Saturday, November 13, 2010

Holistic Veterinary Medicine...Helpful Treatment or Terrible Hoax?

- Update on Missouri Prop B (Puppy Mill Act) vote
- Holistic Veterinary Medicine...Helpful Treatment or Terrible Hoax?

Transcript of this week's episode of The Web-DVM:

Welcome everybody to The Web-DVM. I am your host, Dr. Roger Welton, practicing veterinarian and Veterinary News Network Reporter. Let’s start with a quick news update, Missouri’s Proposition B narrowly, but decidedly passed by 51% of the vote this past election. For those of you that did not catch my show headlining this ballot measure, this bill is known as the “Puppy Mill Act,” legislation drafted to combat the state of Missouri’s notoriously tolerated puppy mill abuses.

Specifically, the law limits breeding operations to no more than 50 breeding animals, requires that they be housed indoors and in a manner that gives them unfettered access to exercise. Breeding animals also must be fed daily (imagine that!), and receive yearly veterinary wellness check-ups by a licensed veterinarian. Breeders must submit to regular inspections to prove compliance, and violations of the law will result in a $300 fine or 15 days in jail per offense.

Now I have been vocal about this law falling short in really preventing puppy mill abuse both in its language and lax penalties, however, change for the better often takes time and it is a start. I therefore congratulate Missouri who chose humanity over cruelty and greed, taking the first step to quelling what has been a long standing tolerance of puppy mill cruelty in the USA.

On to our headline topic this evening, in our westernized society, alternative forms of therapy and medicine are often viewed with suspicion and occasionally, outright disbelief. Practices like acupuncture, acupressure or even homeopathy have many critics. Still, when it comes to resolving their pets’ ills, some pet owners are willing to take a chance on a non-traditional treatment.

Holistic medicine is generally defined as medical care of the whole pet, including environment, social and personal factors as opposed to the focus of treating just the disease. Integrative medicine, an approach that I embrace as offering the patient the best overall health care, embraces both conventional Western styles with holistic practices. Many people refer to non-traditional medicine as alternative or even complementary medicine.

These non-conventional approaches include therapies as diverse as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic care, and traditional Chinese veterinary medicine, aka, TCVM. Some veterinarians, like Dr. Aleda Cheng, a TCVM practitioner and certified veterinary acupuncturist, go as far as including high-tech procedures such as stem cell therapy, and cold laser pain relief under the alternative umbrella. As Dr. Cheng says, “all of these treatments help the body heal itself”.
Other alternative practices include herbal medicine, homeopathy and other therapies that might sound a little more exotic but are less well known.

Considerable skepticism still remains for these alternative therapies. Although the site is geared towards human medicine, has made its mission to disclose health related frauds. The major opposition centers on a lack of controlled scientific evidence and dubious diagnostic and therapeutic standards.
But, it’s hard to argue with individual success stories. Dr. Cheng relays how a German Shepherd, decorated for his work on 9/11, suffered from a painful degenerative spinal disease. The acupuncture treatments she performed allowed this dog to continue his search and rescue career, free from lameness and pain.
The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society or IVAS, is also trying to combat the “lack of evidence” argument. Through certification processes and collection of case studies, IVAS hopes to bring acupuncture into the mainstream of practice. For pet owners seeking acupuncture, the IVAS seal is an important credential.

Dr. Brian Voynick cautions that it is important for alternative practitioners to “be a veterinarian first and get a diagnosis”. He describes a limping dog whose owner went to a human chiropractor. After four chiropractic treatments, the dog was still lame and acupuncture was recommended. Dr. Voynick saw the dog on referral and found that his left rear leg was painful and swollen. After taking x-rays, it was determined that the dog had an aggressive bone cancer!

Pets, like their human caretakers, are individuals and it is possible that some animals may respond to these treatments. Certified veterinary acupuncturist and noted author on alternative therapies, Dr. Doug Knueven reminds owners that “integrative medicine is most beneficial for the pet”. He also believes many complementary treatments are more mainstream than people realize. “Glucosamine was once alternative medicine”, he says, “but now is widely accepted.”

When your pet is ill or suffering, make sure you and your veterinarian can reach a diagnosis for your pet before rushing off to try a novel treatment you heard about on the Internet. If you have a strong belief that a holistic approach would benefit your pet, discuss this option with your veterinarian, as integrative medicine is increasingly becoming the accepted means of our approach to veterinary health care.
That is my show for this evening ladies and gentlemen. Please remember to catch my live call-in internet radio show that airs live Wednesdays 9 PM EST from a player embedded at my blog at, where this show is also embedded and there are bonus content and links.

Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:

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Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website


pw1974 said...

It is very refreshing to have an actual veterinarian discuss this topic. Many vets are very quick to dismiss the benefits of alternative medicine and just completely close themselves off to the possibility. I understand that there is a lot of stuff out there that is hokey and it is necessary to sift through the nonsense, but some of it has bonafide real medical value. At the same time, actually getting a diagnosis and focusing on treating the disease directly is also important, so we should not dismiss the western approach to medicine either as many holistic doctors would have you do. Dr. Welton said it best that the best benefit to the animal is an integrative approach, one that combines the best aspects of both alternative and traditional western medical approaches. That is the kind of vet that I look for. Great topic, Doc!

Anonymous said...

I think holistic medicine has a lot of merit, but a bad experience has made me very waery about holistic practitioners. I took my kitty to a local holistic veterinarian because she was losing weight. He diagnosed her with yin and yang kidney disease and put her on a bunch of herbs. He based his diagnosis only on an examination and pushing on pressure points. I followed his advice and she just kept getting sicker, eating less and losing weight. The holistic vet just advised me to give the herbs more time. After 6 months, I took my kitty to Dr. Welton. At this point, she was emaciated. Dr. Welton felt masses in the abdomen and ran bloodwork and took x-rays. As it turned out, her kidneys were fine. After getting a sample from one of the masses in her abdomen with an ultrasound, Dr. Welton diagnosed her with lymphoma. Dr. Welton treated her with a steroid and a prescription diet to get weight back on. She gained weight and went into remission for 4 months. I'll never know how much time that holistic vet cost my cat, how much longer she would have lived had I gone to Dr. Welton sooner. I am so grateful I finally made the decision to go to Maybeck and at least get those last few happy, healthy months with her. This holistic vet did not run any tests and decided that his hands and physical observations were all he needed and he was wrong! This video could not be more true. Consider holistic medicine as an option only once you know what is going on! Like Dr. Welton's video said, GET A DIAGNOSIS! Do not believe ANYONE who says that they know what is wrong with your pet without ANY tests! Do not believe anyone who says that holistic is 100% the best option all the time!

Greg said...

I think that holistic medicine works in people because they convince themselves that it works. With animals, they are not brainwashed in this manner by some charlatan on the internet or in some infomercial, so it simply just won't work on them. Sorry, I think this stuff is witch doctory.

Peggy said...

I have to diagree, Greg. The human mind is a powerful thing and people are capable of convincing themselve's the anything is working. But, I have a littel dog with a very bad back. At 12 years of age, I did not want to put him through surgery, so my vet gave us a referral to a holistic vet for accupuncture. After the first treatment, the resuls were amazing. He was back to his old self. We did it twice a week for one month, and now just have to go back once every month to maintain him.

Theresa said...

My pit bull had pudding-like diarrhea and the vet would treat it successfully with an antibiotic, but then the diarrhea would just return. We tried a bland GI friendly diet, and the diarrhea would still come back when we stopped the medication. At one point, even the medication would not keep the diarrhea in check, my dog was losing weight, so my vet put her on a steroid. The steroid worked, but then I was worried about all the long term effects of steroids and this did not sit well with me. So, I researched and researched on the net and decided to try probiotics, a HOLISTIC treatment for gut problems. After I started the probiotic, I gradually backed her off the steroid, and now one month later, all she is on is a bland diet and probiotic. I saw my vet yesterday, and he was very cool about it, just saying that he is surprised that such a simple solution worked, but you can't argue with success, and very humbly, that he learned something today. Many holistic treatments have merit. I do not blame my vet for not having found the solution that I did, or deciding on a long term solution that has so many possible side effects, western physicians are just not trained in these techniques generally speaking, and they think medicine first. But, this same vet has kept other pets of mine alive when without him they would have died, so I stil l have great faith in him and western medicine. But, there is nothing wrong with keeping an open mind and trying new alternative methods, combining the best of both western and alternative medicine.

Matt said...

I would not let my dog be treated by some strictly holistic practitioner that refuses western medicine altogether. I don't care how confedent some dude is that he can look at eyeballs and squeeze spots on the feet and know exactly what is wrong with your pet. Therea's example shows exactly where that can lead. Thre is no substitue for good old fashion testing, blood tests, x-rays, etc. I would accept holistic treatments only from a vet who practices traditional western medicine, but believes in certain holistic treatments. The reason is that a traditional vet is going to be skeptical and accept them only if the science proves that they work. If 100% holistic practitioners want to be validated, they should put their money where their mouths are and collectively fund real sicentific studies that prove this stuff works!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Terrible hoax!

Anonymous said...

And to be continued?

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