Dr. Howard L. Rand, DVM

Using Holistic Medicine to Compliment Conventional Wisdom

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What is Holistic Veterinary Medicine?

Holistic medicine consists of treating the body as a whole; using whole herbs and complete supplements rather than single chemical sources, using a whole spectrum of treatments available rather then a single one.  Diagnostic methods and vocabulary may be used that are different than what conventional veterinarians are accustomed to, including methods used for thousands of years.  This does not mean that they are wrong, or mere superstition.  Instead, they may bring insight by offering a new way of looking at things, which can guide the veterinarian to a new treatment modality.  This is especially true of chronic diseases…

Holistic veterinary medicine is increasing in importance and use in veterinary practice.  Treatments, which were originally considered alternative, are now becoming part of mainstream medicine.  Integrative medicine often has a better answer for chronic diseases than does conventional medicine alone

The goal of holistic medicine is to help the body heal itself, treat the whole body, not just the symptoms, and to provide solutions that are more natural, with less side effects.  Better food and exercise are part of this way of practicing. Veterinarians who practice complementary medicine generally have additional training and often, special certification in their chosen modalities.

This form of medicine has other names, reflecting its various aspects:

Complementary medicine: treatments that may not be currently taught at veterinary schools, based on traditional medicine, which complement conventional treatments
Natural medicine: not using artificial or man-made substances; using natural methods such as acupuncture, massage, herbs and nutritional supplements, and whole foods rather than artificial ingredients (such as color or artificial flavors)
Alternative medicine: Use of non-conventional but valid methods, including ancient ones such as Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Integrative medicine: using the best of conventional and holistic medicine together
Integrative Medicine for Horses and Livestock.

In this case, holistic medicine has a different emphasis.  For horses, a big part of the emphasis of holistic medicine is sports medicine.  Horse owners have been using physical therapy, including nutraceutical therapy, for many years.  Stem cell therapy research started in horses before it was used in dogs (2003 vs 2006).  Glycosaminoglycans have been available as products for horses longer than for dogs (since 1984 vs 1997 for dogs).

Reproductive problems are important for all large animals, and acupuncture plays a big part here.  Some herbal medicine is also used.  Large animals are commonly treated by the veterinarian, going to stables or farms although owners may bring individual animals in to a central clinic.

Use of holistic medicine:

  • One out of 4 humans hospitals in the US offered some type of Complementary or Alternative medicine services in 2006.
  • Many pet owners use holistic medicine for the themselves and their pets; they often do not tell their veterinarian this.
  • There can be some interactions of holistic methods and conventional methods, especially when clients use them without consulting a knowledgeable veterinarian.
  • Holistic methods may look or sound strange, unless you know the background behind them. Just as MDs are not qualified to practice on pets, most human holistic practitioners are not qualified to practice on pets.

Integration with conventional medicine:

  • Conventional medicine has many useful diagnostic techniques unknown to ancient practitioners
  • Surgery can be life-saving
  • In emergency situations, conventional medicine works quickly and saves lives
  • Holistic methods work well for chronic disease
  • Holistic methods are ideal for whole-body support
  • Holistic practitioners are an essential component of integrative medicine

Some holistic modalities: 

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • Herbal therapy
  • Homeopathy
  • Homotoxicology
  • Massage Therapy
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Osteopathy
  • Prolotherapy

Examples of holistic treatments that are now main-stream:

  • Pre-biotics
  • Pro-biotics
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Fructo-oligosaccharides
  • Fish oil
  • Milk thistle
  • SAM-e
  • L-lysine
  • Taurine
  • Zinc

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