What does a holistic approach to veterinary medicine look like?
To me, holistic and integrative veterinary medicine means having an open mind and a larger tool kit to treat disease.
It also means trying the safest and least invasive approach first. As long as the animal is not suffering or in immediate danger/pain, I try to save pharmaceutical treatments as a later option.
I also try to think outside the box where ever possible. Many doctors and veterinarians take this approach, even if they don’t always use holistic and natural treatments. It’s the “less is more” option.
Here is an analogy for what this looks like:
Let’s say you had a problem with flies in your backyard.
You ask the experts, and they tell you that scientific studies show that dynamite is the most effective option for getting rid of flies in your backyard. There is no argument with this. Dynamite would definitely work. But there are also side effects, such as the possible destruction of your flower beds and lawn.
So then you start thinking outside of the box and look at what other tools are available to you. You do some research and find out that flies don’t like wind. And so you place some fans in the backyard, and sure enough the flies leave. Or, you do some detective work and experiment by removing different objects from your back yard, and surprisingly the flies go away on their own.
Similarly in medicine, with a “whole”-istic approach I am always looking at the whole picture:
- What other factors might be adding to the disease?
- Is there stress in the home?
- Is there a new treat that has been introduced?
- What cleaning products is the owner using?
- What specific diet are the animals eating?
- What other aspects of the situation are fixable before we resort to pharmaceuticals
A holistic approach also means starting with the least invasive options first.
There are thousands of holistic and natural treatments: many different herbs, homeopathics, oils, essences, etc. The more I explore, the more I discover. It would be wonderful if there were clinical trials for all of them, however, the reality is that this will likely not happen anytime soon.
For now, if I have a sick animal in front of me, and if I know that a treatment is safe, causes little to no side effects and others have used it successfully for this particular problem, then I am going to try it.
This mindset and approach have opened me up to a world of treatment options that I now use on a regular basis. Today, I cannot imagine not having my herbs, flower essences, homeopathics or acupuncture needles. Without them, I would feel like a mechanic with only half of my tool kit.
I started this blog in order to share what I have learned over the years: which treatments have worked, which ones haven’t. I also like looking at the bigger pictures: why the fact that animals respond certain alternative treatments is kind of fascinating and what it says about science and medicine.
Animals don’t have a placebo effect in the traditional sense. They have no opinions on whether the treatment is upheld by scientific studies or whether it is considered more alternative. For them, the treatment either works or it doesn’t.
And that is just one of the things that I love about my patients (and the fact that they are super cute!
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