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Cracking Audrey’s Neck

By David Butler Patient examples 01 Feb 2014

I love my cat “Audrey”- she is sleek, loving, beautiful, healthy, an expert moth catcher and an absolute bargain from the local Animal Welfare League.

Previously when my wife has taken our cats to the vet, one older vet will always manipulate their neck. We have come to realise he manipulates the neck of every cat (and probably every animal) who is taken to that clinic).  We don’t dare let him near Audrey’s little neck and we have warned him off and always seek another vet in the clinic.

I think this treatment offering is nonsense and potentially dangerous and I think we have to stand up for animal rights. Plus if this is evidence based veterinary care, I am starting to worry about the validity of other procedures carried out on my cat.  Is this just an isolated case?




David Butler is teaching in the United States throughout February, find out when and where at noigroup courses


  1. timcocks0noi

    Hi Dave
    Having had the pleasure of meeting and holding Audrey I can understand your concern, slinky, slim, no doubt resilient and robust in that way that cats are, but equally delicate and certainly vulnerable in the hands of a crack-happy vet.

    Being a vet must be an interesting job. Do vets think about the phenomenology of their patients? Thomas Nagel asked one of the more famous, enduring and important questions in philosophy “What is it like to be a bat?” Do vets ever wonder what it is like, really like, to be a dog, or a cat, or a budgie, or a ferret, or a guinea pig, or a snake or a lizard?

    As neuroscience begins to recognise the importance of first person experience (Thacker and Moseley 2012 for e.g.) and medical science continues to work on person centred, biopsychosocial models of health and wellbeing how would veterinary science even begin on this path? Does it matter?

    In July 2012, at the first annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference at the University of Cambridge, a number of very well known neuroscientists publicly supported the notion of animal consciousness with the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness which included the following:

    “non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

    To para(murder)phrase another philosopher then, when you stare into your cat’s eyes, your cat stares back at you…..


    Thacker MA and Moseley GL (2012). First-person neuroscience and the understanding of pain. Med J Aust 2012; 196 (6): 410-411.

    1. Hello Tim and Dave,
      First a little about me. I have been a practicing small animal vet in the U.S. since 1990, chronic pain patient, NOI follower and amateur neuroscientist since the late nineties, and most recently a psychotherapist with specific training in attachment, interpersonal neurobiology, and psychotherapy as a modulator of greater brain integration and healing ala Dan Siegel and others. So…as you might imagine this is a topic of great interest to me.
      The first obstacle for me in your post was the question about ‘evidence based’ care. Over the years I have become increasingly skeptical of the western medical model and what is constituted as ‘standard of care’ and more recently considered evidence based.

      My experience has been that both these categories are
      1. largely influenced by the pharmaceutical industry
      2. largely influenced by academia (which is largely influenced by #1)

      So, when a new paradigm is introduced (often a new drug for an old condition) plenty of ‘evidence’ is generated by academia funded by pharma and the ‘promised land’ has finally been reached and all the vets can now cure their patients with the new drug. Having been at the game for a while, what seems to be the case is that the paradigm changes about every 10 years, but my experience is that our patients (animals) and their owners are suffering no less, just buying in the latest name brand mythology.

      So that was a bit of lengthy way to say when I hear the phrase ‘evidence based’ it brings me more caution than comfort.

      With that aside, I don’t know any vets in the US that would consider cracking cats’ or dogs’ or bunnies’ necks anywhere near a standard of care or evidence based whatever that means. I would be interested to ask that vet….so what is it you are doing there, how is it helpful, and what makes you believe that? So much of what I (and most vets I know) do is what we have been taught and because it is what we have always done, as simple as that sounds.

      As far as animal consciousness goes, I think it is a fascinating question. As a therapist I think vets and all humans do a fair amount of projecting their own thoughts and feelings (or lack of) on to animals, which makes the question even muddier. My intuition tells me that there is a lot going on in the nervous systems of these critters, large and small. Certainly mirror neurons, limbic resonance and affect regulation seem apparent when we look in to the eyes of a puppy wagging it’s tail, or our old faithful hound dog waiting for his dinner.

      The higher consciousness question is harder for me to guess at. It seems to me that some mammals, particularly primates, elephants, orcas, etc. have some capacity for consciousness, and I don’t really feel a need to prove it as much as I would like to explore it more.

      It certainly is a fascinating question….

      Carl Bello
      Austin, TX

      1. timcocks0noi

        Hi Carl
        What an amazing resume you must have. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences and thoughts.

        I thought your comment “I would be interested to ask that vet….so what is it you are doing there, how is it helpful, and what makes you believe that?” is very, very applicable to anyone (person) seeing any kind of doctor or therapist!

        I think every patient has the right to ask and receive an answer to these questions in any healthcare setting.


  2. I can’t comment on my vet who would be risking a painful death if he tried it on Millie my georgious black cat. What I can comment on is the procedures of certain practitioners who after a very scanty clinical reasoning process administer a series of “Crackings” to each and every patient that walks through the door. It would appear that they are technicians and not clinicians. You might say that the worst that can happen is that they have wasted the patients money……….. two most recent cases I have had to deal with had histories-if one had been bothered to listen- that suggested serious pathology. Mr X had suffered a compression fracture of T12 ten days previously and Mrs Y had suffered compression fractures of T10,11 & 12 two weeks prior to seeing me. “Smell You” comes to mind but what saddens me is the lack of emphasis on clinical reasoning across the board and, despite how academically knowledgable practioners might become many are nothing more than potentially dangerous technicians…….

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