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Readers of this humble column often ask me how it is I come up with some of the ideas that I write about. The answer is that Iím constantly on the lookout for a saying, a thought, a notion, a series of phenomena that I see in my practice or the world around me, and then I build a story around it. Although I occasionally come up with nothing, most of the time it works quite well. Sometimes, like this morning, it seems like all of the cosmic forces that exist in our infinite universe converged in my mind and Iím overwhelmed with so much material that I donít know where to begin.

First off, as I sit here writing, I have the need, about every two minutes, to blow my nose. If I didnít do so, the postnasal drip would short out the computer keyboard. I have this cold in spite of having taken for several weeks previously, echinacea, goldenseal, honey, zinc lozenges, mega doses of vitamin C, blackberry brandy, and all of that other ďnaturalĒ crap that exists out there in the world of folk cures.

Next, as happens every year at this time, Iím inundated with questions about why a beloved pet, after being flea-free all summer, is now loaded with the little varmints in spite of having been treated with brewerís yeast, B vitamins, orange-blossum shampoo, vinegar baths, witch hazel rubs, and chewiní tobacco spit soaks.

Adding to the above, I recently rented a movie from our local video store titled The Man in the Moon starring Jim Carey. The movie was about the brilliant comedian named Andy Kaufman who died fairly young of cancer (round cell carcinoma, I believe). Besides documenting his tremendous talent as a comic, the movie also chronicled his fight against his cancer. Sadly, in spite of his macrobiotic diets, Zen meditation, crystal therapies, and ultimately, Filipino psychic surgery, he still succumbed to his illness. (He did, eventually, undergo radiation therapy also.)

Finally, and to save my life I canít remember where, I recently read a story of a guy who, while hiking alone in the Brazilian rain forest, was bitten by a fer-de-lance. For those who donít know this, a fer-de-lance is one of the ten deadliest snakes in the world. Anyway, this person, in spite of no medical care whatsoever, did not die.

Afterwards, he made an extensive study of other snakebite victims to see if he could find out why he was spared. He studied local herbal remedies, poultices, and rubs and discovered that these folk cures had quite a high success rate, approximately 60 percent. However, in the process of doing his research, he discovered the fer-de-lance had one quirky habit: about 60 per cent of the time it bites a victim, it doesnít inject its venom. The success rate of doing nothing with the snakebite wound was the same as all of the supposed cures. Thatís the reason the author didnít die.

I can hear it now: ďSo, Doc, what in the world does your cold, dog fleas, Andy Kaufman, and fer-de-lance pit vipers have to do with anything? What about your dead chicken cure?Ē Dear readers, I am constantly asked my opinion on alternative medicine and cures. Iím asked about everything from Motherís home remedy for treating burns (somehow, they always seem to work) to homeopathy (quite controversial, no convincing scientific proof it does anything at allóin my humble opinion); from Chinese herbal cures (which are doing a great job of exterminating many species of flora and fauna throughout the world with no valid science to justify the slaughter) and all the way down the list to crystal therapy (sheer lunacy).

Itís my theory, therefore, that waving a dead chicken over an ill patient would work as wellóif not betteróthan all of the ďnaturalĒ cold remedies combined, all of my clientsí home flea treatments, all of Mr. Kaufmanís alternative cancer therapies, as well as the many native folk cures for snakebites.

Dear readers, the backbone upon which modern medicine is based is the scientific method. That is, any medical therapy, any drug, or any surgical procedure must be documented and shown to be safe, it must be subjected to the scrutiny of medical colleagues, and, most importantly, it must be reliably repeatable.

I consider myself quite open to all of the miracles of our magnificent universe, but my training is in western medicine; that is, I adhere to proven principles of disease and treatment as justified by the scientific method and will continue to do so until shown otherwise. I need to be able know with a high degree of assurance that when I perform a medical procedure, it will work.

However, if anyone has a surefire way to cure this darned cold, Iím all ears.

Thanks again.

Copyright 2004 by Richard Orzeck, DVM.
The information in this article is based upon the authorís personal experiences, his opinions, and his best interpretation of the data at the time of writing. It is not intended to render veterinary advice or service. Specific needs and questions concerning your petís health should always, always, always, be addressed by his or her best friend, their local veterinarian.


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