Tails of Seattle: A pets blog
Veterinary Q&A: Holistic care
Posted by Neena Pellegrini
Dr. Mushtaq Memon, from Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, answers this week's question.
Question: I'd like to keep my dog drug-free as long as possible. He's healthy now, and I'd like to keep him that way. What does a holistic approach mean?
Answer: Keeping animals -- or people for that matter -- medically drug-free for as long as possible is an admirable goal worthy of everyone's attention. Being able to do that in pets depends on many factors such as genetics, breed, food, exercise, and behavior.
A holistic approach to dog ownership means the owner takes a much more concerted view of how to manage their dog's health.
Holistic medicine is a program intended to optimize a pet's health and well-being through a more natural and common-sense approach to healthcare and is generally attributed to originating in the Far East.
Despite its rooting in "natural," or "common sense," or even centuries of Chinese medicine, understand that plants, herbs, and extracts often contain all or part of the chemicals used in modern pharmaceuticals. Some or all of the positive and negative things that happen with synthetic drugs can happen with some alternative preparations, too.
(Jack undergoes electroacupuncture, left, after Dr. Cheryl Adams places needles in his lower back above his tail. The 8-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a bulging disk at L 3-4 and arthritis. Adams practices at the Integrative Medicine and Rehabilitation Center of Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital in Snohomish. Photo by Joan Deutsch.)
Question: What are some "common sense" rules I can follow when seeking holistic treatment for my pet?
Answer: Holistic medicine is hampered by misperceptions and the occasional charlatan arrested for fraud. That is far too big a subject to discuss here.
Despite the overwhelming presence of more traditional Western medical approaches, holistic health care can provide some benefits at some times and not in others. This is the same for any type of medicine.
In general, what is important to know for consumers of health-care services for their dog is the following:
-- Neither Western medicine nor holistic medicine can cure everything. Be very skeptical if someone offers a panacea-like promise. A good example is diabetes mellitus. While this condition, in which the body does not produce insulin, can be managed, it cannot be cured in people or animals yet.
-- Whatever is undertaken in the care of an animal must not cause harm. Administering Western drugs or Far East herbal treatments, for example, should not be causing adverse effects in your pet. It is arguable as to whether or not one is "better" than the other, but in all cases it must not injure the animal.
-- Beware of hard sales pitches. Again, this can occur in Western or holistic medicine. A diagnosis that suddenly demands 33 visits and half payment up front is not likely to be in your pet's or your wallet's best interests.
Sales on site of special diets, prescriptions, concoctions, potions, and lotions should always be questioned. Can we get this elsewhere for less? What are the side effects? How will I know it has worked well? Why are you the only provider of this line of products if they benefit animals so greatly? Offer to leave and reconsider if the situation is not an emergency and seek a second opinion.
Whoever provides your pet's health care should welcome any second opinion, not press on with a sales pitch.
And again, the most natural and organic products can be toxic if not used properly or in combination with standard pharmaceuticals.
To learn more about holistic veterinary medicine or to find a holistic vet near you, go to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association at http://www.ahvma.org/
Dr. Mushtaq Memon
Memon is Diplomate, American College of Theriogenologists (animal reproduction specialist) and has interests in comparative reproduction, global animal health and complementary and alternative veterinary medicine. He has just returned from China with a group of WSU veterinary students specifically studying both standard and complementary veterinary practices.
Read our past Q&As:
Veterinary Q&A: Flea-control treatment
Veterinary Q&A: Bearded dragon lizards
Veterinary Q&A: Vaccinations for indoor cats
Veterinary Q&A: Lumps and bumps
Veterinary Q&A: More on aging dogs and arthritis
Veterinary Q&A: Puppy and geriatric exams
Veterinary QA: What dogs can safely chew
Veterinary QA: Why does it cost so much to clean a dog's teeth?
Veterinary QA follow-up: More on cleaning a dog's teeth
Veterinary QA: When to spay or neuter
Do you have a question about pet health? Ask now! We'll pose some of your questions to a local vet in an upcoming post.
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Mar 28 - 5:00 PM New study on how diet may impact a dog's sense of smell