Occasionally, we have clients who come to our practice thinking holistic veterinary medicine is an instant, magical way to save their dog from horrible diseases. Others think we treat based solely on symptoms without necessary x-rays or lab tests. Unfortunately, these perceptions of holistic veterinary medicine can lead to misunderstandings or disappointment.
Holistic means looking at every aspect of a dog’s health
The way we approach “holistic” medicine is to consider the entire health, lifestyle, and diet of each dog to determine their exact problem or problems and build a health program that will create the greatest quality of life.
To do this, we prefer comprehensive prevention programs.
Getting a diagnosis is critical
But if a dog has a problem, like all veterinarians, we first emphasize a diagnostic plan (lab work, x-rays, ultrasound) to determine what exactly are the major problems. Without diagnoses, we cannot recommend treatments.
It is surprising how many times we find a more important problem that the owner was unaware of or a deeper problem that was causing the original symptoms.
A good example is someone coming to us because their dog is getting up slowly or can no longer jump on the bed or couch. The owner may think these symptoms mean the dog has arthritis. After taking x-rays, we often find spinal disc disease. This condition is treated much differently than arthritis. We often treat a dog for a problem(s) different than those expected by the owner!
The big difference in holistic medicine
We do not immediately reach for a western medication to treat the problem. We have an arsenal of supplements, western and Chinese herbs, essential oils, cold laser therapy, and other alternative treatments we can use first.
That doesn’t mean we don’t use medications.
We use whatever is the best choice for a successful treatment outcome. Sometimes that requires a traditional medication(s) only or a combination of traditional and alternative treatments. Our goal is always to manage medical conditions with treatments with no or the least side effects.
Most medical conditions of middle-aged or old dogs (allergies, heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, gastrointestinal diseases, etc.) cannot be cured, they can only be managed.
The goal of holistic medicine is to provide management programs to reduce the symptoms of disease with the fewest side effects, so our patients have the best quality of life for whatever length of time they live.
Medical treatment cannot guarantee the extension of a dog’s lifetime. That is why we emphasize early lifestyle programs and preventative alternative treatment and supplements to delay the onset of these possible chronic medical problems of later life.
One such strategy is frequent exams. Most veterinary clients are accustomed to annual physicals. We recommend a wellness exam every 6 months. You may say that is more often than human doctors recommend and you would be correct – for humans. Dogs, on the other hand, have shorter lifespans and disease processes tend to progress more rapidly than in humans. To catch them early can make a huge difference in the outcome.