Advances in veterinary medicine make it possible to treat medical conditions in cats that would have been a death sentence a decade ago. Conventional veterinary medicine offers anything from chemotherapy to kidney transplants, and cats can now receive almost the same level of medical care as humans. On the other end of the medical spectrum, alternative and holistic therapies such as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbal treatments are also becoming more accepted for pets, as more people are understanding that well-being encompasses body, mind and spirit. As people are experiencing the benefits of alternative and holistic therapies for themselves, they’re also looking for alternative ways of caring for their cats.
I believe there are benefits to be derived from both approaches to medical care for our cats, which is why I like the term integrative medicine. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) at the National Institutes of Health, defines integrative medicine as “combining mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.” In other words, integrative medicine lets you pick the best of both worlds.
Finding a veterinarian who successfully combines both of these worlds can be challenging, as Dr. Nancy Kay wrote in a recent blog post on the challenges of combining Eastern and Western medicine for pets. According to Dr. Kay:
“It can be difficult to find a veterinarian who practices Western medicine and supports referral for complementary medicine, and vice versa. Truthfully, it is difficult for a veterinarian to be extremely well versed in both disciplines (hard enough staying truly proficient in just one of them). There are a few veterinarians who do a great job with both, but they are few and far between. Western medicine is the discipline predominantly taught in veterinary schools throughout the United States. Proficiency in complementary modalities including Chinese herbs, homeopathy, and acupuncture requires additional training and certification.
What can you do to avoid having your veterinarian roll his or her eyes at you? As you know, I am a big believer in picking and choosing your veterinarians wisely. Certainly, open-mindedness is an important trait in any doctor, whether providing service for us or for our beloved pets. The “ideal vet” is happy to have you work with other veterinarians so that your pets receive the care that is best for your peace of mind. Just as most of us have a number of doctors for our health needs, it’s perfectly acceptable for your pets to have different doctors for their different health care needs.”
I completely agree with Dr. Kay. I’ve had the good fortune of working with one veterinarian who was equally brilliant with conventional internal medicine and several holistic modalities (acupuncture and Chinese herbs) for eight years, but I’ve been unable to find that level of integrative medicine in a single vet since she relocated to a different part of the country.
Rather than looking for a vet who can do it all, it may make more sense to either look for a holistic vet for your cat’s basic health care needs and be prepared to seek help from a conventional vet for things that require conventional treatment, or find a conventional vet who may not be practicing holistic modalities, but is open to her clients seeking such care, and willing to work with the client and/or a holistic veterinarian. Having a vet roll your eyes at your if you even mention holistic modalities probably means that this vet is not going to be a good choice for you if you plan on using alternative therapies for your cat. You, better than anyone else, know what’s best for your cat.
The Veterinary Institute of Integrative Medicine provides resources for pet owners and veterinarians interested in the benefits of an integrative approach to animal healthcare. Their advisory board reads like a who’s who in veterinary holistic medicine and includes such well-known doctors as Jean Dodd, a leader in immunology research, Allen Schoen, one of the early pioneers of holistic veterinary medicine and author of Love, Miracles and Animal Healing and Veterinary Acupuncture: Ancient Art to Modern Medicine, and Susan Wynn, an author, lecturer and practitioner of integrative medicine with a special interest in nutition and herbal remedies.
Do you use holistic modalities for your cat? Which ones have you used? Is your vet supportive of your choice?
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