What is holistic veterinary medicine?
In recent years there has been increasing interest in both the human and veterinary communities in utilizing various holistic modalities in either treating acute or chronic illness as a means of preventing illness in the future. In my opinion, the main reason for interest in these areas is the failure of conventional medicine to address most chronic and especially immune-mediated diseases, where the body’s own immune system is reacting against itself. Depending upon which organ system is the target of immune system attack will determine which symptoms will be experienced and what diseases are ultimately diagnosed.
Most of the particular chronic illnesses are typically treated with powerful immune suppressive medications as well as antibiotics, which often lack any scientific validity or clinical studies as to their benefit. Two of the biggest examples I can mention in every day veterinary practice are cats afflicted with feline urinary tract inflammation, known as feline urologic syndrome (FUS) and dogs diagnosed with degenerating discs in their backs. Both cortisone, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and antibiotics are commonly used in both situations, although little data backs up their efficacy in either syndrome.
It is because of the failure of modern conventional medicine in such common and frustrating chronic conditions and/or the side effects seen with many drugs, why clients are seeking out doctors who are learning about or skilled in other methods of treatment. And while my conventional veterinary brethren will often cite lack of evidence based medicine and double blind placebo controlled studies in speaking out against using complimentary medical modalities, they fail to realize that MOST of everyday conventional veterinary medical practice is based on individual experience, and not based on their own scientific model of “evidence based” medicine. A practice that is quite hypocritical in my opinion.
And while conventional medicine is wonderful at treating acute diseases such as emergency trauma patients or fractures, in most cases it falls short in truly enhancing long term health in those patients afflicted with chronic disease. As opposed to more and more drugs are needed to control various clinical symptoms and syndromes, as the body ultimately weakens over time.
While people and pets may be living slightly longer than years ago, we are also sicker for longer periods of time, and actually at younger ages than we ever were before in the history of medicine. As we all know, this has placed a huge economic burden on this country, and its reliance on expensive conventional and pharmaceutical medical treatments and surgeries. We’ve seen a similar economic burden placed on the animal guardian as well, because many have become disenchanted to say the least, at the epidemic increases in autoimmune diseases in our beloved feline and canine companions that were rare only a few decades ago.
The reason many doctors are now looking to become trained in holistic modalities is because it is the process of examining the generational health of people and animals as opposed to just an individual approach. Rather than looking at external germs or external stressors or agents outside of the body as causes of the ailments of both people and pets, every true holistic modality of medicine looks at the patient’s own “terrain” and innate weaknesses or susceptibilities as the reason why illness occurs in the first place.
By concentrating on the patient’s side of things through techniques or medicines that strengthen the body’s healing abilities, rather than relying on powerful suppressive drugs and surgeries, that is the basis for long life and health. Holistic medicine also realizes that everything put on or in the body, whether through diet, vaccination or pesticide can have a short and long term effect on the health of a sensitive individual over time. That’s why it’s so important to feed a healthy diet as Hippocrates the father of medicine stated. “Let food be thy medicine”.
Holistic veterinary medicine has been growing exponentially in recent years to address this growing need and demand of small animal veterinary medicine. Membership in organizations such as The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, The American Veterinary Chiropractic Society, and The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society has taken off in recent years. To learn more about these various modalities, including where to find a trained veterinary practitioner in these areas, and how they may be of help to especially chronically ill pets, one can start at the websites www.AHVMA.org and www.DrPitcairn.com
When seeking out a holistic veterinarian it’s important to make sure that they are adequately trained in their particular area of interest, and that they receive ongoing continuing education each year. Just as there are great variation in conventional veterinary medical skills and practice, the same can be said of holistic veterinary medical practitioners, especially as there is growing interest and an economic niche seen in this area of veterinary medicine.