What is holistic veterinary medicine?
Holistic medicine is a term that means different things to different people. I call myself a holistic practitioner and by that I mean to convey two different things. First is that I look at the whole of the animal and work to come to a treatment plan that will benefit my entire patient and not just address one presenting complaint. Secondly, I will use the whole of medicine to come up with the best treatment plan possible.
Many veterinarians use different terms to convey this same or a similar sentiment. Alternative veterinary medicine, complimentary veterinary medicine, integrative veterinary medicine are but some of the different terms you may come across. I could use any of them comfortably but I feel that holistic medicine best conveys my attitude toward medicine.
Many of my patients come to me from conventional practices and are already involved with a treatment plan. Arthritis cases are on non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, seizure cases on phenobarbital, neurologic and cancer cases have often been prescribed steroids. And I do not feel that these animals have necessarily been done a disservice or that the conventional medications are even a big problem. My ultimate goal in practice is to improve the quality of life of my patients, and if that means steroids, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, seizure medication or the like- they should have them. Western medicine is not the enemy. It is, however, but one of the many branches of medicine, and in many cases, it does not have all of the answers.
I will not typically pull animals off of previously prescribed medications when they come to me. This is assuming that what is presently prescribed is actually improving the overall quality of the patients lives. In such cases, I will often begin by adding in supplements, herbals, spinal manipulation, acupuncture, and/or homotoxicology remedies; and addressing diet and lifestyle issues in an effort to further improvements or decrease the dependence on the conventional medications. It is only after we see gains, or I feel that an animal is stabilized with the complementary modalities that I will talk to clients and often their regular veterianarians about reassessing the need for conventional medications.
The modalities chosen to achieve this end can depend on the presenting condition of concern, the patients overall condition and energy, owners constraints, and animal temperament. Some animals have conditions that would likely benefit greatly from acupuncture or manipulation, but the animal is not one who will do well with repeated visits to the veterinary office. Others will not take supplements/medications from their owners at home which limits choices of treatments to compliment the in hands on therapies. All cases have their challenges, but ultimately I need to be able to look each animal in the eye and feel confident that what I am doing is a part of a treatment plan aimed at health.
We must always remember that it is the quality and not the quantity of life that makes it so precious.
One of the most important things that we can do for pets is to feed them properly, and while it is not that difficult to achieve a balanced diet, it is a bit more complex when we use food to help achieve optimal health. In Traditional Chinese medicine, foods are looked at much like herbs. Foods can heal. Foods can balance or unbalance the body. All foods have energetic properties, and the foods you feed your pet will affect their constitution, their affect, and can help to alleviate or exasperate personality traits, disease symptoms, and behaviors. Hot natured pets will tend to do better with cooling or neutral foods as cold natured pets will do better with neutral to warming foods. Thus the question of what foods are best to feed my pet is not a “one size fits all” answer. The first thing you need to do is to determine whether your pet is hot or cold natured.
The yin and yang of pets
Some characteristics of a hot natured, yang, animal ….
These animals are often nervous and on edge. They may have a red tongue, pant excessivly and seek cool floors on which to lie. Often you will note that these animals have very poor energy in summer heat, and show signs of excessive thirst. They will avoid warm beds, couches or carpets. These animals tend to get more acute, sudden illnesses with intense symptoms which go as quickly as they came.
Some characteristics of a cold natured, yin, animal ……
These animals will be cool, calm and collected. They may have a pale tongue which is often wet. They may prefer warm places to sleep, or wish to be covered or cuddled for warmth. These animals generally do not like to be out in the winter but will bake themselves in the sun or in front of the fire place until you fear they may combust. Cold natured animals tend to be more slow moving and sleepy and may catch colds frequently.
The temperature of foods
Food also has tendencies toward yin or yang. The temperature or thermal nature of foods does not refer to the temperature at which the food is served, but the way the food makes the body feel once consumed. Cooling foods can cool both the body and the psyche. Conversely warming or hot foods will affect the entire body as well. Foods, like bodies, all have BOTH yin and yang properties, but some have more of one and some more of the other.
Warming foods are often used to aid digestion. They can also improve circulation and may help ease the pain of arthritis if it is worse in cold weather.
Cooling foods will calm the mind and cool the body. They can also be useful when inflammation is a problem.
Neutral foods are the harmonizers of the diet and are often added to balance or temper the more extreme qualities of other foods.
EXAMPLES OF WARMING FOODS
tuna, turkey, salmon, lamb, venison, chicken, chicken liver, shrimp, trout, oats, cabbage, squash, kale, quinoa, dried ginger
EXAMPLES OF COOLING FOODS
clams, duck, egg, tofu, prok, millet, barley, wheat, whole wheat bread, lettuce, celery, broccoli, spinach, tomato, kelp, banana
EXAMPLES OF NEUTRAL FOODS
beef, beef liver, chicken gizzards, rabbit, sardine, string beans, aduki beans, kidney beans, yam, polenta, rice, corn, rye, potato, beet, turnip, carrot, eggs, cod, brown rice
In addition to their thermal properties, foods can moisten or dry, clear excesses or stimulate in cases of deficiency.
FOODS THAT MOISTEN
potato, sardines, tofu, wheat, pork, mussel, citrus, barley, , string beans, dairy
FOODS THAT DRY
lettuce, turnip, asparagus, amaranth, rye, mackerel, celery, garlic
This is only the tip of the iceburg so far as the true qualities of foods go. Before choosing or changing a diet for your pet always consult with your veterinarian for recommendations and understand that each body is different. The simple question…what is the best diet for my pet???…. may not have a simple answer.