Sarasota Pet Magazine. Interview by Candance T. Botha
Dr. Howard Rand is recognized as one of the first veterinarians to practice acupuncture in the Southeastern United States. He is, in fact, respected worldwide for his work in veterinary acupuncture.
This knowledgeable and accomplished man is also one of the first veterinarians in the country to earn his certification by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) and is one of a select few veterinarians nationwide that is certified in NAET (Nambudripad Allergy Elimination techniques) Testing and Treatment.
A skilled and published photographer, he has worked with an architect to design and landscape his own home (a project three years in the making). And he even plays the organ.
While he always has been equally passionate about showing horses, travel, and, of course, his family, from the time he was just a child his calling has been veterinary medicine. And although his dream was sidestepped with a brief career in pharmacy, he relentlessly pursued his innermost aspirations, establishing a flourishing veterinary career that has spanned more than four decades.
Meet Howard L. Rand, DVM, CVA, BS pharm, an internationally-esteemed veterinarian who currently sees patients at two veterinary offices in our community: West Coast veterinary Center on SR 72 (Clark Road) in Sarasota and Ranch Animal Hospital on Corridor Place in Lakewood Ranch.
In his practice, Dr. Rand provides comprehensive conventional veterinary services, including routine wellness care, senior (geriatric) medicine, nutrition, dentistry, and surgery.
What makes Dr. Rand’s care of animals most unique, however, is that he has seamlessly integrated holistic principles into his conventional practice of veterinary medicine. In his work with natural and alternative therapies, Dr. Rand has garnered global recognition as a pioneer in the field of holistic care for animals, offering acupuncture, homeopathy, herbs, Applied Kinesiology and prolotherapy (a nonsurgical treatment used to repair and strengthen ligaments and tendons).
Born and raised in Staten Island, New York, Dr. Rand developed an early interest in animals. His first dog was a cocker spaniel that was bred by one of his neighbors, a judge who took the young boy under his wing, taught him to groom dogs and took him to dog shows.
At the age of 12, Dr. Rand became interested in showing horses and, soon after, owned his first horse that was given to him by the dean of his high school and later paid for by his father.
“My father was very old school,” Dr. Rand says. “He owned the neighborhood drug store in Staten Island for 50 years and knew nothing but work; he never understood my interest in animals. But from the time I was a young boy, I knew that I would, one day, become a veterinarian.”
His parents, however, had other plans for their son’s career; they wanted him to manage the family business after his father retired. So, placing his own career goals on hold, Dr. Rand attended Fordham University College of Pharmacy.
Upon graduating with his degree in pharmacy, Dr. Rand worked with his father for a year before leaving home and heading south. “I thought I would enjoy working in pharmacy more in Florida, so I moved to Miami and worked there for a couple of years.” Dr. Rand remembers. “But I just was not happy. In the back of my mind, I still wanted to be a veterinarian.”
After serving in the United States Army at Fort Dix for two years, Dr. Rand moved back to Miami and continued to work in pharmacy while he started researching veterinary schools.
“At the time, there was only a limited number of veterinary schools in the country, and it was difficult to get in,” Dr. Rand says. He eventually was accepted at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama, where he spent the next four years earning his veterinary degree.
Just before leaving for veterinary school, Dr. Rand married his wife, Nancy, whom he had met just three months before they wed. “Nancy and I got married on a Saturday night and the following Monday, I started my veterinary training; we went to vet school on our honeymoon,” Dr. Rand says with a smile.
Now married for 49 years, Dr. Rand and his wife have two sons, a daughter, and four grandchildren, with another grandchild on the way.
As part of his educations, Dr. Rand did an externship at a racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, where he had an opportunity to work with thoroughbred racehorses. In 1965, after earning his veterinary degree, Dr. Rand moved to the rural outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, and opened his own practice, where he exclusively treated horses for the next 22 years. “The Equine Hospital was the only horse hospital and the first privately owned veterinary facility of its kind in the state of Georgia,” Dr. Rand says with pride.
The equine practice flourished and Dr. Rand’s reputation as a skilled veterinarian attracted clients from throughout the Southeast. In the years that followed, Atlanta’s eventual urban sprawl compelled local horse framers to leave the area, leading Dr. Rand to transition his practice to the veterinary care of small animals. He built a small animal hospital adjacent to the equine facility on his 25 acres of property and changed the name of the practice to Horse & Hound in 1987. He continued to practice there until 2001 when he sold the property, and he and his wife relocated to Sarasota.
Dr. Rand already had been practicing conventional veterinary medicine for nearly a decade when he first developed an interest in holistic animal care. “There were many times during the early years of my practice that I felt like I was up against a brick wall when conventional veterinary medicine offered nothing more than I could do to help my patients,” Dr. Rand says. “I could not accept defeat, so I began exploring alternative therapies.”
“When Nixon returned from his visit to China in 1974, people started talking more and more about acupuncture,” Dr. Rand adds. “Nobody was doing it here, so I decided to look into it.
It was during that same year that a group of veterinarians in California launched the International veterinarians who were interested in the practice of acupuncture. the IVAS developed a four-month course for veterinarians, who traveled from around the world to Dr. Rand’s veterinary facility in Atlanta, which served as a wet lab for the program. After completing the course, Dr. Rand and his colleagues became certified acupuncturists.
“I was the first veterinarian in my area and the second in the state of Georgia to use acupuncture in my veterinary practice,” Dr. Rand says. Each year since completing his certification, Dr. Rand has attended IVAS conferences around the world. (This year, he will be presenting a paper at the annual conference that will be held in Denmark.) Dr. Rand then furthered his knowledge of acupuncture by spending several weeks studying in Japan and China. With the assistance of interpreters, he mentored with the head acupuncturist in Tokyo and practiced hands-on learning at the University of Beijing.
As Dr. Rand’s interest in acupuncture flourished, he began developing his own techniques. “The majority of professionals that practice acupuncture uses traditional Chinese medicine,” Dr. Rand explains. “My theory is that when you work with a certain modality, you develop your own technique as you become more experienced.” Dr. Rand explains acupuncture’s healing properties by comparing an animal’s body to the electrical system in a house. “Inside the walls of a house are conduits,” Dr. Rand explains. “In the body, these conduits are the meridians or pathways. Along the walls of the house are outlets. These outlets are equivalent to the body’s acupuncture points. Somewhere in the house is a circuit breaker,” Dr. Rand continues. “Each meridian in the body has a circuit breaker, which is the entry point to the meridian. There is energy along these pathways, similar to the energy in a house. Energy flow in the meridians is called ‘Chi'(qui).
“With acupuncture, you work on particular meridians to stimulate their circuit breakers,” Dr. Rand adds. “In my practice, I identify the body’s weak meridians and acupuncture points with Applied Kinesiology, which is energy-based muscle testing, and then use acupuncture to stimulate the meridians to restore health. When you have a blockage of energy or an imbalance, maladjustment-or disease- exist.” Dr. Rand says, “the goal of acupuncture is to open the blockage and balance the energy.”
In his practice, Dr. Rand has used acupuncture to treat a range of medical conditions, including hip dysplasia, arthritis, back and disc problems and even seizures. “In 35 years of practicing acupuncture,” Dr. Rand says, “I can tell you what my results have been, and they are remarkably good. In 80 to 85 percent of the cases I have managed, treatment has been successful. I’ve taken animals that were about to be euthanized and brought them back to life. It’s extremely rewarding.”
Yet in speaking with Dr. Rand, it’s difficult not to detect a sense of frustration. “Since moving to Florida, I have seen many chronic ailments in animals,” he says. “There are conditions I know that I could treat successfully, but the pet owners are unfamiliar with – or skeptical about – alternative therapies.”
Always determined to improve his diagnostic and treatment skills, Dr. Rand recently worked with William Kanitz, president of ScoringSystem, Inc., a Bradenton-based company that has developed a portable, diagnostic thermal imaging camera that detects a range of injuries and health issues in animals and humans. The camera enabled Dr. Rand to first identify problem areas on the dog’s body during an acupuncture session and then analyze “before” and “after” images that provided real-time evidence that the treatment was successful in diminishing the heat. In his practice, Dr. Rand also uses a more holistic approach to dentistry.
“The standard procedure in veterinary dentistry is to anesthetize the animal and use an endotracheal (ET) tube to keep the airways open,” Dr. Rand says. “Instead, I tranquilize the patient and don’t use an ET tube; it’s safer for the patient.” In more than four decades of veterinary practice, Dr. Rand is recognized and respected for his skill in treating patients with cancer, hip dysplasia and back and disc problems, among other serious health conditions. His NAET Allergy Testing and Treatment certification also has given him an unparalleled expertise in successfully treating animals with an extensive range of allergies. NAET is a noninvasive, holistic approach to allergy identification that eliminates allergens from the system without the use of drugs. Instead, Dr. Rand uses alternative therapies, including acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic, nutrition and Applied Kinesiology, to eliminate allergies and restore well-being. Like humans, animals can develop sensitivities to a variety of natural and man-made allergens. Dr. Rand has treated animals that are allergic to everything from grass, water, and chemicals to kitty litter, fabrics, and food.
Surprisingly, even natural, wholesome pet foods can cause allergies in animals. “You can feed your pets the best foods in the world, but if they are allergic to them, it doesn’t make a difference,” Dr. Rand says. What causes allergies in some animals but not others? “Basically an allergy is a malfunction of the body’s immune system, ” Dr. Rand explains. “Allergies actually involve the brain, which says that a particular substance, such as food or dust, that is normally not a problem in other patients cannot be tolerated by this animal.
“Each animal’s immune system has a threshold, and once that threshold is reached, the body says, ‘Hold on; I can’t handle anymore,'” Dr. Rand continues. “That’s when symptoms begin to show up in the weakest systems of the body. If it’s the digestive system, the animal begins to experience chronic vomiting or diarrhea. If it’s the respiratory system, the animal will suffer from sneezing or coughing.” Dr. Rand points out that more than 50 percent of all domestic animals suffer from allergies and most animals, he says, suffer from multiple allergies. “It’s extremely rare that an animal is allergic to just one product or substance, and the majority of patients that I treat suffer from skin problems or itching allergies,” Dr. Rand says. “Although different animals may experience the same allergies, each animal is an individual. It’s not black and white; one size does not fit all. Successful treatment is much like assembling a puzzle and fitting the pieces together correctly.” In his practice, Dr. Rand first identifies the allergies by using his NAET training in combination with the holistic practice of Applied Kinesiology. With the assistance of his veterinary technician, allergen-producing substances are identified one by one, while others are eliminated. To be certain, it is a fascinating diagnostic process to observe. The technician acts as a surrogate and places either a small vial that contains the suspected allergen or a sample of a product that may be suspect (such as the pet’s food, bedding, shampoo, etc.) on the animal’s back and gently holds it in place. She then forms a ring with the thumb and forefinger of her other hand. Dr. Rand uses his thumb and forefinger to try to break the ring formed by her fingers. If the ring can be broken, a weakness in the animal is transmitted to the substance. If the ring is strong, no allergy exists.
“While it may seem like a simple procedure, it really is not,” Dr. Rand says. “You have to know how to use it correctly, assimilate the information you have received and take into account the many variables that can exist.”In treating allergies, my goal is to boost the immune system, raise the threshold and lower the allergen level until symptoms disappear,” Dr. Rand adds. “With NAET Allergy Testing and Treatment, once you clear the allergy, it’s gone for good.”
One of the most critical keys to success in the use of both conventional and holistic medicine, Dr. Rand says, is client compliance. “Cooperation by the animal’s owner is so important in the treatment of all chronic diseases and conditions, especially allergies. Clients have to follow doctor’s orders and adhere to the prescribed diet and regimen. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it has to be done if you want your animal to heal and experience optimal health.”
Forty-four years of internationally-acclaimed veterinary service is undeniably a noteworthy career achievement. But for Dr. Rand, it is his unique interpretation of conventional and holistic veterinary practices that is his proudest accomplishment. “As veterinarians, we are all taught the same medicine by studying form the same books,” Dr. Rand says. “As we mature in the field, we develop our own unique ways of practicing veterinary medicine. What makes us different is how we eventually assimilate everything that we have learned and how we choose to put that knowledge into practice.”
It is his successful integration of conventional medicine and holistic principles, coupled with gentle, compassionate care, that has given Dr. Rand an unrivaled ability to offer each of his patients an opportunity to experience optimal health and well-being in every phase of their lives.