An integrative approach to veterinary medicine combines traditional and alternative treatments

To better augment conventional veterinary medical treatment and surgery, many pet guardians are now seeking the services of holistic veterinarians in order to provide their pets with a more integrative approach to their pet’s medical care.

Feline acupuncture
Feline acupuncture – Photo: Flickr User Stephone Dyrgas
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Many guardians have become interested in learning more about the benefits that their pets may derive from combining allopathic medicine – conventional or Western medicine veterinary care – with complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM). Alternative methods include acupuncture, vitamin therapy, nutritional supplements, Chinese herbal medicine, therapeutic massage, Reike, Tuina, (a form of Chinese manipulative therapy), therapeutic nutrition, massage and chiropractic.

The term “holistic” is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “Relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts. Holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body.” Therefore, Integrative Veterinary Medicine is an amalgam of the art of conventional veterinary medicine combined with a variety of alternative therapies.

Integrative veterinary care is the integral ingredient in treating the “whole” animal. The essential ingredients in integrative medicine are the relationship between the guardian and the veterinarian, combined with all the appropriate therapeutic measures to reach the pet’s optimum health. Integrative veterinary practitioners can offer patients a wide variety of options which can both help prevent illness and treat diseases that may not be feasible by just one form of medical treatment alone.

Veterinarians who are using treatments that are outside of the scope of a traditional practice, blending them with conventional therapies are considered integral practitioners. This approach is aimed at maximizing a good result, improving the quality of life and minimizing any unfavorable treatment side-effects.

Our veterinarian, Dr. Erin Holder, is an Integrative Practitioner. Therefore, Sir Hubble, our white Oriental Shorthair is being treated with an appropriately designed integrative veterinary care program. Dr. Holder has been treating his pancreatitis with traditional pain medication and IV fluids when necessary as well as anti-nausea control. To augment this therapy he also is given nutritional supplements along with acupuncture. As part of Sir Hubble’s treatment “team”, I give him weekly Sub-Q injections of vitamin B12.

Additionally, he will soon embark on a course of Chinese herbal medicine. Sir Hubble has been responding extremely well to this integrative treatment plan and he is feeling ever so much better. Dr. Erin Holder, our holistic practitioner and I are very optimistic about a positive outcome, using this carefully designed treatment program.

Dr. Hush Puppy, our lilac point Oriental Shorthair kitty suffers from Rhinitis and at times has wheezing episodes. Since the more traditional medications we tried have not been at all effective, our veterinarian then started treatment using a very small amount of a holistic liquid called Naturium Homaccord. This treatment has greatly controlled his wheezing and he is breathing much more easily.

Although the majority of veterinary schools are not yet teaching students about integrative medicine or alternative/complementary treatments, according to Nancy Scanlan, DVM, and AHVMF, the Executive Director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation, “The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation is working hard to change that by finding funding for education and research in integrative holistic veterinary medicine.

For more information about holistic veterinary medicine, and if you wish to locate a holistic veterinary practitioner in your area, check out the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s website. With the growing interest in a more “holistic” approach to veterinary medicine by many veterinarians and pet guardians, I am hopeful that integrative veterinary medicine will become more widely recognized as a legitimate and more commonly practiced treatment modality.

What are your thoughts about integrative veterinary medicine? Tell us in a comment.

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8 thoughts on “An integrative approach to veterinary medicine combines traditional and alternative treatments”

  1. Alternative medical practices are great. We have used holistic approaches for our senior cats and also acupuncture. I would suggest that if you are thinking of using any of these that you seek out well trained professionals. There are people out there that practice but are not well trained.

  2. I agree with the above posts. I do think there needs to be additional studies about alternative treatments. Together with traditional treatments I do think the veterinary field could be improved greatly.

  3. I couldn’t agree more, Jo; and I send *PRAYERS* and love up, and out, for both of your sweet boys to thrive! In my family we prefer traditional and natural methods of preventive health maintenance, care, and treatment. Staying healthy is always the best defense! And in cases of illness, it is always preferable that the treatment not harm the patient; allopathic medicinecannot be said to do that, so we opt for natural treatment whenever possible. I, too, have had to administer Sub-Q, whem our beloved Moti was in CRF; it bought her, and us, seven months of loved and I hope quality life together. Everyone would benefit from studying natural methods of health maintenance and treatment, not only for their beloved cats, but also for themselves — we, after all, are our cats’ guardians and our caring for them should include staying strong and healthy ourselves!

  4. I agree with you, Michael-

    Combining therapies that work together really does work. I am amazed that Sir Hubble has started responding to the Chinese herbal therapy already. He is beginning to act more “kittenish” with more energy and his appetite has improved back to his normal delight in food. His eyes are also clearing up really quickly. I am delighted with his progress.

    Now if we can get him back on raw food that would be really the best for him since he loves it.

    Right now I am a very happy camper- and optimistic that his health will keep improving. Will keep y’all posted, of course.

    1. The truth is (as I see it) that we are still learning about medicine and have a long way to go on that learning curve. One day we might well look back and think how crude we were today.

      This is why we should keep our minds open to alternative avenues and ideas.

  5. Personally, I am in favour of holistic veterinary treatments. Conventional medicine has its critics and perhaps cat owners put too much faith in it. Vets appear to be reluctant to take up alternative forms of treatment.I think more veterinarian should try holistic treatments as it can’t do any harm and often will do some good as you have indicated in your article.

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