Dr. Cynthia Maro
In 1988, when I joined the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, there were only 200 veterinarians in the organization, and finding a veterinarian to do acupuncture, animal chiropractic adjusting, alternative allergy and oncology care and rehabilitative therapy was nearly impossible, except in larger cities .
In contrast, newly graduated veterinarians have access to survey courses in alternative medicine, while in veterinary college. There are many veterinarians who have training and certification in a range of services that were previously considered alternative medicine, but have quickly become integrated into daily practice throughout the US. Treatments include Animal Chiropractic, acupuncture, Rehabilitative therapy, NAET (an allergy treatment which is drug-free), Ozone therapy, Stem cell/PRP, prolotherapy, essential oils, therapeutic massage, Laser therapy, herbal therapies (TCVM and western herbs), clinical nutrition and homeopathy.
In my practice, I see 20 – 30 integrative cases daily, mostly clients whose pets fall into one of the following categories:
- A complete diagnosis has not been obtained and no effective treatment plan has been found
- A diagnosis has been made, but there is no known cure in western or allopathic medicine
- A diagnosis and treatment plan are in place, but the pet isn’t responding well or is having adverse effects to the treatment.
- A pet has had to stop medications due to side effects and has relapsed, so the owner wants other options for care.
- Owners want to prevent cancer, spinal degeneration or another illness their pet will be prone to because of breed or lifestyle.
- Owners seeking to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation or other cancer treatments.
- A pet needs rehabilitative and nutritional care to recover from illness, surgery or injury.
- Owners are looking for noninvasive and non-surgical options for conditions like ACL tears, congenital defects and chronic aging disorders.
Most of the new clients I meet with have done their own research or talked with another client. When they have personally seen results, such as a paralyzed pet that has made a full recovery, the pet parents want to get right into treatment.
This type of visit can be very productive because the owners are confidently entrusting the veterinarian to do their work. The message the pet gets is that they are in good hands.
On the other hand, when owners have had no exposure or experience with alternative treatments, the majority of a first visit is spent educating the pet owners. Skepticism is not uncommon, but it can impact outcomes with treatments. Owners who are anxious or nervous during a visit can give a “fight or flight” or danger signal to their pets. This can have a negative effect on the pet, due to a lack of relaxation during acupuncture or other treatment sessions.
Occasionally, pet owners arrive seeking alternative options for pets diagnosed with cancer, and they expect a miracle 1 treatment solution. Many of these clients have not done their homework and researched any of the terms or treatments in alternative medicine.
My advice to owners seeking alternative options for care is to visit the website of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, AHVMA.org, and learn more about integrative care. You can find reliable reference books regarding many therapies that are great to treat chronic and acute disorders in pets.
An added bonus for your research is that many people find other options for their own health care, as they learn about their pets’ conditions.
An example is one of my clients who had a pet with end-stage congestive heart failure. The dog had been seeing a veterinary cardiologist who managed her case well for a year, but when the dog started getting advanced disease, she could not tolerate added medications to control cardiac arrhythmia. Instead of putting her pet to sleep, the owner looked for an acupuncturist for her pet.
After starting acupuncture and NAET, the arrhythmia improved and the pet was able to become stable on less medication. Her vomiting and coughing resolved. The dog lived another 3.5 years, with good quality of life.
Her owner was diagnosed with a rare cancer disorder, and initially accepted the doctors’ grave prognosis because there were no known effective drug therapies to cure her cancer. Instead of giving up, the owner realized that she could try other alternative practices. After three years of alternative medical treatments, she is still in remission and credits the research and positive results of her pet received as the driver for seeking alternative care for herself.
If you are new to integrative care and want to explore more options for your pets, I suggest starting with animal chiropractic and nutritional care for added preventative medicine, to improve your pet’s longevity and quality of life. If your pet has an illness or chronic health condition, ask the advice of an integrative veterinarian for the best treatment approaches and which modalities they would recommend for your companion.
Dr. Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and the Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a biweekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like to have addressed, email email@example.com.