I believe it is important to choose an integrated approach to the health care of your animals because that provides the best care. Conventional medicine has an important place in health care for sure, but it does not have the answers to all the health issues your animal will face. Treatments are limited, especially for chronic diseases like arthritis, auto-immune problems, allergies and sensitivities, cancer care. In all of these situations there are lots of helpful care options from other systems of medicine.
Secondly conventional medicine has many wonderful diagnostic tools that enable all sorts of things to be studied and examined. However, because the body is a complex entity, even with lots of testing is not always possible to come up with a “reason” or cause for many health issues, when looking through the lens of this model. Other systems of medicine have different ways of looking at and understanding the body. When we use these systems of understanding as well, it often becomes clearer to figure out what is going wrong and to help to rectify it.
Thirdly, people should be aware that medicine is not an exact science: what we understand about how things work changes constantly. New treatments and new ways of understanding bodily processes are always happening.
Medicine is also not just a science but is an art form as well. There are often guiding principles that are adhered to but these are adjusted for by the skilled practitioner, who is in many ways an artist. Each body is unique and responds in it’s own unique way to the environment to become ill in the first place, and then to various treatments during recovery. Each practitioner uses there own unique understanding and approach. The more different lenses we have to look at things through, I believe, gives a practitioner a better chance of finding a way to help any individual animal.
Fourthly, one of the
main downsides of conventional medicine is that some of the treatments have side effects. Because natural medicines are milder in action, they are often safer and have fewere long term side effects. Natural medicines can however cause harm too so need to be used carefully and after consulting someone experienced and skilled in their use in animals.
Finally, some of the conventional treatments also don’t get to the root cause, but only treat or mask symptoms. For example, western medicine, used alone has a hard time treating the root cause of ear infections. The pathogens (bacteria and yeast etc) can be treated, but rarely is the reason for the dog getting ear infections addressed fully. Diet can be addressed if food allergies are suspected and ears can be dried and cleaned. These all help. In addition to this, Chinese medicine recognizes a weakness leading to ear infections and can address this root cause as well. This is where using an approach utilizing the best of all the therapies and approaches works best.
Similarly with cancer care. An integrated approach can treat the whole animal, not just treat symptoms and kill off cancer cells. Cancer is the end result of a system that has been stressed for years. There is much imbalance.
It is for these reasons that I am a passionate advocate of integrative care, using natural medicine whenever possible but supporting this with the best of conventional modern medicine.
Enough of the generalities: now we’ll get down to some specifics. Check out our blog often as I will be writing a series of articles exploring naturopathic health care of animals in greater detail. Next time we’ll discuss acupuncture for animals.
Dr Kathy Cornack BVSc (hons), MACVSc (Veterinary Behavior), IVAS Cert. (Veterinary Acupuncture), M.Agr. Sc
Holistic Animal Health and Wellbeing