Forums » Integrative Care & Pain Management

Do You Know What You Don't Know?

    • 147 posts
    August 31, 2017 2:47 PM EDT

    Several years ago a Harvard Business Review article (from which I borrowed the title for this thread) started off with these words:

    "You probably don’t know as much as you think you do. When put to the test, most people find they can’t explain the workings of everyday things they think they understand." ... "You’re likely to discover unexpected gaps in your knowledge. In psychology, we call this cognitive barrier the illusion of explanatory depth. It means you think you fully understand something that you actually don’t."

    If this is true, and I believe it is, then how can some of us so easily dismiss or roll our eyes when the conversation shifts to medical interventions or treatment modalities about which we (admittedly) know so little?  Are we compelled to learn more than we already know? Learn about something new or a different approach to what we believe is already "tried and true?" We are all super busy. Who has the time or bandwidth?

    I, for one, am a Western medicine-trained veterinarian and had virtually no instruction on the Eastern medicine approach or treatment modalities throughout my training. In fact, my first introduction wasn't until I was 6 or 7 years into my professional career.  As a last resort in trying to help my own pet - a Doberman pinscher that was severely affected with cervical vertebral instability ("Wobblers") - I turned to acupuncture.  I went into it thinking "Hey, I have nothing to lose." I was AMAZED to witness the calming effect it had on her during the treatments, and grateful that it actually did seem to benefit her overall condition for some time.

    It would be many years later before I would, again, be in a time and place with a need, to think about alternative care options or integrative therapies for another pet of my own. This "special needs" pet was not successfully managed by conventional Western medicine's "standard of care" approach to his GI, skin, and behavior problems. Instead of oral antibiotic and immunosuppressive therapy (for life), his problems have been managed by diet, nutritional supplements (probiotics, cobalmin, omega-3 fatty acids), and - yes - even therapeutic grade essential oils.

    Consumers' Perceptions

    A study of consumers' perceptions (of commercially available hemp products for pets - AHVMA Journal, Vol 42, Spring 2016, pp 40-48) revealed that:

    • The pet owners learned about the products from the Internet (50.99%), a friend (16.16%), or their veterinarian (14.36%)

    • 34.4% of pet owners did not tell their veterinarian they were using these products in their pet

    • 49.1% of the pet owners did speak to their veterinarian about using the product(s) in their pet

      • Of those who did speak to their veterinarian about these products:
        - 61.0% of veterinarians responded positively
        - 30.7% of veterinarians expressed no opinion
        -   7.7% of veterinarians responded negatively

    Findings reported in this study alone should serve as notice and encourage veterinary caregivers to welcome questions and discussion from pet owners interested in knowing about "natural" or "holistic" options available for caring for their pet. We know that there can be harmful effects of some therapies in some pets. In addition, lack of quality control in the manufacturing of products may result in a poor response, money down the drain, or worse for our patients. Veterinarians need to know what owners are administering to their pets - including the diet, prescription medications, supplements, and ancillary products.

    It's incumbent that we be open to questions and do our best in advising and guiding our clients when asked about integrative care options. If we don't know the answer, then we need to be proactive in directing an owner to a trusted source for the information.  Take some time to at least become familiar with interventions or modalities that you've never experienced or that you know little about. At a minimum, it shows that you care and share interest in the pet's welfare.

    You don't know what you don't know. Who knows? Maybe familiarizing yourself with the unknown (some of which has been around and "known" to many for centuries) will spark an interest or bring an additional dimension to the excellent care you already know how to provide.