For 90% of symptoms of illness you’re better off with a cat or dog than a doctor

People and cats

Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

The words of Dr Phil Hammond are in fact “for 90% of symptoms, you’re better off with a dog than a doctor”, but I have extended that to include companion animals and in this instance domestic cats.  Dr Phil Hammond is a general practitioner meaning not a veterinarian and is also a television personality and author.  His latest book is Staying Alive.  It seems that the message he wishes to convey in his book is very similar that which The Paw Project wishes to convey in their video below.  It is one that is quite often discussed but which needs to be reinforced.

My thanks to Dr Jennifer Conrad for providing me with a link to their video on YouTube.

Dr Phil Hammond’s book is about how to get the best from the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK but he makes the point right away that, as stated in the title, a lot of illnesses can be prevented by improving one’s lifestyle.

“Most lives to not need medicalising, they need living.”

Dr Hammond prescribes “five portions of pleasure a day”. These include exercising, eating properly and maintaining friendships. He has turned the ingredients for a good life into an acronym, ‘Clangers’.

He makes the well-known point that pets have a genuinely soothing effect on humans. It also says that walking is hugely important health. For me walking is a combination of light exercise together with being stimulated by the surroundings particularly when the surroundings are nature and the landscape which I think are very soothing as well. A nice companion usually makes it even better.

Dr Hammond also provides some interesting tips about how to conduct yourself with your general practitioner. He says that one should shake hands with your GP before the interview because it is the best way to ensure that he or she focuses on you rather than staring at a computer screen. And when phoning for an ambulance we should never be too calm or laugh nervously. I presume this means that you will get a better response if you avoid those behaviours.

In the UK, GPs have 10 minutes to see you which can lead to what Dr Hammond calls “anchoring bias” in diagnosis. This refers to homing in on a diagnosis too quickly or perhaps a diagnosis which is convenient and speedy while failing to adjust the assessment to new information provided by the patient.

Dr Hammond also says that we should take more responsibility for our health rather than rely on the National Health Service. It’s the old adage, prevention is better than cure. It is certainly better to stay away from hospitals in the UK if you can manage it because there’s no certainty that you will leave healthier than when you went in.

In the UK, based on my experience, hospitals do not join up the dots by which I mean that if a patient consistently returns to hospital they appear to make fresh diagnosis on every visit rather than referring to the patient’s history which may not exist. It is very important to know a patient’s history and be familiar with the patient.

Dr Martin Scurr in another book about our health entitled Doctors Dissected says that:

“There is little use to the examination… If a different doctor undertakes it each time.”

There is, I would argue, an upsurge in interest in homeopathy and complementary medicine with respect to human medicine, and returning to companion animals, there is, likewise, a growing interest in holistic veterinary medicine.

There should be more veterinarians who look at pet’s health in the round rather than solely relying upon conventional medicine and quick fixes. There appears to be the same time pressure in seeing patients at a veterinary clinic as there is at a general practitioners surgery

Veterinarians have to process patients quickly to bring in the money. There is a community of veterinarians in America called the “American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation”. They say the world needs more holistic veterinarians. I agree with them. If you like what they represent, please “Like” their FB webpage.

2 thoughts on “For 90% of symptoms of illness you’re better off with a cat or dog than a doctor”

  1. I think that an important element of providing health care to humans or animals is having an investigative personality. It’s too bad that many practitioners rely on assumptions.

    When I took Mitzy to the vet for constipation, she said “She must have a bladder infection.” and gave anti-biotics without even asking if she had trouble urinating, and without any kind of test. This was the beginning of my in depth research to investigate how to relieve the constipation. I knew I had to find the root cause, rather than treat with stool softeners indefinitely. The second vet I took her to, advised me to give Lactulose 3 times a day!

    She doesn’t have megacolon, but does tend to get impacted anal glands. Over the course of 3 months, I tried various things, and have been able to alleviate the constipation for the most part. If I notice hard stool,which is usually the result of not drinking enough, I give her a does of Lactulose.

    Just as it is when we get constipated, it mostly has to do with what we’re eating, and if we’re drinking enough liquid. The exceptions would be bowel obstruction or other intestinal issue.

  2. Thanks for this post Michael. It’s absolutely true that our docs should take into consideration the WHOLE patient- and so should veterinarians. Having a pet- a cat- dog or even a horse can boost our health. A purring cat on our lap lowers bloodpressure, as an example.

    There have been many studies that show that the pleasure we derive from having a pet can greatly improve our moods- reduce feelings of isolation so it must follow that it must have a positive effect on our immune systems.

    As far as diagnosis is concerned, each episode of illness or pain must be evaluated separately and not just make an assumption that it is the “old” problem.

    Years ago I was on rounds with my horse vet. He went to a call to euthanize a horse since the horse was very old and in a great deal of pain. The owner assumed that the pain was due to an arthritic condition and the horse was having a really hard time getting around- the problem was getting worse.

    Thankfully my vet was a detective. After lifing the horse’s hoof to examine him he discovered a stone embedded in the horse’s frog. He removed the stone and you could almost see the horse’s eyes get soft in relief. What he had was a serious stone bruise. He lived happily for another two years- and while he had arthritis the medication the vet prescribed helped him feel better and life was good again. By the way, he lived until he was 23. The vet turned to me and said “never assume that what is a chronic condition is at the root of a problem- one must view each situation as”new”.


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