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While We Must Be Open to Alternative Medicine, We Must Recognize When Veterinary Western Medicine is Necessary

Continuing my reporting on the cutting edge field of veterinary rehabilitation, as I discussed in my previous post, Veterinary Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine, that integrative medicine is the best approach to providing optimal health care for our patients.  Being integrative mandates being open to proven alternative medicine techniques, such as the ones outlined in that article.  It is important to recognize, however, that  integrative medicine also mandates that we do not lose sight of the importance of western medicine, which still remains an integral component of saving lives and maintaining the health of our patients.  This post will highlight the areas where alternative medicine falls short and we must rely on the western veterinary medical paradigm to stabilize and treat our patients.  Don’t fret, my holistic minded fans, there is plenty of holistic/alternative awareness to come in future posts! 🙂

In cases of hemorrhage, or when fracture, major ligament or tendon ruptures occur, western modalities must be implored to reverse shock, control severe pain, maintain blood volume and circulation, and strengthen vital signs as a whole.  In cases of hemorrhage and shock, treatments such as intravenous fluids, steroids and other drugs, as well as blood transfusion may be necessary to stabilize the patient.

When fractures or ligament ruptures occur, they must be aligned sometimes by surgical means if necessary, and some kind of fixation applied to enable healing.  We have a saying in veterinary rehabilitation, “if it is unstable, send it to the table.”  No amount of alternative therapy will re-stabilize tears of major ligaments or mend displaced fractures, and that is something that even the most ardent followers of alternative/holistic medicine must accept.

In the case of severe, acute pain, letting an animal suffer without relief is not only cruel, but it is also bad medicine.  Pain causes stress, which in turn slows recovery and reduces overall patient stability.  As such, in cases of severe, acute pain, anti-inflammatory in combination with narcotic pain therapy is not only humane, but practicing optimal medicine.

Lastly, western medicine provides us advanced diagnostic capability that alternative medicine does not.  Imaging to visually identify lesions, blood work to determine organ function, blood gases and blood pressure to determine organ stability,  and systemic oxygenation, and many other diagnostic techniques are necessary components to confirming a diagnosis.

Once we have a stable, pain controlled, and fully diagnosed patient, then we can move on to alternative treatment modalities to hasten recovery rates, bolster healing, help us to wean the patient off of pain medication, and maintain overall health to reduce the potential for chronic conditions that may result from injury.

In my next post, I will be detailing veterinary acupuncture, where East meets West.  

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.

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