An approach to holistic veterinary medicine

In managing chronic back and joint problems, many veterinarians will often utilize an integrative medical approach.

One of the most rapidly growing areas of interest in both human and veterinary medicine is the option of complimentary veterinary medical treatment options. These options have been called different names from integrative veterinary medicine to alternative veterinary medicine to holistic veterinary medicine. Most of these treatment options tend to look at the body as being sick as a single whole organism, rather than the more mechanical and reductionistic way that conventional medicine views illness as our animals being sick only in affected parts that are the presenting complaint.

If this same asthmatic animal was treated by a holistic veterinarian skilled in traditional Chinese medicine (known as TCM) and acupuncture, or in homeopathy, the diseased airways would be viewed as only one symptom of the whole patient. However, the other individualizing symptoms of the patient in the rest of the body would be equally as important in coming up with an individualized medical treatment plan. The goal of treatment would be in making the pet overall healthier, less susceptible to future asthmatic attacks as well as other health problems as well.

One big distinction between the two medical models of illness and treatment is that the conventional medical approach will offer much quicker relief and suppression of symptoms, while with most of the holistic modalities, more patience and time commitment would be needed in treating a patient with such a chronic disease.For example, in conventional veterinary medicine an asthmatic animal would be viewed as having just a sick airway with allergic inflammation and constriction of the airways. The rest of the patient would be viewed separately and not considered involved in the illness of the airways. Drug therapies would be the same for every pet, focused only on blocking that inflammation of the airways and relieving the constriction, while ignoring the rest of the body. Sometimes long term use of these drugs can have unwanted side effects on the rest of the body.

There are however circumstances in veterinary medicine such as in acute trauma, as well as acute spinal and joint problems, where holistic medicines like acupuncture, chiropractic and homeopathy can act even quicker, more safely, and more effectively than conventional drugs. And in managing chronic back and joint problems, many veterinarians will often utilize an integrative medical approach, using both conventional medicine, as well as other complimentary therapies such as nutritional supplements, chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture and physical therapy.

I would encourage animal guardians interested in an integrative or even purely holistic veterinary approach to find veterinarians with adequate skills and who have undergone ongoing training in these complimentary areas. Some excellent resources of information include the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association in Bel Aire, Maryland www.AHVMA.org as well as the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy www.TheAVH.org.  Both websites also have links to other holistic resources of information and veterinarians as well.

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