First, my apologies to some effective therapies called “alternative” that do not fall under the umbrella of FDA approved drugs or recognized surgeries. There are many such therapies, such as acupuncture, pulsed electromagnetics, laser and others that are indeed effective. I’m not trying to distance Nutrition from these because I think the association would be a negative, but because the fact is that Nutrition is a well established science that is under appreciated.
I have been a veterinarian for just a few months under 40 years. It’s no secret that nutritional training in veterinary school is very limited. Despite this, it was always a strong interest of mine and within 3 to 5 years of being out of school my inventory of therapeutics had become heavily weighted in favor of nutritional supplements and herbals with minimal drugs. Drugs have, and always will have, their place but they can often be a stop gap rather than a real treatment.
From the very beginning my interest in and use of nutritional supplements was based on the science of what they do in the body. It never occurred to me that using nutrition this way would be considered anything but main line medicine. I was in for a rude awakening.
I often find myself in a bit of a no man’s land. The heavy reliance on nutrition puts me at odds with some more traditional (for lack of a better word) veterinarians while refusal to embrace any and all things that are against mainstream medicine and to reject any and all things associated with what is most commonly called allopathic medicine means I don’t fit with the “other” side either.
So be it. To my mind, the facts will sort this out. It’s a given that most veterinarians are not well educated in Nutrition but they can come to recognize its scientific validity. To give a hypothetical example, if a horse has a condition that causes extreme muscle contraction that can be corrected by high dose magnesium, is the ideal treatment to provide that extra magnesium that actually fixes the problem or to give a drug that blocks the muscle contraction thus only blocking the symptom? This is just a hypothetical but there are many, many other examples where nutrition can play a key role in controlling a pathology, supporting optimum athletic performance, reducing risk of/supporting healing of osteochondritis lesions, etc..
“You are what you eat” sounds trite, but it’s very true. The horse is not an air fern. In addition to calories needed to maintain weight, amino acids, vitamins, key fats and minerals are needed on a daily basis to keep body functions working. Evolution has equipped the horse with a variety of mechanisms that allow them to survive deficiencies to a certain extent (i.e. not die from them) but sooner or later the consequences will show up in fertility, performance, bone/joint health while growing, immunity, hoof quality, skin and hair health. The role of nutrition in all of these issues is well established.
If there is one message I want to get across here it is that Nutrition is a legitimate science. That’s not a blanket endorsement for every nutritional supplement out there but Nutrition is an incredibly powerful force for health. Let’s bring it into the realm of recognition it deserves.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD