Traditional Western medicine typically focuses on treating a single disease to mitigate effects, rather than bringing the body, mind and soul into a state of enhanced well-being. There is little emphasis on supporting lifestyle change and a stronger emphasis on pharmaceuticals and surgery. Complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) encompasses disciplines like acupuncture, botanicals (herbs), supplements, exercise, homeopathy, chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine and spiritual and psychological well-being. It emphasizes maximizing the natural healing and restorative ability of the individual.

An example of these differences is the approach to epidemic levels of Type II diabetes and obesity in humans and cats in the United States. Conventional medicine works toward finding new drugs to enhance insulin activity and devices to better measure elevated blood sugar. CAM focuses on lifestyle changes to decrease stress, promote exercise and alter food choices. Botanicals, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic and other modalities are utilized to move the body toward a state of optimal healing. CAM obviously involves more patient participation and engagement than simply taking a trip to the drug store.

Integrative medicine, which is what we offer at Loving Hands Animal Clinic, is the best of both worlds. It takes into account body, mind and spirit of each individual patient and melds all appropriate therapies from both CAM and conventional medicine to promote healing and health. To be done safely, this requires extensive knowledge of both disciplines and should always involve a veterinarian partner in animals. Because of the breadth of the modalities involved, patient care often utilizes a treatment team, rather than a single veterinarian.

Animal chiropractic works to manually adjust vertebral subluxation complexes to maximize mobility of the spine. Limited spinal mobility results in dysfunction of the neurologic and musculoskeletal systems, which can have body wide effects. Most animals with any lameness or spinal problems have issues that respond to chiropractic care. All practitioners doing veterinary chiropractic need to be specifically trained with animals. Look for the CIVCA credentials of a certified veterinary chiropractor.

Although utilized most often for management of pain, veterinary acupuncture has broader applications. It can be utilized for internal organ disease, spinal issues, skin problems, urinary incontinence and multiple other conditions. Needles, with or without electro-stimulation, are inserted at points where nerves and blood vessels come together. From a traditional medicine standpoint, acupuncture has been shown to stimulate nerves and blood flow, increase toxin elimination and to release anti-inflammatory substances. According to traditional Chinese veterinary medicine, acupuncture heals by correcting energy imbalances. Unlike medications or supplements, acupuncture lacks side effects. The designation for a certified veterinary acupuncturist is CVA.

Unfortunately, there is not yet an official credential to certify knowledge in the botanical (herbal) medicine area. Herbs can have interactions with each other and with prescription and non-prescription drugs, as well as their own side effects. It is imperative that a veterinarian knowledgeable in this modality be involved. Human herbalists are not trained in animal physiology, which, especially in cats, differs greatly in some critical ways from humans.

Please attend our next Pet Care University Jan. 19, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Loving Hands Animal Clinic if you are interested in CAM therapies. Dr. Stephanie Hall will be doing a presentation on integrative care. Details can be obtained through Appen News publications or on Loving Hands Animal Clinic’s Facebook and social media pages.

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