Holistic medicine to me means using ALL aspects of medicine to help
prevent, diagnose, or treat disease. This must include conventional
western medicine as well as alternative modalities such as
supplements, herbals (both western and Chinese), homeopathy, etc.
BullmastiffInfo.org: In your practice you incorporate the knowledge
of both Western and Eastern philosophies. How does help you help
The more we can offer the client, the greater the chance we can help
their pets. It is essential to establish the correct diagnosis and
western medicine is always needed before the correct treatments can
begin. It is so important for our pets to undergo all appropriate
diagnostics including bloodwork, x-rays, ultrasound, biopsies, and
other tests as determined by the veterinarian. We can then look at
all the treatment options, and many times a combination of western
and Chinese medicine is the best way to go.
BullmastiffInfo.org: Please explain what practices are involved
with holistic veterinary medicine.
I prefer to cal it
Complementary Medicine because these modalities are used in
conjunction with conventional medicine. They include acupuncture,
homeopathy, chiropractic therapies, herbal therapy (both western and
eastern), supplements, nutrition, orthomolecular therapy, magnetic
therapy and others.
BullmastiffInfo.org: What is acupuncture? Are there different
methods of acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the process of
stimulating certain points along meridians in the body to create a
physiologic response that helps treat and prevent disease. Many
different techniques can be used when using Traditional Chinese
Medicine (TCM) to diagnose and treat our pets. Variations include
the number of points selected, length of the treatment time, method
of point stimulation, and types of points used.
Meridians are energy channels
in the body - most acupuncture points are located on meridians.
These meridians “connect” the internal organs to the acupuncture
BullmastiffInfo.org: Do these “meridians” differ from species to
Not dramatically when we are talking about mammals. Dogs, cats, and
horses have the same meridians humans do. More studies are required
on birds, but many points have been used with various degrees of
BullmastiffInfo.org: What about in different breeds within the same
The meridians would be in the same anatomical positions in the
BullmastiffInfo.org: How does herbal treatment work?
Chinese herbals work using TCM principals, and not the western
medicine diagnosis. I may see 3 different animals with hip
dysplasia, and each would require a different Chinese herbal
formulation based on the TCM diagnosis. These TCM principals
include Yin/Yang imbalances, hot or cold conditions, wind or damp
conditions, and many others, most of which do not have a western
medicine definition. This is why we ask MANY questions about the
pet’s habits, preferences, and daily behavior, and want to know
about the environment they live in.
BullmastiffInfo.org: Are these herbs easily accessible over the
counter? Or should the herbals that are used be specifically made
There are many sources of Chinese herbals out there. Reputable
companies should only sell herbals to professionals who have a
knowledge of herbals and how to prescribe them. Along those same
lines, anyone who buys herbals (veterinarians, other professionals)
wants to be confident that there is quality control within the
company and we are getting what we order.
of herbals are formulated for humans – I know of only one company
that formulates herbals specifically for dogs, cats, and horses.
Both work equally well and are prescribed in the same manner.
BullmastiffInfo.org: What conditions are most receptive to
acupuncture and herbal treatment?
Painful conditions such as arthritis and back problems usually
respond well. I also find geriatric animals respond well to basic
geriatric support. They get more energy and owners find they
participate in daily activities more. Animals who have paralysis or
weakness in the limbs can also be helped. Many more conditions can
be treated, conditions which wouldn’t immediately come to mind.
Animals with chronic conditions such as kidney and liver disease and
animals with cancer can also benefit from acupuncture and herbals.
I encourage anyone with a pet who is battling a problem to find a
veterinarian who is familiar with alternative therapies and ask what
more can be done. They will be surprised.
BullmastiffInfo.org: How soon would a client see results as a
result of holistic care?
Most of these therapies work to bring the body back into balance so
results can take time. In many animals we see an initial response to
the first 1-2 acupuncture treatments, and they will continue to
improve with more treatments. Some may take 7-8 treatments to see a
response. A few animals will not respond at all.
BullmastiffInfo.org: Would the client have to continue the same
treatment for the duration of their life to continue good health or
would they be “cured” of the actual ailment after a set number of
treatments? Under what circumstances?
This depends. Animals with chronic
conditions (arthritis, cancer, disc problems, kidney disease, etc)
will need ongoing treatment, but the goal is to eventually space
these out so we may only see them every few weeks to months.
Animals with acute conditions (bacterial infections, diarrhea, soft
tissue injuries) may only need a few treatments. And, of course,
each animal responds differently.
BullmastiffInfo.org: Acupuncture and herbal
care is also conducted on humans, would you be able to perform
acupuncture and herbal care on humans as well? Why or why not?
This is not only unwise, but illegal. And this holds true for human
acupuncturists treating animals. We as veterinarians are not
trained in human medicine and, even though much of the physiology
and disease processes are the same, should not attempt to practice
medicine on a human. In the past many human acupuncturists would
do acupuncture on animals, mainly because veterinary acupuncturists
did not exist. This should never be encouraged for many reasons,
the main one being that the proper diagnosis was usually never
made. Now that there are many veterinary acupuncturists out there,
this should not be a problem.
BullmastiffInfo.org: Many families are still hesitant to try
holistic care for their beloved companion. What advice can you give
to these families to become more comfortable with the merge between
holistic and conventional veterinary care?
The first and most important point is that it MUST be a merge of all
modalities. A client should never be told that “this way” is the
only way to treat their animal, whether it be conventional medicine,
or acupuncture, or chiropractic care, or homeopathy… If any
practitioner says this they should go for a second opinion, or third
opinion. Secondly, I think many people are put off by the term
“holistic”. They believe if they see a holistic veterinarian they
will be told that all conventional medicine is bad and they should
stop all medications, vaccines, and other therapies. This is not
true. The best practitioner will use a combination of therapies to
help the pet, and the veterinarians should work together to
formulate the best treatment. And last, they should ask themselves
if they are happy with the results of the specific treatment their
pet is receiving. What about side effects? Are the painkillers
still working? Has the cancer returned? If the current treatment,
whatever it is, is no longer working for their pet, they should ask
their veterinarian to help them find someone who can answer their
questions about alternative therapies.
BullmastiffInfo.org: Are there any books and/or articles that you
recommend for pet owners that would like to become more acquainted
with holistic practices for their pets?
My favorite book for clients about Chinese Medicine is Four Paws Five Directions :by
Cheryl Schwartz DVM. This discusses Traditional
Chinese Medicine theory and how it is applied using acupressure,
herbals, and food.
I also like
Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats A-Z, also by Cheryl Schwartz DVM.
Two other books that discuss acupressure are
A Guide to Feline Acupressure, and
The Well Connected Dog, A Guide To Canine
Acupressure, both by Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis.
There are many
books out there about treating animals in a more natural way and it
is important that clients discuss any treatments with their
veterinarian or a veterinarian who is interested in holistic
BullmastiffInfo.org: Credentials are always important when looking
for a qualified holistic practitioner, what should a client look for
when searching for a holistic veterinarian for their companion?
Many modalities now have certification courses. Veterinarians who
practice acupuncture, chiropractic care, and homeopathy can and
should be certified.
BullmastiffInfo.org: Holistic medicine is slowly becoming more
acceptable by veterinarian clinics that primarily practice Western
medicine and techniques. For those clinics that have not yet opened
their doors to holistic care, what advice do you have for them to
become more comfortable with this Eastern concept?
Many veterinarians will refer their patients for alternative
therapies as a last resort, when no other treatments are working.
Some will never refer for alternative therapies. I believe in both
these cases the veterinarians are not aware of exactly what
conditions can be treated with alternative therapies, or they feel
if western medicine is not helping, nothing can.
the key here. Becoming more familiar with alternative therapies
will help all veterinarians talk about these with their clients and
offer more treatment options early in the course of a disease.
Also, more and more clients are seeking treatments other than
medications, chemotherapy, or surgeries, or want to minimize these
if they can. They should trust their veterinarian to give them the
most recent information or be able to refer them to someone who can.
BullmastiffInfo.org: What is the best way to contact you for an
appointment and/or consultation?
I can be contacted at
will only be able to answer general questions about Traditional
Chinese Medicine and other alternative therapies without actually
seeing an animal.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
and other complementary therapies are gaining acceptance and
popularity in the United States, but have been practiced in other
areas of the world for hundreds and even thousands of years. I
truly believe that it is our responsibility as pet owners and
veterinarians to research and offer the best possible care for our
loved ones, whether two- or four-legged.
BullmastiffInfo.org would like to
personally thank Dr. Carol A. Vavra for taking the time to share her thoughts and experience with our readers!
And our thanks to Hooch for allowing us to photograph him during one
of his treatments for hip dysplasia. If you would
like more information about Holistic Medicine, please contact
Dr. Carol A. Vavra at
Dr. Carol A.
Niceville, Florida United States