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Holistic Pet Care Primer: The How To's and Why's of Incorporating
Complementary and Alternative (CAVM) Treatments
into Traditional Veterinary Medicine"
Selecting a type of health care is very much a personal choice. For those of us who have chosen an integrated approach, combining the best of conventional medicine with the best of complementary and alternative therapies, the road began with a search for "something more" that conventional medicine was not able to offer.
Part of the journey for me involved a search to offer better care for my patients, and one fork in this road convinced me to share my healing discoveries with others through a series of books. These books, including The Allergy Solution for Dogs, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, and 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog, allow me to share with other doctors and pet owners around the world everything I have learned about natural pet care. As a result of this series, those of us who believe in the importance of integrative medicine are now changing the way we care for our pets.
The desire to offer "something more" to my patients as well as my own pets in no way indicated any displeasure on my part with conventional medicine. Rather, I concluded that conventional medicine had certain limitations. The integration of complementary and alternative therapies with my conventional training allowed me to go beyond the limitations of just using and "either, or" approach.
Why is it that some veterinarians and pet owners seek "something more" for their pets? For some, it is a dissatisfaction with conventional medicine. Many doctors and pet owners are tired of treating chronically ill pets with the same medications that may temporarily fix the problem but offer no long term solution.
Others are using an integrated approach to their own health care, and want to extend this type of care to their patients and pets.
Some want to experience true "healing" rather than simply "treating" a problem.
In some instances there are no conventional treatments available. For example, milk thistle is a wonderful herb to help heal the liver; there are no conventional medications that can do this. Probiotics and glutamine are wonderful complementary therapies to heal a diseased intestinal tract, yet there are no conventional medicines that can do what these complementary therapies do.
Sometimes a complementary therapy is chosen to minimize side effects from conventional therapies. Referring to probiotics again, these supplements can minimize damage to the intestinal tract when antibiotic therapy is needed.
Many owners view complementary therapies as safer than conventional therapies. While some therapies, especially herbal therapies, can be toxic, most complementary therapies are safer than conventional medications. As an example, glucosamine and chondroitin are safer for treating pets with arthritis than corticosteroids or non-steroidal antiinflammatory medications. For long term control of pain and inflammation, their use is preferred over conventional therapies for their wide safety margins.
Finally, many complementary therapies cost less over the long term treatment of your pet than conventional therapies. The supplement choline, contained in a product called CholodinR, costs much less when treating a pet with cognitive disorder than the conventional therapy AniprylR.
Regardless of the reason chosen to try one of these therapies, any doctor or pet owner can begin to seek an integrated approach to pet care. The easiest steps to take are to begin feeding the best, most wholesome diet possible. Supplementation of the diet with healthy supplements, such as whole food sources of vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, and digestive enzymes, can improve digestion, minimize inflammation, and decrease harmful effects from cellular oxidation. Finally, minimizing any unnecessary medications (including vaccines) and instead using supplements to help heal the pet round out an integrative approach.
I'm often asked about "proof" that a complementary or alternative therapy really works.
As I began my research for my Natural Vet series of books, I was actually quite surprised by the amount of proof behind many of these therapies. While we have more clinical support for the use of these therapies in people, there is an increasing body of knowledge showing positive results in animals as well. All of us welcome more research to help fine tune our recommendations. Having treated thousands of animals with the various complementary and alternative therapies at my disposal, my favorite proof is how my own patients respond to these therapies. Either the pet gets better or does not. If the therapy doesn't work, we try something else.
What I like most about this approach is that it is rare to give up; if one therapy does not help the pet, there are many others to try. If I only could use a conventional approach, many of my patients could not improve as some diseases only have a limited number of therapies that may be helpful. By listening to the pet's body, and observing the pet's response to the chosen therapy, the integrative approach allows me to individualize the therapy to what works best for each and every patient.
In conclusion, I encourage you to begin to learn about this fascinating aspect of pet health care. It's easy to get overwhelmed, so I encourage you to read a little at a time. As you learn more about caring for your pet, discuss your new knowledge with your own veterinarian. Begin by slowly incorporating some of the things you learn into your pet's preventive health regimen. Using the information you learn, you can begin to take a holistic approach to pet care. By taking a holistic approach and listening to the pet's body, we can fine tune any therapy needed. This truly holistic approach allows true healing rather than simply treating a disease. And this is what an integrative approach using complementary and alternative therapies is all about.
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