Feb 04 2016

What To Know About Holistic Medicine

So first let me tell you that YES I practice holistic medicine and Yes I practice western medicine, as I believe in treating each pet as an individual and using an integrated approach to health.  BUT that being said, let me also say I do believe there is a lot of misinformation in the world of holistic and natural medicine.  So here are some basic facts….

  1. Holistic medicine is the treatment of the body as a whole.   At the Fraser Valley Animal Hospital we do this every time we deal with any issue that your pet may have.  Let’s say your pet visits us for an ear infection, it may be easy enough to clear the infection but if we do not determine the underlying cause the infection will return.  The most common cause, but not the only cause, of chronic ear infections is food allergies.  Dealing with nutrition can be an important component to healing otitis.
  1. Everything natural is not healthy.  Grapes, Raisins, Garlic, Onions, Lilies, Raw Salmon are just a few examples of some very natural products that can make your pet sick and can be potentially lethal.  Food, nothing is more natural; a basic building block for all cellular functions.  But I have also seen pets poisoned with food; pancreatitis secondary to giving fatty pig’s ears given as a treat or a Rottweiler puppy who died of salmonella from the raw chicken in her diet.                                                                                      IMG_0893

I know of a friend who was poisoned by natural products that was applied to her skin. And in the literature there are known side effects with certain herbs such as nausea, diarrhea, liver disease and even death, so whether natural or western, we must understand the treatment and use it correctly.

  1. NOT all diseases can be treated “naturally”.  At Fraser Valley Animal Hospital we believe that our number one job is to keep pets healthy and help them have a great quality of life.  We believe in integrated medicine.  Will aroma therapy help every disease – nope – but cats and dogs have an amazing sense of smell (check out How Your Dog “Sees” The World Through Smell) so the use of pheromones, such as Feliway or Adaptil, has been a basic building block in helping stressed cats and dogs.  What about nutrition?  There is nothing more natural than basic nutrition.  We use diets to control ear infections and to treat thyroid cats.  Diets are also an integral component in the treatment of kidney disease, arthritis and diabetes. BUT I would be negligent if I did not include insulin in the treatment plan for a pet suffering from diabetes mellitus.
  1. Follow the science.  There is too much pseudo-science in the world today and the Internet is a great source of both information and misinformation!  As one client said to me, “if you look on the Internet you can always find support for whatever your argument is, but that doesn’t make it true.”

Did you know if 2 people put the same words into the Google search bar they would get different results?  The Internet knows you!  Okay that maybe a bit scary, but haven’t you noticed that when you searched for something, say a holiday to Abbotsford, as that is a total destination place, and then BAM! The next day there are these boxes on the right side of your Internet page advertising cheap flights or amazing fun things to do in Abbotsford.  Yes, the Internet is programmed to give you what you want.  Google Mexico and some will get travel information whereas others will get news articles on the drug cartel.  Well that same system works when you Google raw food or natural medicine.

So my advice is look at the science and the source of the information.  Look for the research not the opinion.  Evidence based medicine is the gold standard when it comes to any treatment no matter the label.  My advice is always based on the research and when new western medication is released or a traditional medication that has been used for thousands of years is brought to my attention I want to see the research.  I want to speak to the independent specialist to ensue I have the science behind any of my recommendations.  I will not use a product, “natural” or otherwise, unless I know it will help.  And most importantly that it will not cause harm.  Safe in people does not mean safe in dogs and cats.  I don’t want to waste a client’s time or money and I will not compromise my medicine and jeopardize any pet’s well being.

  1. To treat you must have a diagnosis!  Too many physicians in the holistic side of medicine treat symptoms only.  People become frustrated, even with their own health, when they are not getting answers fast enough with western medicine.  My mother was having gastric issues and despite multiple tests she did not have an answer.  She did not turn away from western medicine but on the advice of friends went to see a naturopath who prescribed a diet rich in carrots.  When, through biopsies, it was discovered that she had stomach cancer, we knew carrots would not treat her condition and in fact would have jeopardized her health.  I know of another person who was losing weight and he too was frustrated with the time it was taking to get a diagnosis.  He was put on a severely restricted elimination diet by a naturopath, only to find out through western medicine that he had picked up a parasite on a hike.  The elimination diet not only did not cure but also caused short-term harm.


A living body is a complex and amazing system, and finding a diagnosis is not always easy or straight foreword.  We can often help alleviate symptoms but a diagnosis is always required to treat.

I have pet owners who can’t, or won’t, spend the money to get a diagnosis.  I can understand and sympathize, as it can become very expensive, with lab fees, biopsies, x-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds and the use of specialists, which is why I believe in pet insurance, but that is for another blog.  But without a diagnosis, what happens after the symptomatic treatment is done and the clinical signs reoccur, is frustration on the part of the client.

So whether you are treating with western medication, natural medicine, or taking an integrated approach, a diagnosis is always the very first step.

  1. Antibiotics are not for every case.   There is a crisis in the world of medicine and that is the development of bacterial resistance to antibiotics (Antibiotic Resistance – A world Health Crisis).  With the world’s overuse of antibiotics we are now seeing the emergence of super bugs.  Before the discovery of antibiotics many people died from diseases that would be easy to treat today and so antibiotics are amazing and life saving medications, not the enemy.  But inappropriate use of these amazing medications means, if we are not careful, generations to come will become sick and die from diseases that were once easily treated with a small blue pill.  Here is where integrated medicine is important.  Can we treat topically without antibiotics?  Is this a virus that doesn’t respond to antibiotics?  Are those red eyes an infection or perhaps allergies?  First a diagnosis and then treat appropriately.


  1. AHVMA  I am a member of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, as I want to be able to read the journals and research on what options are available to me.  I also want to know about drug interactions.  Now you may be saying, whoa that is why I don’t use drugs but only natural products.  Well natural products can have deleterious interactions and side effects as well, including death!  And so this brings me full circles to the fact that I always follow the science and have my radar out to watch for the pseudoscience.


This blog was written to help people understand that medicine is not as simple as popping a pill or just taking some herbs.  Each animal is an individual and there is no straightforward formula.  We have starting points, but we as veterinarians must be flexible and adapt our treatment plans to fit that particular pet in order to give them the best quality of life possible.  You love them and your trust in us to help you keep them healthy is a privilege we take seriously!

adang | Life behind the exam room doors

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