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.