Clarification Of What “Holistic Veterinary Medicine” Really Means

I recently posted on the Dr. Roger Holistic Vet Facebook page about the Canine Influenza H2N2 outbreak in my home state of Florida.  The article I posted came from my general veterinary blog at Web-DVM.net, since I do not like posting duplicate content on my respective blogs.  Nonetheless, I felt that this information was as important for my holistic veterinary blog as it was for my general veterinary blog.

The article presents the facts about the Canine Influenza virus’s high morbidity and educated owners about the risks of the disease and criteria for immunization, highlighting my own veterinary clinic’s immediate implementation of a Canine Influenza immunization program.  While publicly I did not get much backlash about the article, privately I have received disappointment that I would have a holistic veterinary website, call myself a holistic veterinarian, and yet promote a vaccination protocol for dog flu.  I would actually like to thank those readers for raising this issue, as it inspired this post to clarify what holistic veterinary medicine really means.

I consider the terms “integrative medicine” and “holistic medicine” to be synonymous and interchangeable.  Both terms suggest a combination of proven traditional western and alternative treatment to treat the “whole” patient; hence the term “hol-istic.”  Unfortunately, the term has morphed into the notion that holistic medicine rejects western medicine, immunization, and anything outside of herbal or otherwise natural treatment.  I want to be clear that if that is how someone interprets holistic veterinary medicine, that is one’s prerogative, but I will state right now that is clearly not my view nor is it my intent to suggest with this blog.

Holistic medicine seeks to refrain from drawing lines of strictly traditional or strictly alternative treatment in the care of the patient, to use the best available traditional western and alternative veterinary medical techniques that will advocate for the best outcomes for the patient.  Here is a typical example of how integrative veterinary medicine works and I put into practice:

I diagnose a cranial cruciate ligament tear in the knee of a dog.  I recommend surgery, because without surgically stabilizing the injured knee, it will always be painful and cause lameness.   The ligament will not heal on its own because ligaments have poor blood supply, the lack of which prevents healing cells to be delivered to effectively heal the tissue.  Following surgery, I will treat the dog with antibiotics to prevent infection, anti-inflammatories and opioids to reduce swelling and control pain.  This is the western aspect of the case management.

On the alternative side, I am going to recommend rehabilitation with class IV low level therapy laser, and polyglycated glycosaminoglycan (Adequan) injections.  The laser reduces pain by triggering the release of intrinsic endorphins locally, increases healing rates by dilating arterial blood vessels to bring in healing cells, reduces inflammation by dilating venous and lymphatic blood vessels to drain away inflammatory products and fluid.  The Adequan provides potent base molecular building blocks for the repair of connective tissues in the body, while increasing joint fluid production within joints.  This combination significantly reduces post-operative pain and increases post-operative healing rates by 40%.  For the long term, I recommend the post-operative CCL patent be maintained on pharmaceutical grade joints chews and omage-3-fatty acids for long term minimization of inflammation, and maintenance of musculoskeletal structures.

In a similar manner, whether it is an orthopedic case such as this or an internal medicine case, this is always my approach.  From the western traditional approach, I treat the disease directly.  As western techniques, whether surgical or medical, stabilize and reduce clinical signs of disease, I concurrently integrate alternative techniques that aid the body to ultimately do what it does best and heal itself.  The ultimate goal is to minimize the dependence on western surgery and medicine that sometimes comes with unwanted side effects and rely more on alternative techniques that by in large do not.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Is Holistic Therapy For Epilepsy In Dogs & Cats Possible?

Epilepsy is a seizure disorder seen in dogs and cats, where an abnormal nidus in Natural Therapy And Alternative Medicine For Treatment Of Epilepsy In Dogs And Catsthe brain forms that fires electric pulses on its own and leads to convulsive activity. Conventional treatment for epilepsy can range from nothing for mild cases, to one or more maintenance anti-convulsive medications. What many pet owners with dogs and cats that suffer from epilepsy do not know, is that alternative, holistic therapy is often very helpful in these cases. While alternative options for treatment of epilepsy may not necessarily preclude all dependence on anti-convulsive medications, they can go a long way toward minimizing drug doses, or need for multiple drugs, and may be effective therapy alone for mild to moderate cases of epilepsy.

Regular anti-seizure acupuncture has clearly clinically proven efficacy in reducing the severity and frequency of seizures. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese form of healing that has been around for thousands of years. The Chinese credit its efficacy in maintaining health and effectively treating a variety of ailments to increasing the flow of a life force through the body, they call Chi. Per Chinese medicine, the blockage of Chi is the root cause of disease in the body, and re-establishing its flow through the body by careful placement of needles along meridians resolves many health issues and optimizes health. From the Western point of view, that is, many Western practitioners of human and veterinary medicine that acknowledges the health benefits of acupuncture, acupuncture works by increasing circulation and nerve conduction.

Whatever one chooses to credit acupuncture’s benefit, there is no question that it works. This is especially evident in animal patients that are not prone to “placebo effect,” the ability of a patient to convince him/her self that a treatment is working solely because he/she wants it to. In animals, it either works or it does not, and acupuncture clearly works in cases of epilepsy. For pet owners seeking alternative medicine for their pet’s epilepsy, seeking a certified veterinary acupuncturist should be the first order of business.

With regard to epilepsy, it is also well documented that mental stimulation (fear, excitement, stress, etc.) can set off seizures. Thus, keeping a dog or cat afflicted with epilepsy calm can be beneficial. Dogs and cats thus may benefit from products that are naturally calming. Supplements that have the calming amino acid tryptophan, as well as calming roots and herbs, such as ginger root, kava, and valerian can help reduce the frequency of seizures in epileptics.

This can be taken one step further with cats, that respond favorably to a calming pheromone that can be placed in sprays and aerosolizing diffusers that is soothing to cats, while not detectable by the senses of people. There are several products available on the market, but be sure to do your research before buying one. The alternative medicine industry for both people and pets is largely unregulated, fake or poor quality products are unfortunately quite common.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Is Natural And Nutritional Treatment For Cushings Disease In Dogs Possible?

Natural and Nutritional Treatment For Cushings Disease In DogsCushings Disease is a disease seen commonly in dogs and rarely in cats, where a benign (not cancerous) but functional tumor in the pituitary gland over-secretes a hormone that over stimulates the adrenal glands in the abdomen to produce too much of the hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and prepares the body for the “fight or flight response,” where peripheral circulation is minimized and pooled centrally, the heart rate increases, the pupils dilate, and the gut slows down, leaving the body primed for a fight or rapid flight from danger. Make no mistake, cortisol is a very important and essential hormone, but too much of it over time is damaging to the body.

Among its deleterious effects, over time hyper-cortisolism caused by Cushings Disease, may lead to obesity, skin infections, thin hair coat and even hair loss, pigmentary changes of the skin, urinary tract infections, loss of lean muscle mass, anxiety, diabetes, heart enlargement, kidney failure, and cataracts of the eyes. Excessive cortisol also has a diuretic effect, commonly causing dogs to drink and urinate excessively, in some cases, never seeming to be able to quench their thirst.

Conventional treatment for Cushings Disease is to treat with a medication called trilostane that enzymatically inhibits the production or cortisol at the level of the adrenal gland, thereby neutralizing the over-stimulation caused by the functional pituitary gland tumor. It is an effective and safe treatment course, but it is also expensive. What’s more, I commonly see canine patients that I know have Cushings Disease, but repeatedly test negative for the disease. If a veterinarian cannot conclusively prove Cushings Disease, then he/she cannot treat it aggressively because of risk to the patient. I call these cases “Cushings Disease in waiting.”

There are also patients that are very mildly positive for Cushings Disease where treatment may be overkill, and of course patients with owners that have serious budgetary concerns that make treatment with trilostane cost prohibitive. Thus, while I will always maintain that for conclusively proven, unequivocal Cushings Disease patients, that the best course of action is treatment with trilostane, for borderline Cushings Disease patients, the aforementioned Cushings Disease patients in waiting, and for proven cases of Cushings Disease where treatment is cost prohibitive, I advocate for dietary and natural management of disease. What’s more, even for patients that are undergoing trilostane therapy for proven cases of Cushings Disease, natural management has the ability to reduce drug doses, thereby saving the client money, while overall increasing the safety of the patient who may end up less reliant on a pharmaceutical solution.

Natural management of Cushings Disease in dogs (and cats when disease rarely presents itself – I have only seen one case in all my years of practice) must begin with diet. Sodium restriction is key in management of Cushings Disease, as sodium levels will tend to be high in Cushings patients. This will help reduce the excessive thirst and urination, help reduce hypertension and therefore reduce the impact of Cushings Disease’s role in causing kidney failure and heart disease, respectively.

Since so many pet diets are high in sodium because of its appeal to canine and feline palates, it is difficult to find foods that have restricted levels of sodium. As such, you may want to consider prescription diets for kidney failure and/or heart disease that are sodium and phosphorus restricted. If you have a little bit more time on your hands, cooking a home cooked diet for your pet would be ideal, since you can keep refined and processed grains out of the diet. 50% fresh vegetables (green beans, peas, baby carrots, and broccoli are good choices) chopped, steamed, or puréed into a paste, served with a low sodium meats (rabbit, chicken, turkey, venison) served cooked or raw with no salts added give the benefit of low sodium, fresh ingredients with no preservatives, as well as unprocessed nutrients and beneficial antioxidants and free radical scavengers. If you choose to feed raw meat, be certain to choose reputable sources to prevent raw meat bacterial food toxicity. My preference are sources that exist solely for the purpose of providing raw meat for pet consumption that freeze the meat on site and ship frozen, for the per owner to then freeze upon receipt and thaw as needed.

Melatonin is a hormone that is normally secreted by the pineal gland, and has several important functions in the body. Research at the University of Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine, suggested that Cushings Disease patients not only suffer from the deleterious effects of excess cortisol, but also from excess female hormone, estradiol that the adrenal gland also is responsible for secreting. We believe that estradiol, not cortisol, may be responsible Cushings in waiting cases, where patients show hallmark clinical signs of disease, yet repeatedly come up negative on cortisol based testing for Cushings Disease. Melatonin has been shown to inhibit estradiol production and inhibit cortisol production. The dose for a dog under 30 pounds is 3 mg administered once every 12 hours, 6 mg every 12 hours for dogs over 30 pounds. The dose for cats is 1.5 mg administered once every 12 hours. Use regular, not extended release products.

Maximum success treating with melatonin is seen when used in combination with flaxseed lignans (flaxseed hulls). The lignans have a direct phytoestrogentic effect, while also serving to lower estradiol and cortisol production. Flaxseed oil is also rich in omega-3-fatty acids, which not only directly condition and nourish the skin, often a problematic area for Cushings patients, but also are naturally anti-inflammatory and protective to the skin, and other tissues and organ systems. Thus, I would try to find a product that has both flaxseed oil with lignans included. The dose is 40 mg every other day for dogs weighing less than 30 pounds, once daily for dogs weighing over 30 pounds. For cats, the dose is 20 mg every other day.

Make no mistake, for serious, clearly diagnosed Cushings Disease in dogs and cats, natural treatment for Cushings Disease alone, may only be successful in borderline positive cases, or cases where Cushings is strongly suspected, but has yet to be proven diagnostically. However, for cases of Cushings where financially treatment with trilostane is cost prohibitive, a natural approach can be very helpful, and worth a try. At the very least, a natural approach can do no harm. For confirmed cases of Cushings disease where treatment with trilostane is indicated and underway, I would advise this Cushings natural management approach in order to attempt to reduce trilostane doses over time, saving cost and increasing the safety of the patient.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.