Holistic Approach to Veterinary Medicine
World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2006
Christina Chambreau, DVM, CVH
Sparks, MD, USA

Most veterinary conferences, like this one, are now including talks and workshops on one or more of the complementary modalities and many United States colleges of veterinary medicine are offering course work. In 1996, Dr. Allen Schoen said that there has been a great increase in interest in complementary, alternative or holistic veterinary medicine for people and animals. In the last 2 years that interest has skyrocketed.

Have you ever been asked by clients--"Isn't there an alternative to surgery...or drugs...or radiation therapy?" Have you had animals who presented for otitis, then gum abscesses, then asthma, then liver disease and finally cancer? Did you wonder if some other approaches might have been helpful? How many dogs with flea allergy dermatitis do not respond to hypo-sensitization? Once you do surgery on megacolon cats--there are no more options. Increase client satisfaction, improve your rates of healing animals, deepen your personal satisfaction with veterinary medicine and add an additional income stream to your practice by shifting to the holistic paradigm. You will love having the option of choosing between conventional therapy, homeopathy, acupuncture, western botanicals, chiropractic and many more modalities to provide each individual animal and their family with the care that is appropriate to them. I will now cover the philosophies and principles as well as specific treatments you can add now to your practice.

Most health professionals have been trained in a Cartesian and Newtonian model of the universe. Then Louis Pasteur further solidified the idea that "something" needed to be eliminated to cure disease (on his death bed he says that germs did not create disease--the soil or terrain did). Some will argue that every treatment must be proved in the above scientific ways, yet every day we use drugs for something that was never proved nor the mechanism of action never worked out. Now, I ask you to look at a new model, I ask you to look for what makes common sense to you; I ask you to use what is useful and not argue at what does not make sense.

Some owners are often content when the symptoms are removed by whatever means, even when they recur or they become more ill (blamed on "aging"). Animals, especially certain breeds are living shorter lives, with increased incidence of serious disease such as Cushings, diabetes mellitus, cancer, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease and many more. Some animals live long lives with minimal treatment. However, when the current mechanistic paradigm fails to help an animal, the veterinarian has little to recommend than euthanasia. Many animal guardians are now looking for options. You will be more satisfied and joyous when you can offer more options.

Holistic Paradigm

All the ancient forms of healing shared the premise of self-healing and an energetic basis for the lack of health. Modern holistic healing systems (or modern versions of ancient forms) offer a coherent paradigm (system of thought) with clear principles to follow that give us, as practitioners, infinite possibilities for healing. As long as the animal is still alive, there is a modality or variation of a modality that can be tried. You never run out of possibilities.

The underlying philosophy of holistic medicine is that symptoms reflect the underlying health status of the energy field and are the attempt of the body to heal. They indicate:

1.  Overall health status

2.  The most appropriate treatment modality

3.  How the animal is responding to the current modalities

The holistic approach may also address merely the symptoms with herbs or specific acupuncture points, combination homeopathic remedies or even single homeopathic remedies. These strategies could successfully eliminate the current symptoms, but do not make the animal healthier overall. Often the symptoms will recur or more serious ones will develop when such ameliorating treatments are used.

Curative Approach

The goal is to have the symptoms go away, and the animal become healthier in many other ways. Baby, a big black cat, came to me at 9 years of age. She had been receiving Depo Medrol injections for 8 years at an ever-increasing frequency, now every 6 weeks, to keep her from licking her abdomen raw and bloody (diagnosed as Feline Endocrine Alopecia). I treated her homeopathically for 9 months before her abdomen was free of lesions. She never had skin lesions again. Within weeks of her death she licked her hair short, but not to bare skin. One year later, she recovered quickly from an upper respiratory infection for which 2 other cats in the house had to be treated for 2 weeks. A year after that she again recovered quickly with no treatment from the same fever of unknown origin that the fourth and fifth cat in the house suffered with for a week or so. None of the 5 cats needed treatment again and they all died around 17 within months of each other after the owner sharply decreased the protein in their diet. That is cure. This result often, though not always happens when good holistic treatment is given. Total health is always my goal and I teach the animal guardians to have it be their goal also.

Holistic Approach in the Conventional Setting

To summarize, the holistic paradigm is powerful regardless of choice of therapy. The AHVMA (American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association) lists the following different alternative modalities in their referral directory: Acupuncture (IVAS certification), Acuscope, applied Kinesiology, Bach Flower Remedies (and there are many other flower essences as well), Biotron II, Chinese Herbs, Chiropractic (AVCA certification), Clinical Nutrition, Color Therapy, EAV (Electroacupuncture according to Voll), Glandular Therapy, Classical Homeopathy, AVH Certified, British Institute Certified, Other Homeopathy, Interro, NAET (Nambrudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique), Nutrition, Magnetic Therapy, Massage Therapy, Pulsating Magnetic Therapy, Reiki, Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation and Western Herbs. Additional holistic modalities include Network Chiropractic, Neutraceuticals, Rolphing, Ayurvedic Medicine, Animal Communication, Intuitive Healing Techniques (Barbara Brennan is one school), Tellington Touch, Anthroposophical Medicine, Prayer and more. These are defined on my blog, http://www.healthypetsblog.com and web, http://www.christinachambreau.com. While observable symptoms can be treated conventionally or holistically, the entire patient work-up and selection of treatments will benefit from the holistic approach. While taking a longer time, this type of case intake is much more satisfying to the animal, guardian and veterinarian. You observe and ask about the current complaint. You try to understand the underlying cause which could be purely physiological but will likely include social interactions, environment (toxins to vaccines), diet, moves, etc. You will then ask about the entire life of the animal and note prior problems and their possible etiologies. You will observe the animal using any and all training received so far. The following are a few examples of differences in intakes.

 Conventional from veterinary school: PE and the minimal lab work needed.

 Acupuncture: tongue and pulse.

 Chiropractic: notice the details of the musculoskeletal and nervous system by: checking the animal's gait; noting symmetry and balance of the body; feeling for heat, cold, pain, sensitivity; looking and feeling the muscular tone and bony structure of the head, jaw, face, vertebrae, pelvis, hips, shoulder and limbs.

 Ayurveda: pulse, visual exam of urine, tongue, skin, nails looking for color, moistness and temperature.

 Homeopathic: etiology, what makes the symptoms better or worse, peculiar and idiosyncratic symptoms, reactions to stimuli in the visit, odor, texture.

After collecting the information, step back and see the animal as a part of its environment, its family of people and animals, its history and ancestors. Formulate a treatment plan based on the severity of symptoms, the desires of the owners, your training and knowledge of potential referrals for holistic specialties. This may include surgery to repair the fracture, then chiropractic to keep the body balanced during the healing process and homeopathy to speed the healing, alleviate the pain and prevent the clumsiness that caused the fracture in the first place. Every individual may need a different treatment at different times in their life and each practitioner knows and likes certain techniques. There is no right and wrong. Make the initial evaluation, prescribe a treatment, and then evaluate the result by looking at the entire animal as describe for the intake. Most importantly, do not settle for less than full health.

The five main foci to helping animals be healthy are:

1.  Feed the best diet

2.  Vaccinate the least

3.  Provide the best environment for the needs of that animal

4.  Build up the health of the animal & support the natural healing process

5.  Know how animals respond to treatment--cure, temporary amelioration, suppression or no response at all

Many people seeking holistic medicine from you will already be using different modalities on their own animals and you will need to help evaluate their efficacy and can also learn these new techniques from your clients.

Early Warning Signs of Illness

As animals recover from their "disease", we find that certain "normal" things go away, too. Do not be satisfied until most of the following symptoms are gone. In young, apparently healthy animals, these apparently "normal" problems may be the only indications to start treatment. More symptoms need to be added, if you will email.

Skin: doggy smell; attracts fleas a lot; dry, oily, lack-luster coat; excessive shedding; not grooming, ear problems--waxy, oily, itchy, recurrent mites; eye discharge, tearing, or matter in corner of eyes; raised third eyelid; spots appearing on iris; "freckles" appearing on face; whiskers falling out; fragile, thickened, distorted claws that are painful or sensitive to trim.

Behavior: fears (of loud noises, thunder, wind, people, animals, life); too timid; too rough or aggressive (even at play); too hard to train; barks too much and too long; suspicious nature; biting when petted too long; hysteria when restrained; clumsy; indolent; licking or sucking things or people too much; not using litter box or not covering stool.

Digestive: bad breath; tarter accumulation; loss of teeth; poor appetite; craving weird things (rubber bands, plastic, dirt, cat litter, paper, dogs eating dog or cat stools, rocks, sticks...); sensitivity to milk; thirst--a super healthy cat on non dry food will drink at most once a week; red gum line; vomiting often, even hairballs more than a few times a year; mucous on stools; tendency to diarrhea with least change of diet; obesity; anal gland problems; recurrent worms.

Stiffness when getting up, early hip dysplasia; tires easily in hot or cold weather; can no longer jump up on counters, or go up or down steps.

Temperature: low grade fevers--normal for healthy cats and dogs is 100-101.5.

Age & Reproduction: should live a long life (Shepherds 17 years, Danes 12, cats 24); should be able conceive easily, deliver normally, and not pass on "genetic breed" problems.

Keeping a Journal

One way to know the "dis" ease of an animal and track the success of the treatments is for the guardians to keep a journal to track the current and past symptoms as well as energy level, emotional state and overall quality of life. Crucial is to also record in bright colors the good things that happen to the pets, as this way they are focusing on the positive, while still tracking the negative symptoms.

Next Steps

Join your country's holistic associations. Visit holistic healing centers in your town or area. Joint the internationals organizations. Ask this conference and any others you attend to invite the veterinarians trained in all the above modalities to speak on them. Go to the many chat rooms and it serves for veterinarians of each modality and for lay people as well. Learn from your clients and find out from them where to be trained. Go to my website, www.ChristinaChambreau.com , or my blogs.




Please email me if you would like further coaching or information as I am committed to deeply healing animals and having veterinarians love their practice every day and prosper.

Speaker Information
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Christina Chambreau, DVM, CVH
Sparks, Maryland, USA

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