WHAT IS INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE?
To fully understand what integrative medicine is, let’s take a look at the following definitions from the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association:
treating the body as a whole using whole herbs and complete supplements rather than single chemical sources
not using chemical substances; using natural methods such as herbs, nutritional substances, massage, and acupuncture
use of non-conventional but very valid methods including ancient ones such as Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine
methods that complement traditional medicine
Using the best of what conventional and holistic methods have to offer
especially as it is taught or presented in textbooks, tends to look at a single disease with a single treatment method. When multiple diseases occur at the same time, compromises are necessary, and the “best” treatment for one disease may not be the best for others. For example, elderly animals are often a compromise: they may have kidney disease, which would indicate the ideal diet should be low protein, but also have cancer, where a low carbohydrate diet is preferred. If an elderly animal is thin enough, with a poor appetite, often the general advice is to feed them whatever they will eat, since weight loss for these individuals is the most immediate threat. The idea of drilling down to a single diagnosis, of a single disease, with an ideal treatment, also known as the “atomic” or “reductionist” approach, seeking to reduce a problem to its smallest part and to fix that part. This is a powerful approach when only one thing is wrong, or only one problem is life-threatening. Holism starts with all the individual problems and tries to see a pattern, believing that the whole picture is greater than the sum of its parts.
A tenet of holism is that the absence of a specific diagnosed disease does not necessarily mean that a body is healthy…
(This is why people who just don’t feel well, but have normal lab tests, are usually not helped by conventional medicine, but often helped by the holistic approach.) This approach looks at the animal, health problems it may have, mental aspects such as anxiety or aggression, the owner, the type of food being fed and any undesirable ingredients in that food, and the environment it is kept in, to recommend a treatment program. Instead of a drug with a single ingredient, herbs may be preferred, which contain a primary ingredient plus all its supporting factors, or multiple anti-oxidants instead of one single vitamin, or a Chinese herbal formula with many herbs, etc. Even a single herb has many healing components that are synergistic, rather than one single component that primarily treats one problem, and the herb can have a greater range of beneficial effects. Humans and animals originally evolved along with the plants they ate or used, and may respond better to those than to a recently developed drug.
An integrative veterinarian understands that there are times when conventional methods work better. The best example of this is in emergency situations where surgery might stop bleeding or conventional drugs that work very quickly will save lives. However, they also understand that holistic methods are better for overall health and chronic diseases. They take the time to understand your pet’s needs to come up with a holistic plan and give you as the pet parent all the available options (whether conventional or holistic) to help your pet.
What is Acupuncture?
The term acupuncture is from the Latin, “acus” meaning ‘needle’ and “punctura” meaning ‘to prick’.
Acupuncture, in its simplest sense, is the treatment of conditions or symptoms by the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body in order to produce a response. Acupuncture points can also be stimulated without the use of needles, using techniques known as acupressure, moxibustion, cupping, or by the application of heat, cold, water, laser, ultrasound, or other means at the discretion of the practitioner. The specific acupuncture points have been well charted for both humans and animals, and were conceptualized by ancient Chinese scholars to be connected with each other and various internal organs via meridians or channels. Many of these channels trace the paths of the body’s major nerve trunks.
Each acupuncture point has specific actions when stimulated. Combinations of points are often
stimulated to take advantage of synergistic reactions between them. Which acupuncture points are stimulated, the depth of needle insertion, the type of stimulation applied to the needles,
and the duration of each treatment session depends on the patient’s tolerance, the
experience and training of the practitioner, and the condition being treated.
What conditions can benefit from Acupuncture?
In veterinary medicine, there is evidence of the success of acupuncture for treating
disorders of the reproductive, musculoskeletal, neurologic, pulmonary, gastrointestinal
and dermatologic systems. The most common conditions that are treated include
traumatic nerve injuries, intervertebral disk disease, degenerative myelopathy, epilepsy
and other central nervous system disorders; asthma, allergic dermatitis, lick granulomas;
and chronic pain such as that caused by degenerative joint disease. Acupuncture can
be used in conjunction with general anesthesia, allowing decreased doses of drugs such
as analgesics. Any condition may potentially benefit from acupuncture.
How can my pet benefit from Acupuncture?
Acupuncture stimulates healing of some conditions, and provides effective pain relief in
others. If properly applied, it may eliminate the need for surgery in certain conditions.
Following surgery, it can improve the patients’ comfort level and speed up the postoperative
recovery period. In some cases, it may reduce or eliminate the need for chronic
What can I expect from an acupuncture appointment?
Once Dr. Pittman assesses your pet, she will choose which acupuncture points will be most beneficial and will then insert the needles. Acupuncture does not hurt, and sedation is not required. Once the needles are placed, they stay in place for an average of 15-30 minutes. The vast majority of pets will relax or sleep because of the endorphins released with acupuncture, but some pets will choose to move around, and that is okay. The needles are flexible and will bend with the pet. If indicated, Dr. Pittman may perform aquapuncture, which is the injection of a substance into a point to achieve added benefit. For example, sometimes Vitamin B12 is used because of its tonic, energizing, and appetite stimulating effects. Sometimes Adequan is injected in an acupoint that governs joints to influence how the body uses it. Electroacupuncture is sometimes also used. This technique involves application of tiny electrodes to the needles and choosing frequencies of electricity that have therapeutic value. For example, certain frequencies release endorphins to help with pain, while others may amplify the alleviation of energy stagnation in the channels.
LASER therapy utilizes specific wavelengths of light (red and near infrared) to stimulate healing and relieve pain. Looking directly into the LASER would be similar to looking directly at the sun. For this reason, your pet and all personnel will be asked to wear protective eye wear during the appointment. LASER therapy is painless and feels like lying in the warm sun.
LASER energy increases circulation, bringing needed nutrients to damaged tissues. It also decreases inflammation and releases natural endorphins in the body, providing fast pain relief and better function.
What types of conditions can benefit from LASER therapy?
- Post-surgical pain and inflammation
- Muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries
- Arthritis pain
- Intervertebral disc disease
- Chronic pain conditions
- Certain types of fractures
For additional information on LASER, please visit our rehabilitation page.
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” At AWRC, we truly believe that disease conditions in the body can be prevented by eating a healthful, biologically appropriate diet. Diseases can also be treated using food as therapy. Foods have different energetic properties, just as herbs do. For example, they may be warming or cooling to the body. Many foods also have medicinal properties.
When you come for a nutritional consultation at AWRC, Dr. Pittman will go through a comprehensive integrative examination and questionnaire. Once the Chinese medical pattern diagnosis is made, a diet plan can be implemented to help restore balance to the body. Depending on your lifestyle and your pet’s preferences, we can help you choose the diet that is best for your pet or create a balanced home-prepared recipe tailored specifically to meet your pet’s nutritional needs.
Herbal medicine is a safe and natural alternative for the treatment of many disease conditions. Herbal medicine has been studied for centuries and although the effects can be quite powerful, side effects are uncommon, making it a wonderful alternative for pets that cannot tolerate traditional medications. At AWRC, we use both western and Chinese herbal preparations. Chinese herbals are prescribed based on our integrative examination findings according to principles of Chinese medicine and pattern diagnosis.
Tui-Na is a form of Chinese medical manipulation that uses various massage techniques to stimulate acupressure points. At AWRC, we will often teach the owner how to do certain techniques at home. In doing this, the animal is receiving benefit between acupuncture visits and the owner is playing an integral role in the treatment of their pet.