Holistic veterinary care is in great demand these days. The term “holistic” implies that the entire being; body, mind and spirit, is being addressed. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This concept stands in direct opposition to the Western reductionist view of life. Modern medicine tends to break systems down into smaller and smaller pieces, reducing them to their basic building blocks to gain an understanding. Often, the modern doctor loses sight of the forest for the trees.
Holistic medicine takes many forms, but there are common principles among these various techniques. First of all, health is considered to be more than simply the absence of disease. It is a state of well-being expressed as a vitality that resists disease. Health is a dynamic balance of internal and external forces. From this point of view, there is a broad spectrum of physical conditions ranging from perfect health to death.
Dis-ease begins as an imbalance, which may go undetected by conventional means. If left untreated at this early stage, detectable disease and possibly death will eventually result. Often, holistic approaches to health can detect problems at the dis-ease stage and correct the imbalance before disease sets in.
Holistic therapies embrace the vitalist concept that has been abandoned by conventional medicine. The vitalists believe that there is more to the body than meets the eye. There is a vital energy that animates the flesh. The Chinese call it “Qi,” the Japanese call it “Ki,” the doctors of India call it “Prana,” homeopaths call it the “Vital Force,” and chiropractors call it the “Innate.” It is this life force energy that is the difference between life and death, and it must be nourished and balanced to maintain true health.
While conventional medicine fights disease, holistic therapies generally strengthen the body. The body is viewed as containing its own pharmacy. Research bears this fact out. You may have heard of the “placebo effect.” This medical anomaly predicts that 30% of subjects treated with a sugar pill will improve; no matter what the disease is. High blood pressure, low blood pressure, allergies – all can be alleviated by the patients’ own bodies. It is considered a case of mind over matter but it proves that our bodies can heal themselves if conditions are right. The idea of holistic therapies is to produce the right conditions for the body to produce true health.
Of course, fighting disease and strengthening the body are not mutually exclusive approaches to health. For me, holistic pet care embraces the best of what each has to offer. This concept is referred to as integrative medicine. There are some cases for which surgery or medications may be the best option. At the same time acupuncture, chiropractic, herbs or nutritional supplements may often be used to speed healing in conjunction with or in place of Western medicine.
I have found acupuncture to be especially helpful for aiding pets. Studies have also shown that acupuncture stimulates nerves and sends messages to the brain which cause the release of hormones including cortisone as well as endorphins (the body’s own morphine compounds). Acupuncture can also reduce pain and muscle spasms, increase blood circulation, improve athletic performance and strengthen the immune system.
Acupuncture can help in the treatment of any medical condition including arthritis, kidney failure, liver failure, thyroid disease, asthma, back and joint injuries, vomiting, diarrhea and reproductive problems. It can be used as an adjunct treatment for seizures and can even improve the quality of life for cancer patients. When applied properly, this holistic approach does not cause side effects as drugs often do. Acupuncture can be used alone or in conjunction with conventional therapies.
Herbal medicine is another great integrative therapy. It involves the use of various parts of specific plants to achieve a healing influence on the body. The active constituents of hers produce their curative effects by causing physiological changes within the body or by fighting disease-causing agents.
There are many ways that herbs can benefit our pets. They are helpful for a multitude of conditions for which drugs are currently employed, including fighting infections, easing pain, assisting organ function, and improving hormone balance, just to name a few. Herbs can even help your dog or cat in ways that drugs cannot, such as improving his immune system function, helping him rid his body of toxins, and strengthening his resistance to environmental stress.
Chiropractic care is essential for any organism with a spine to achieve the highest level of health and performance. There are over 150 joints that articulate along the spinal canal. When any of these joints are out of alignment, the operation of the nervous system is adversely affected which can cause problems anywhere in the body. Chiropractic adjustments restore proper spinal joint motion and thus the function of the nervous system. This removes obstacles to perfect health.
The holistic-integrative approach to health care ensures that the patient gets the most effective treatment available with the least chance of side effects. It gives the veterinarian more tools in his medical tool box. This advance in veterinary medicine is the wave of the future.