by Laurie S. Coger, DVM, CVCP
Selecting a type of health care, for yourself or your pet, is very much a personal choice.
Many people choose to investigate holistic or natural methods when traditional medicine has exhausted all its options. Others have seen or experienced benefits with one alternative method, and want to explore other options.
My interest in natural approaches was stimulated by my own dog’s autoimmune disease in 1993. Roo was a special yellow Labrador puppy, a gift celebrating my first graduation from Cornell. My goal was for him to be a show and competition obedience dog. But at the age of 13 months, he began to have seizures. Veterinarians at Cornell advised phenobarbital, for life. At times, he would have seizures many times a week, despite high doses of medication. Later in life, he would be diagnosed with autoimmune hemolytic anemia, a condition in which he destroyed his own red blood cells. Helping him was the inspiration for my journey in to complementary and alternative veterinary medicine. And a journey it was – high doses of steroids, removing his spleen, transitioning him to a raw diet, use of various supplements, and eventually getting him off all drugs (and yes, the seizures stopped).
His long survival with great quality of life using natural methods influenced me to explore alternative medical options more deeply. Combining holistic or natural methods with the best traditional medicine has to offer makes the most sense to me – what I call a “wholistic” approach.
A wholistic approach to pet care includes consideration of lifestyle, nutrition, and medical conditions. Prevention of problems and supporting the body’s own efforts to heal are major aspects of many alternative medical techniques. Chiropractic and acupuncture both emphasize returning the body’s structures and energy to normal, so that healing can occur. Nutritional and herbal medicine emphasizes supporting the body at the cellular level, providing the raw materials each cell needs to function optimally. Other natural supplements work in a similar way, enhancing organ function.
Combining traditional medicine with alternative methods, also known as integrative medicine, lets us attack health issues from multiple angles. The most common example is the arthritic dog, who is given a pain-killing drug, as well as a joint support supplement. This is a basic example of integrating natural and traditional methods. A wholistic approach could also include chiropractic adjustment, dietary management, carefully selected herbal products or other remedies to decrease the amount of drugs needed, and physical therapy exercises. Together, this multilevel approach gives us the best chance to help the arthritis pain, and improve quality of life for both dog and owners.
My own dogs inspire much of my professional life. And while I have been blessed with many wonderful dogs, none have added as much to my life as my beloved Prank.
You can learn more about him on my website. Working to keep him happy and pain free, despite his severe hip dysplasia, has improved my knowledge and veterinary chiropractic skills.
Through him, I have been gotten to know many therapeutic experts and a variety of techniques. What I have learned has helped not only Prank but many of my patients as well.
Thanks to the folks at EcoWellDog, I will be able to share my experiences with you, and hopefully help you with your pets. Please feel free to ask questions, suggest a topic, or just share a story about your dog, either here on the blog or on the Facebook page. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
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