By Leva levitra
Thursday May 23, 2013 | May 2013 Issue
I’ve long been a proponent of holistic therapies for myself and the humans in my life. My mother, a now-retired RN, had me eating organic peanut butter and fresh vegetables throughout my childhood in northern New Jersey in the 70s. My father held steadfast against the dreaded microwave well into the year 2000! If you asked either of them if they were proponents of holistic medicine you’d likely hear a resounding “no.”
As the owner of a pet-care company and more importantly the companion-owner of a nearly 20 year-old Tabby and two beautiful “mutts” who are six and two years old I’ve taken my belief in integrative medicine to the animals. I follow the debate on vaccination schedules with interest, I stay up at night reading trade publications from Veterinary Practice News to Whole Dog and Whole Cat and I spend as much time as I can finding and interviewing experts on all types of “natural” remedies, from Bach Flower Essences to acupuncture and massage.
My goal is to find ways to balance the Western medicine of probes, antibiotics and illness based healing with Eastern modalities geared toward keeping the individual whole and healthy without need for invasive procedures.
Sure, there’s lots of philosophy and dogmatism involved in both camps, but I’m glad to see that more of my Western doctors and healers are approaching the integration of more preventative medicine. The same is true for the animal doctors that I encounter.
The goal with integrative medicine for animals, as with humans, is not to exclude, but rather to determine what’s in the best interest of the animal – to stop the pain immediately, but then to prevent a recurrence. For instance, when Deuce, my youngest dog entered our family she had a skin condition. I was happy to find that we could treat the immediate pain and itching with a shot, but I was even more pleased to find that I could prevent a recurrence by changing her diet and using Bach Flower Essences to help calm her down and keep her from the obsessive licking (anyone that has a dog who can’t stop licking knows that it’s not only painful to watch the dog create a “hot spot” but also very annoying while you’re trying to sleep.) Deuce feels better and so do I.
According to Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM in Animal Wellness (February/March 2008, p. 47), The change from traditional veterinary medicine to holistic medicine “involved a change in mindset from the problem-based focus of conventional medicine to a broader view of the “whole” animal – not just the physical body and medical history, but also mental and emotional factors, breeding, personality, social environment, nutrition, and lifestyle.”
Pets are completely beholden to us for their care and well-being. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of using alternative medicine for yourself your pet isn’t going to be exposed to this either. It’s important to remember that the goal of integrative medicine is “working toward a vibrant state of well being, not just the absence of illness,” says Dr. Hofve.
Isn’t that a wonderful idea? Aiming for a vibrant state of well being sure beats the heck out of waiting for your cat to develop an abscess or your dog to start limping. Some things obviously are best treated by traditional medicine. If your dog runs across the yard and slits her gut on a sharp fence post (like my oldest, Kiera did), you should head straight to the emergency room where the injury can be cleaned and stitched up. But by including other holistic remedies, like hands-on energy healing, and herbal remedies I was able to help manage her pain and restore her to health as her sutures dissolved. The two went hand in hand.
Clearly, Kiera’s leap over the garden fence in pursuit of a squirrel was part of her natural instinct to hunt and chase. It resulted in her injury (and tennis balls on all the fence tops). Other times it’s not so easy to see the cause and the effect as anyone, human or not, who has faced allergies can attest. Most modern Western medicine is great at treating a symptom but not so fabulous at treating the core cause of the pain. For instance, most of us humans are pretty much conditioned to popping a pain reliever or two when we have a headache or a muscle ache. Pets are often treated the same way. But once the drug wears off the symptom can, and often does, return.
Integrative medicine will take a deeper and longer look at the symptom, remembering, as Dr. Hofve says, “suppressing symptoms is harmful from a holistic perspective, and can make the underlying disease worse.” You’ve got to remember that a symptom is there to let you know that there’s an imbalance, so you’re best bet is to tough it out until the therapies kick in. Sure, alternative therapies tend to take longer than conventional drugs or surgery, but the pay off is a healthier whole body.
You may never have considered alternative medicine for yourself or your pet, but in doing so, you’ll expand your horizons and likely find yourself, and your pet, more vibrant and happy in the years to come.
If you’d like more information on Alternative and Integrative medicine, be sure to talk to your veterinarian and feel free to check out: Animal Wellness magazine (you can pick it up at MOM’s or Whole Foods); All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets by Mary L. Wulff-Tilford & Gregory Tilford (I got my copy at Sacred Circle Bookstore on King Street); and The Complete Holistic Dog Book by Jan Allegretti & Katy Sommers, D.V.M. (I got mine at PetSage on Dove Street).
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