Even though I’m a holistic doctor, I was trained as a conventional veterinarian. Not only do I have access to both conventional and natural treatments for my patients, but I understand the philosophies behind both approaches.
I am not against conventional medical care per se, but I do think, in most cases, there are better ways to maintain health than simply over-medicating. I’ve learned many things since adopting a more natural holistic lifestyle and approach to my veterinary practice. In this article, I’m going to share ﬁve things most conventional veterinarians won’t share with you, either because they don’t know the information or don’t believe in it.
1. Your dog doesn’t need vaccines every year
Many people now know this, but many still don’t and continue to take their animals to the vet’s ofﬁce for annual shots. However, even conventional medical organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association now recommend that most dogs not receive every possible vaccine every year.
Studies have shown that most vaccines on the market today produce many years of immunity. This means that with the exception of limited puppy immunizations and possibly a limited series of boosters given at approximately 1½ years of age, most dogs do not need and should not receive vaccines every year. In my book The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, I discuss a number of potential short-term and long- term problems that can occur as a result of unnecessary vaccinations, including fever, pain at the injection site, nausea, thyroid disease, immune problems of the blood cells and cancer. Even if there was not an increased risk of health problems associated with repeated vaccines, getting your dog immunized every year is a waste of money.
Vaccination, like all medical procedures, should be personally tailored to the needs of each animal. Indoor dogs that rarely go outside and never see another dog have different requirements than those that are outside a lot or traveling around the country competing in canine events.
In place of repeated unnecessary immunizations, a simple blood antibody titer test can determine if and when your dog needs re-vaccination. Most often, the titer test is done to determine antibodies to distemper and parvovirus, the two most common viral diseases in dogs. If titers are low, vaccination can be considered if the dog is healthy and does not have any other specific medical issues.
2. Your dog doesn’t need chemical flea control products
Most of my new patients were formerly receiving monthly flea and tick control chemicals. When I ask their people why they were using these products, the answer is always the same: “My vet told me my dog needed them.” When I then ask them if they have ever seen any fleas or ticks on their dogs, they usually always answer “no.” This answer is not because the products are killing the pests, but because the dog is not exposed to fleas and ticks, making the chemicals unnecessary. While I don’t have a problem using monthly heartworm preventive medication in most parts of the country, to simply put chemicals in or on your dog to prevent fleas and ticks when he has no exposure to these pests doesn’t make sense to me.
If fleas and ticks are a real issue, I don’t have a problem using these chemical products on a limited basis if the inside and outside environments are also treated, preferably with natural therapies. Integrating flea and tick chemicals with natural therapies can reduce the number of chemical preventives needed. But like vaccinations, simply using them without discrimination makes no sense, and I believe it contributes to the declining health I see in many animals.
3. “People food” won’t hurt your animal
Most conventional doctors will tell you never to feed your dog “people food.” Yet “people food” is exactly what goes into dog food, although in the case of low-end commercial diets, the quality of the ingredients is not necessarily healthy or safe. To maximize my patients’ health, I offer people a choice: they can feed a natural or organic processed dog food (thankfully, there are many more manufacturers making these great foods now than when I started as a holistic veterinarian many years ago); or they can feed a homemade diet, either raw or cooked, with a recipe I give them. Since diet is one thing you can control, and a healthy natural diet is the foundation of any holistic health plan, it’s important to feed your dog the best food you can afford.
4. Natural therapies may be more effective and less expensive than conventional medications
Conventional medicine is generally best for acute problems, but a natural approach is usually the best way to go when dealing with chronic issues. In most cases, natural therapies such as herbal remedies, homeopathics, nutritional supplements, and physical treatments including chiropractic, cold laser therapy, and acupuncture work as well as, if not better than, traditional drugs. Also, these natural therapies are usually less expensive than traditional medical therapies. Even in cases where a natural approach may at first appear to be more expensive, long-term costs, as well as the benefit to your dog’s health, usually make them more cost-effective. For example, allergic dogs often respond very well to a combination of fatty acids, antioxidants, herbs, homeopathic, and frequent bathing with organic shampoo. The conventional approach would involve regular use of oral or injectable corticosteroids, antibiotics, or both. While these conventional treatments may initially cost less than the natural ones, the long-term costs can be higher due to increased veterinary visits to monitor liver, thyroid, adrenal, and kidney function to make sure there are no problems arising from chronic steroid and antibiotic usage.
Additionally, animals taking these drugs on a regular basis often develop secondary infections, adding to the cost of the dog’s care. Finally, animals treated with steroids usually don’t live as long as those using natural therapies.
5. A natural approach to healthcare can prevent as well as treat disease
Keep in mind that a natural approach can prevent or minimize diseases as well as treat them. Often, people only turn to natural medicine when an animal is sick. However, a natural approach can work really well to keep your dog healthy, minimizing trips to the veterinarian’s office for illness. Conventional veterinarians generally do a good job of treating disease, especially in cases of acute illness or injury, but natural therapies are preferable most of the time. When you consider all the benefits natural care can offer for preventing as well as treating health problems without the side effects, I think you’ll agree it’s the way to go.