Monday, April 30, 2012

Maximizing Outcomes by Cynthia Easton, DVM

It matters not whether medicine is old or new as long as it brings about a cure
-  Jen-Hsou Lin

When a loved one is sick, family members often ask themselves, “Is there anything else I can do?” It’s no different with your pet. You’ve been to the veterinarian and heard the recommendations, taken the medication, done the tests, but still you wonder if you have any additional options. Or maybe the medications have unacceptable side effects. Sometimes, a natural therapy is that something extra you can do. 

A holistic approach might involve a nutrition consultation on diet and supplements or even a consideration of holistic medical therapies such as homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic. Although a combination of these natural therapies can form a stand-alone approach, they are considered complementary, meaning “forming a satisfactory or balanced whole”. Under the careful supervision of a holistic veterinarian, this type of therapy can be safely used in conjunction with conventional treatments in hopes of more quickly relieving suffering and restoring well-being.

In the age of the internet, many people find themselves researching their pet’s condition and choosing from an array of herbs and supplements available on-line.  Beware of internet testimonials! Because herbs and supplements are not regulated by the FDA like drugs are, almost any claim can be made without research or safety studies to back it up.  Additionally, one must be careful about natural products, as the word “natural” does not always mean safe.  Some herbs, for example, can interact with medications your veterinarian prescribed, either making them more or less potent.  Thus it is very important to consult with a veterinarian who has training in these potential interactions and can recommend treatments that are both safe and have a validated track record for use in certain medical conditions. 

Many factors go into the decision to explore holistic treatments.  Traditional and complementary approaches each have their strengths and weaknesses which, when appropriate, should be considered when looking at all the options.  There can definitely be medical situations where holistic treatment is not advised.  

The strengths of conventional veterinary medicine include:

  • Rapid action
  • Sophisticated diagnostics
  • Good for acute known infections
  • Surgery
  • Emergency medical care

Some weaknesses are:

  • Decreased effectiveness in treating chronic disease
  • Side effects
  • Invasive
  • High cost
Strengths of complementary medicine include: 

  • Safety
  • Few side effects
  • Can be used for long periods of time
  • Benefits and treats the whole body instead of one part  (Conventional medicine is a disease-based system which equates the control of symptoms with a cure.  Owners sometimes can tell that something is still not right even though the symptoms are no longer present).
  • Can effectively treat functional and chronic diseases
  • Focused on preventive health care
  • Lower cost

Finally, the weaknesses of complementary medicine include:

  • Many modalities lack specific diagnostic ability
  • Less of a track record for positive outcomes or can take a longer period of time to see a positive effect
  • Ineffective at treating most acute or emergency conditions

The good news is you usually don’t have to choose one or the other.  At Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care the veterinarians often work in tandem providing both types of treatments at the same time.  Examples where this has been successful include cases of arthritis, cancer, digestive abnormalities, and allergies.  Consultation appointments to discuss holistic options are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Dr. Easton is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis, and has practiced veterinary medicine for over 15 years. After a medicine and surgery internship at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school, Dr. Easton worked for Pets Unlimited in San Francisco where she began pursuing an interest in holistic medicine. Doctor Easton has taken courses in Homeopathy, Western and Chinese herbology, and is certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. Providing clients with multiple options, Dr. Easton helps clients choose the type of medicine best suited for them and their pets. Dr. Easton lives in San Bruno with her husband, two children, three dogs, one rat, turtles and koi.

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