FloridaWild Vet Hospital

Integrative Veterinary Medicine: Caring for Both the Cat’s Body & Mind

The practice of integrative veterinary medicine has been growing exponentially. Integrative veterinary practices combine traditional medicine with a variety of alternative therapies. Integrative veterinary medicine focuses on treating both the cat’s body and mind; the integral ingredient in treating the cat as a whole.

Leo (FloridaWild patient) receiving acupuncture

Presently many kitty guardians are seeking this integrative path for their pet’s veterinary care because it offers the most comprehensive treatment approach. However, in some areas, finding an integrative practitioner can be somewhat difficult since many veterinarians trained in this modality are not conveniently located. Many Integrative Veterinary Medical practices are generally only available in highly populated cities. This consideration can make it difficult for some guardians to be able to take advantage of integrative care

An interesting question, “Why are Holistic Veterinarians so scarce?” was posed by Nancy Scanlan, DVM in her article published in “Healthy Pets”. Dr Scanlan is the Executive Director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation. According to Dr. Scanlan the reason for the lack of the availability of holistic and integrative veterinary practitioners is “because holistic medicine isn’t taught in veterinary schools. Interested veterinarians must spend additional time and money to get training to practice the most complex types of holistic medicine – the types of therapies you are most likely to need for your pet. US Veterinary schools don’t require training in Holistic Medicine.”

Over the years I have become acquainted with several “traditional”-practice veterinarians who, unfortunately, maintain that many of the therapies that are provided for pets in an integrative practice are basically “woo-woo”, “snake oil” – worthless. They base their attack on the inaccurate premise that there is no “scientific” proof that these techniques really work.

In fact some of these “hard-lined” traditional practitioners still consider that if a medical condition seems to have resolved, then the probable “cure” was the result of the disease coincidentally going into remission, or that it was due to a “placebo effect” causing an improvement in the pet’s condition. Many of these traditional medicine-only practitioners apparently refuse to waste their time doing any meaningful research or even consider the many advantages that holistic/integrative medicine offers. Fortunately, the tide is beginning to turn.

In reality, if a cat is being cared for holistically using acupuncture or is receiving Chinese Herbal medicine, then it is impossible for the cat to have a “placebo effect”. Cats cannot comprehend what the treatment is or anticipate its expected outcome. Although, in human medicine, patients may receive a “placebo effect” because they often expect that the treatment will be successful. But come now; how can a cat have the same expectations as humans. However, these cats clearly demonstrate that they are feeling better.

According to Dr. Scanlan, acupuncture treatment has become more widely accepted. She writes, “The most popular type of Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine (CAVM) training for veterinarians is acupuncture. Over 4,000 veterinarians have become certified in the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS), Chi Institute, or the Colorado Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians’ course. Some of the 29 veterinary schools do offer elective courses in CAVM, but they are only elective – not required in their main curriculum.

Anna Carina (FloridaWild patient) relaxing with her electro-acupuncture

Dr Scanlan explains the reason why acupuncture is the only holistic method used regularly in veterinary schools. It is because there is a great deal of research that has been done on this treatment modality. In fact, acupuncture has more research articles published than any other form of alternative treatments.

The American Holistic Veterinary Association (AHVMA) is the leading organization in the field of veterinary medicine. It is presently elevating the profession through education, innovation and the advocacy of integrative medicine. The organization quarterly publishes a peer-reviewed scientific journal, “The Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association”; the only peer-reviewed scientific journal focusing exclusively on integrative veterinary medicine.

Holistic/Integrative veterinary medicine has greatly helped my own cats as well as many of my friends’ kitties. Our two felines are extremely fortunate to be cared for by the awesome veterinarians at FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital where integrative veterinary medicine is practiced.

I am thrilled that holistic/integrative veterinary medicine is rapidly gaining the respect it deserves. I am hopeful that all veterinary schools will make CAVM fully integrated into their curriculum. This will make integrative veterinary medicine far more widely available for all pet guardians.

By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW (Ret.)

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