and livestock by placing faith in “unproven claims” rather than traditional methods.
More than 3,000 vets have signed a petition expressing concerns about the use of homeopathic treatments.
Chris Tufnell, RCVS senior vice-president, highlighted the popularity of a homeopathic remedy called nosodes where sugar-coated pills made from diseased matter from a sick animal are used instead of vaccinations.
“I have seen dogs die from completely preventable conditions such as parvovirus, which is extremely unpleasant and preventable,” said Mr Tufnell. “It’s entirely unnecessary.” He added that pets had been left in “unacceptable” pain because their owners used homeopathic medicines rather than painkillers.
Homeopathic treatments have been advocated by the Prince of Wales and others although clinical trials have shown that they offer no benefit beyond the placebo effect, where a patient’s belief that a treatment will work may alleviate some symptoms. There is little evidence that the placebo effect works in animals.
This month, the RCVS agreed a policy statement which concluded that there was no “recognised body of evidence” for homeopathy. “Furthermore, it is not based on sound scientific principles,” it said. The statement continued: “To protect animal welfare, we regard such treatments as being complementary rather than an alternative to treatments for which there is a recognised evidence base or which are based in sound scientific principles.
“It is vital to protect the welfare of animals committed to the care of the veterinary profession and the public’s confidence that any treatments not underpinned by sound scientific principles do not delay or replace those that do.”
The statement has been supported by the British Veterinary Association which said that “complementary and alternative treatments not based on sound scientific principles or evidence could have detrimental consequences for animal health and welfare”.
However, the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons said that it was “deeply disturbed” by the RCVS policy and described it as a “biased and ill-judged viewpoint”. A spokesman said that pet owners used complementary and alternative medicines when conventional treatments did not work or when they produced unwanted side-effects.
The Prince of Wales claimed last year that he treated cows and sheep on the farm at his Gloucestershire estate with homeopathic remedies “as part of a programme to reduce the use of antibiotics”.
The RCVS statement follows a petition calling on the organisation to ban veterinary surgeons from prescribing homeopathic treatments, which attracted more than 3,300 signatures.
The petition, set up by Danny Chambers, an equine vet in Devon, warned that allowing the use of such therapies could lead to “unnecessary suffering or death” because of the danger of them being used instead of orthodox treatment. “It would be devastating for a dairy farm that went out of business because homeopathic treatments failed to control an outbreak of mastitis [mammary gland infection],” he wrote.
Source: The Times