An inside look at integrative medicine

From acupuncture to herbal medicine, patients can have a better quality of life when alternative and conventional treatment methods are combined

Integrative medicine has gained traction in the past couple of years within the veterinary community, as teams look for new ways to treat their patients for multiple illnesses. Since 1998, Janice Huntingford, DVM, DACVSMR, CVA, CVPP, CCRT, has studied integrative medicine and its different techniques. She discussed with dvm360® how some integrative techniques can help.

Treatments with integrative medicine

Many treatments can help patients suffering from multiple diseases. In these cases, Huntingford noted that a mix of integrative and conventional medicine is an ideal combination. If your patient needs surgery, they need surgery. There is no other option. Integrative medicine comes in later when the patient is dealing with postsurgical pain or discomfort.

Along with postsurgical cases, Huntingford outlined other areas that benefit from integrative medicine. “[I] treat a lot of gastrointestinal diseases. Certainly pain, lots of pain, is treated with integrative medicine. I have treated seizures, and [you also] can [use] integrative medicine with diabetes. You certainly do musculoskeletal things a lot…. I think about doing acupuncture and herbs, which are probably the most common things that I [use], as well as rehabilitation. But there are basically herbals that you can use to treat anything. In integrative medicine, we’re looking at the whole patient, so I do a lot of nutritional consults,” Huntingford explained.

Although using integrative medicine is easier with canines, Huntingford said feline patients also benefit from it. If you have feline patients that you think would benefit from herbal treatments, consult an herbalist or an integrative medicine specialist to ensure they receive the correct herbs. “We’ll [often] take a liquid herb and mix it with something that’s tasty. You can mix it with a little bit of canned food,” she said. “[Many] cats will take little tiny pills. You can use Chinese tea pills and herbs for them, but we probably use more liquid for the cats than we do tablets,” Huntingford added.

Responding to skeptics

Sometimes, habits and preferences make it easy to fall into a pattern when it comes to treating patients. This can cause some veterinary professionals to be skeptical of integrative medicine. Huntingford, a former skeptic herself, advised those who only want to provide evidence-based medicine to read peer-reviewed papers on integrative medicine. “If you read peer-reviewed papers, there are lots of papers on evidence for different modalities,” she noted.

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