Holistic medicine describes any modality that looks at the individual patient as a whole, taking into consideration not only his or her physical state, but also lifestyle, personality, environment, and many other factors. Issues on all levels of being are critical for proper diagnosis and treatment. This is especially true of Chinese medicine and homeopathy. Alternative medicine, also called complementary medicine, denotes all those modalities not included in conventional Western medicine. Below are brief descriptions of the alternative therapies offered at our hospital. We also have more detailed handouts on acupuncture, orthopedic manpulation, homeopathy and the first consultation – feel free to request them!
The Chinese invented acupuncture nearly 3,000 years ago. It is a gentle method of harmonizing the body’s functions by inserting very fine needles through the skin at key locations. These locations have been shown to exhibit enhanced electrical conductivity, and modern theory postulates that acupuncture works by influencing the body’s electromagnetic field and charge distribution. Classical theory uses the metaphors of nature to understand the body/mind landscape and harmonize its energies. Needle insertion is tolerated quite well by dogs and cats. Acupressure is also used as needed.
Developed in Germany about 200 years ago, homeo (similar) pathy(suffering) is the use of potentized (serially diluted and vigorously shaken) solutions of a substance to heal a unique combination of symptoms similar to those caused by that same substance if it were taken excessively in its unpotentized form. Hence the homeopath’s motto “like cures like.” Potentization is thought to bring out the subtle energies of the substance which act upon the patient’s electromagnetic field. Homeopathic remedies are typically dispensed as tiny pellets embedded with the potentized solution.
Although chiropractic (developed about 100 years ago) literally means “work done by hand,” modern definitions of the chiropractic adjustment include any high-velocity (fast) low-amplitude (shallow) force applied to a joint, whether by hand or instrument. Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation (VOM) uses a hand-held tool to gently adjust spinal and limb joints, helping to restore normal neural signaling and function. A dysfunctional joint, whether misaligned or not, is called a subluxation. VOM is used to both locate and treat subluxations by stimulating key neural receptors in a specific way.
Chinese and Western herbal therapies each have their own unique historical development spanning thousands of years. Most herbal formulas use synergistic combinations of plant substances, though Chinese formulas sometimes include mineral and animal substances (e.g. seashells, insects). Many modern pharmaceuticals are derived from plants, and natural herbal formulas can often be used in place of drugs with far fewer side effects.
These are liquid preparations made by the permeation of sunlight through flower petals into water. It is thought that this process infuses the water with the subtle healing energies of the blossoms. Flower essences are used primarily to treat mental and emotional disharmony, each flower having its own sphere of activity.
Formalized as a healing modality in Japan, reiki has its origins in Chinese medicine, Daoism, and Tendai Buddhism. It involves placement of the hands over key locations on the body, typically on important Chinese acupoints and meridians. Rather than using needles, however, the hands of a certified practitioner have been “attuned” to serve as the conduit for harmonization of the patient’s energy. Reiki practitioners are also taught the use of ancient symbols that aid the harmonization process. The intent of reiki is free of attachment to outcome, holding as it’s only goal the restoration of the patient’s own freely expressive inner nature and unique path.
As a general term, sound therapy uses any type of audible or tactile frequency to harmonize the body/mind. Frequencies may be produced by chimes, gongs, tuning forks, musical instruments, nature sounds, electronic tones, or the human voice. At our hospital, tuning forks are used with the end opposite the struck fork placed on acupuncture points and other important areas. Each fork produces a different frequency and hence a different healing effect. Tuning forks may be used in conjunction with other modalities, and for stimulating acupuncture points in patients too sensitive for needling.
This term is a combination of “nutritional” and “pharmaceutical” and refers to a special class of dietary supplements that specifically aid in the prevention or treatment of disease. Thus a general vitamin/mineral supplement is not a nutraceutical, but a specific combination of glucosamine, chondroitin and vitamin C to treat arthritis is. Nutraceuticals may contain vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, food concentrates, metabolites, extracts, or similar substances in combination or alone. Glandulars are a type of nutraceutical that use the glands or other organs of animals (typically cows, pigs or sheep) to support the corresponding gland/organ of the patient. For example, spleen and thymus extracts can be used to boost immune function.
About Your Pet’s First Consult…
The first consultation is an hour-long visit to provide sufficient time for a thorough work-up as well as the first treatment. The work-up includes a complete physical exam, a Chinese medicine tongue and pulse evaluation, discussion of past and current medical history, and a series of questions about your pet’s unique habits, personality, social behavior, personal preferences, activities, diet, and response to illness. This detailed information provides a holistic portrait of your animal friend as an individual that is used to select appropriate therapy, custom designed to suit his or her unique situation. The first treatment is then provided to initiate the healing process that day, consisting of either acupuncture, orthopedic manipulation, reiki or appropriate combination. Recommended medications to take home may include a homeopathic remedy, herbal formula, nutraceutical, or pharmaceutical as needed. Finally, how to monitor progress and any recommended follow-up treatments are discussed. The holistic approach is designed to benefit the whole pet, which not only maximizes healing of the issue at hand but also general vitality and demeanor.