Thursday, August 18, 2011

Preventative Medicine

I would like to talk about preventative medicine. Why is it hard for people to enact preventative medicine for themselves and their pets? I think it is because we cannot measure what we prevented.

Modern medicine is held to a standard of “evidence-based” medicine. Essentially this means there are double blind studies to back up any and all treatments we provide. A drug or surgical treatment is given to a large number of dogs or cats with a disease, most of the animals benefit. At the same time the dog or cat not given the treatment must not gain a benefit. This is a good standard to maintain.

Two areas of research in support of preventative medicine come to mind. In 2002 a study reported that 25% food reduction in a group of Labrador Retrievers enjoyed a significantly longer life span than the control group who ate more food. We have also know for many years that having a female dog spayed before her first heat nearly eliminates her risk of getting mammary cancer (known as breast cancer in women). If you wait until after the second heat to have a female dog spayed then her chance of getting mammary cancer is 25%. These results really motivate me to recommend spaying your female dog before her first heat and to advise all pet owners to restrict caloric intake throughout life.

All too often it is hard to see what we gain when we live a healthy life. We all know people and dogs that eat or have been fed a poor diet and live to a ripe old age. We know people that smoke that live a normal life span. It leaves a person to wonder, what is the best way to maintain my health.

At this point I choose to fall back on common sense or what seems to be intuitively correct. For me this means eating and drinking in moderation. Eating whole, fresh food. Avoid smoking and ingestion of chemical-laden food. Exercise in moderation. Yes, I believe that too much exercise is unhealthy. Variety in food and types of exercise supports the idea that with variety we will get all our complex needs met.

Emotional stress in moderation is an important component to health. Work and play in balanced amounts.

Exposure to pathogens in the environment makes logical sense in that it teaches our immune system what is a pathogen and how to build up protection against it. Too much protection from disease is bad.

Okay, okay, this is nothing new, I know! But we get distracted by new drugs from these old truths that can not be tested in the modern scientific model. I wonder if our world is coming up on an era where we go back to common sense. Maybe it could be considered more of a realistic view of life as opposed to the view that there is a magic pill to cure what ails us all. Or a single magic berry! There really is no cure all.

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