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The Myth of Natural

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Other Herbal Products and Their Possible Side Effects in Pets

1. Tea Tree Oil, also known as Melaleuca. This can cause vomiting and diarrhea, weakness, paralysis, aspiration pneumonia, and death when applied topically or ingested.
2. Guarana has more caffeine than coffee beans and can contain other active substances that can cause vomiting, hyperactivity, increased water consumption and urination, fast heart rate, tremors, seizures, and death.
3. Echinacea is a popular herbal supplement also known as purple coneflower, comb flower, and scurvy root. It has a wider margin of safety but has been reported to cause vomiting and drooling.

4. St. John's Wort is well known to cause photosensitization (skin ulcers after exposure to sunlight) in livestock and horses. In dogs it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and seizures.

5. Garlic can interfere with blood clotting and thyroid function, and lower blood sugar, cause vomiting, diarrhea, and changes to red blood cells.

6. Onions can cause weakness, increased heart and respiratory rates, and changes to red blood cells causing anemia, especially in cats.

Pet owners occasionally tell veterinarians they are reluctant to use prescription medicine, spot-on flea products, heartworm preventatives, etc, because they would rather use something that is "natural." They are afraid of chemicals, and would rather use something that is organic or natural. But what is natural? By definition, natural products are those that come from nature. But not all items that come from nature are safe or harmless. Arsenic and cyanide are natural. Arsenic is mined from the earth along with other metals. Cyanide is found in a number of plants. Cocaine and heroin come from nature, but they are certainly not good for you.

In contrast, many of our prescription medicines originated from plants. It has been estimated that anywhere from 25% to 70% of our medicines contain at least some compounds obtained from plants. Aspirin, quinine, syrup of Ipecac, morphine, and theophylline (a prescription medicine used as a bronchodilator for respiratory diseases) all come from plants. The potent and life saving cancer drugs, vincristine and vinblastine, were derived from plants. Taxol, which was derived from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree, is a chemotherapy drug that has saved many breast, ovarian, and lung cancer patients.

Many people assume that herbal medicines are safe because they come from plants and are over-the-counter. Unfortunately, this is not true, in fact, some can cause life threatening reactions. An example is ma huang, which contains ephedra and has been used as a weight loss product in people. In people it can cause a rapid heart rate, dilated eyes, tremors, seizures, and increased blood pressure. Symptoms in dogs are the same; death can occur from cardiovascular collapse. People who are afraid of chemicals should realize that everything in life is a chemical. Water is a chemical: H-2-O. Our own bodies are a collection of a large number of chemicals. Herbal or "natural" products are chemicals. From this we can deduce that the "natural versus chemical" argument is not valid. Everything in nature is a chemical. What is behind the desire to use natural products and the fear of chemicals? It is the wish to use the SAFEST product.

Now we know that herbal and natural products are not necessarily safe. In fact, their industry got Congress to pass the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act in 1994 which states that supplement manufacturers are NOT required to prove efficacy or safety, and there is no requirement for quality control.
What is the safest product? Medical professionals would argue it is a product that has been scientifically studied. All prescription drugs go through rigorous testing before they are approved. This testing is to both prove that it does the job and that it is safe. There are non-prescription drugs that have been tested and proved effective. An example is glucosamine which has helped many people and dogs with arthritis.
Now when you see a product labeled " natural" you will know it is just a marketing strategy. The question to ask is "What kind of research studies have been done?"

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Testimonial

Review for Christine MurdochDVM

Christine was very calm, and talked me down from a very excitable situation. We came home with Milo and a treatment for his illness instead of coming home with an empty cat crate and a face covered in tears. I am pleased to say that since we have started the antibiotics Milo has improved dramatically and is once again a happy cat that is a part of our family. He actually wants to hug us (he doesn't really like anyone but me ) The change in his diet as well as the antibiotics have shown in his litter box too, he seems to be urinating more than before, so this shows me that they are working !! YAY !!! This is the reason why we love and trust the team at Murdoch Vet and will always bring our fur kids there for treatment. Thank you again for making what could have been a horrible afternoon a wonderful afternoon.
Nadine
Prince George, BC

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