As an herbalist with a special interest in natural health care for dogs and cats, I get to observe many different relationships between owners and their pets. Over the years I have seen a small number of pet owners exhibit a certain bizarre psychological behavior. This behavior follows the classic symptoms of Munchausen By Proxy Syndrome (MBPS). The only difference is that the syndrome I observe uses the family dog or cat as proxy and becomes a rare but devastating form of animal cruelty.

Munchausen By Proxy Syndrome involves a primary caregiver or guardian exaggerating or fabricating the symptoms of an illness, the illness itself, or multiple illnesses in the person (or pet) they care for. MBPS is a factitious (artificially produced) form of mental illness associated with severe mental difficulties. A caregiver will intentionally harm the child or pet – or describe non-existent symptoms of an illness – in order to get sympathy for bearing the burden, praise for such devotion, or a deeper relationship with a doctor, veterinarian or other health care provider.

Some time ago I received an email from a would-be customer that read, My dog has kidney disease, high blood pressure, Cushing’s disease, pulmonary hypertension, bladder stones, diabetes and now a skin condition caused by the Cushing’s where she blisters & peels like sunburn. Her antibiotic shampoo washes off the flea and tick medicine I was using. Is your TripleSure Natural Flea & Tick Spray ok to use on her skin? Also can I use your DentaSure All-Natural Oral Care Spray with all the medicines she is taking for her medical problems? I will be waiting for your reply.

Responsible dog lover? Or is she the proud owner of a pity party with four legs and a tail? A common trait among MBPS sufferers is their adamant denial that they have this dysfunction. I could be wrong in my assumption and, if so, I would not want to add to her unhappy situation.

I responded with, While our natural health care pet products would work very well on your dog, it sounds like the last thing she needs is more medication. All too often we find that the interaction of multiple medications, especially prescription drugs, brings on more side effects and other conditions than they cure. My best advice to you is to find a responsible holistic veterinarian in your area who will treat your dog as a complete physiological system instead of a collection of symptoms to cover up. Please visit the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and find a professional who is experienced in the use of healing herbs and whose real interest is to save your dog’s life. I wish you all the best.

I’m still waiting for her reply.

Complicating the victim proxy’s health problems even further is Big Pharma’s prescription drugs that target only the symptoms and not the root cause of the illness. What’s more, by zeroing in on the specific symptom that a single agent will alleviate, drug designers ignore the remaining spectrum of plant constituents that Nature so richly (and wisely) intends for our complete healing. The consequence of such pinpoint symptom-only targeting is a list of side effects like the ones in TV commercials that the friendly voiceover tosses off as “practically harmless.”

Even well-meaning doctors and veterinarians make debilitating mistakes with prescription drugs. Imagine the devastation a person afflicted with Munchausen By Proxy Syndrome can cause when her goal is to gather sympathy because of her “sick little dog.”

The answer is to become more aware of MBPS and speak up when something doesn’t seem right. Animal cruelty is a crime no matter how much or how little a person is aware of their actions. In the case of a defenseless dog or cat, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

Call your local SPCA, Humane Society or Animal Rescue. Put yourself in your best friend’s position. If the person you depend on is also the person who hurts you the most, wouldn’t you want somebody to speak up for you?

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