Veterinary medicine seems light years ahead of human medicine when it comes to combining the best aspects of traditional veterinary medicine with proven alternative medicine. When I have asked M.D. friends of mine why they turn such a blind eye to alternative medicine proven to work in animals (who are not susceptible to placebo effect), the answer is surprising. They do not doubt the legitimacy of alternative medicine, they simply cannot go there because health insurance will not cover it.
In veterinary medicine where we are not handcuffed by insurance companies, we have the freedom to advocate for the patient’s best interests, which is to offer the best aspects of traditional western and alternative therapy. What’s more, pet insurance companies (at least the ones not owned by human health insurance companies) like Trupanion, cover acupuncture, chiropractic, nutritional therapy, therapy laser and other proven alternative treatments that have made it into the main stream of veterinary medicine.
Let us take a common example of combining western and alternative medicine. A dog comes in with severe back pain and unstable rear limbs secondary to a compressive intervertebral disc herniation of the spine. In order to immediately manage pain, reduce inflammation, and free up spinal nerves and nerve root signatures, I give an IV injection of a combination of a fast acting steroid and muscle relaxer. The patient will temporarily go home on the oral versions of these medications.
To facilitate the quickest possible weaning of these medications, in order to increase nerve conduction, increase blood supply to the injured area, and thereby facilitate the natural healing properties of the body to stabilize the injury as minimize inflammation long term, I begin a 3 week tapering regimen of acupuncture, therapy laser, and glysosaminoglycan injections.
The premise of integrative veterinary medicine is this: use western medical techniques for humane and medically expedient relief with direct treatment of the disease, while simultaneously propping up the body to do what it does best, which is heal itself. This puts the patient in the best possible circumstances to avoid invasive surgery, wean the patient from dependence on medications, minimize side effects, and facilitate long term health.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care