Meditating on Holistic Health Care

When searching for the perfect vet, chances are you've encountered or at least heard about one or more holistic veterinarians in your area. The movement toward more holistic and natural health care is big right now — and nowhere more so than in the world of animal companions.

Holistic veterinarians may practice any or all of a number of different holistic healing techniques (most specialize in one or two), including homeopathy, herbalism, flower essences, acupuncture, acupressure, pet massage of all types, nutritional therapy, even chiropractic treatment, to name some of the more common methods.

Homeopathy works on the principle of like treats like — treating symptoms by using very diluted substances that normally cause those symptoms to put the system back into balance. Herbalism is the use of herbs as medicine to balance the system. Flower essences treat the emotional energies. Acupuncture is the application of needles to certain energy centers of the body to release blockages, and acupressure is the application of pressure to those energy centers. Pet massage helps loosen tight muscles and connective tissue. Nutritional therapy involves improved diet and supplements to help prevent and heal disease. Chiropractic treatment aligns the spinal column and joints to free blocked energy.

Should you use a holistic veterinarian for your Dachshund? Some Dachshund owners swear by holistic vets and would never take their pets to a regular vet again. Others wouldn't consider a holistic healer for their Dachshunds. The decision is up to you and should be based on your own personal inclinations and feelings about the matter. If you use a holistic health practitioner yourself and you think the methods make sense, your pet may benefit similarly. If you don't like the idea for yourself, you won't feel comfortable about taking your Dachshund to someone who works in a more holistic mode.

Some of the strongest proponents and strongest detractors of holistic health are among those whose Dachshunds have fallen prey to canine intervertebral disk disease (see Chapter 17). Testimonials abound about Dachshunds that regained the use of their legs through holistic techniques after full paralysis. Others argue that only mainstream medicine should handle such a severe, acute medical event. Again, the choice is up to you. Go with your gut feeling and do what feels right.

The approach I recommend generally is a combination of the two approaches, often called complementary health care. More and more vets recommend this approach as well. Holistic healing is great for preventive medicine, to keep the system healthy and balanced. It can also be, in my experience, highly effective for chronic conditions, such as arthritis, degenerative joint diseases, and diabetes, for which mainstream medicine has no cure. I know people who swear by pet acupuncture or herbalism, for example, and sincerely believe it provided pain relief and a return of function for pets that the mainstream medical establishment said couldn't be helped.

For acute conditions, serious injuries, and dangerous illnesses, however, I would be more likely to choose the allopathic, or mainstream, conventional vet. Mainstream medicine in this country is best in emergency situations and for curing life-threatening conditions through surgery and other procedures requiring extensive skill and training. However, the more vets learn, and the more they combine their efforts, the more the lines blur. Someday there may be no difference at all, and every vet may use all available methods for the greater good of pet health.

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