Study: Some Horse Owners Are Keeping Alternative Therapies Secret From Their Veterinarians, And That Could Be A Problem

POSTED ON  |  20-07-2021

Horse massage
Horse owners are often interested in trying any modality or fad they feel may help their horse, even if it falls outside the realm of “traditional” Western medicine. Dubbed “complementary” therapies, these can include things like massages, herbs and supplements, and more – and many of them require no veterinarian oversight to administer.

However, owners are not always upfront with their horse's primary veterinarian about the other things they're trying on their horses, even if they don't expect pushback, reports The Horse. This withholding of information can be detrimental to horse health, says Dr. Annelies Decloedt of Ghent University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Belgium.

Decloedt and a team of researchers surveyed 1,532 Belgian horse owners and found that a quarter of survey respondents who used complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) did not tell their veterinarian what other therapies they were using. Some CAVM treatments have not been scientifically studied and might make traditional medicine less effective, may lead to unintended side effects or may mask signs and symptoms, preventing vets from finding an accurate diagnosis, Decloedt said.

It's imperative that horse owners share what other modalities they are using on their horses, especially when the CAVM will be combined with conventional therapies. The survey found that nearly 73 percent of respondents had used CAVM on their horses. Of those, only 75 percent had told their vets about those therapies. This could become an equine welfare issue if the CAVM interferes with traditional medical treatments or if owners try CAVM before calling a licensed vet, who can oversee other care the horse is receiving.

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