Holistic treatment of pets: Veterinary medicine is changing

Greg Martinez, DVM, has worked at Gilroy Veterinary Hospital with Dennis Harrigan, DVM, for more than 30 years, and with Marc Van Every, DVM, for three years. Over the last 10 years, he has become very interested in the natural role of nutrition in treati

How veterinary medicine has changed! Most of the medication and equipment I use today, I never learned about in school. Our pharmacy has 10 times the variety of flea control products, antibiotics and pain relievers than when I started 30 years ago.
X-rays take only seconds to view after exposure and can be emailed to a specialist for a “second opinion.” Their report is often received within a few hours. It used to take days to mail the “films” and receive a report. You can alter the quality of the digital films by right clicking the mouse, just as we do when we edit pictures.
Our ultrasound can peer into the organs and workings of the heart, just as x-rays have always assessed the bones and shapes of the organs. Our in-house laboratory can give an organ “report card,” assessing the health of red and white blood cells, liver, kidneys, thyroid gland and pancreas. After taking blood, those results can be ready in an hour.
The term “holistic” used to infer natural healing practices. These days, the holistic treatment of a patient really means that we consider the animal as an individual. Each pet may need a different approach to solve problems. In the “holistic” approach, we consider exercise, obesity, vaccinations, flea control, diet and medication of each pet. A pet may need to lose weight, eat differently, need medication or a different schedule of flea control or vaccinations to feel their best.
Therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic are now more commonly used to relieve muscle strain and the pain of arthritis. In fact, our clinic has invested in a “cold laser” to help animals with pain and other medical conditions. The K-laser uses focused infrared light waves to increase circulation and healing in inflamed areas. Like acupuncture, it helps the body do its job with less or no medication! This therapy is excellent for dogs and cats who are sensitive to medication, are older or for those owners who want to try a “drug free” treatment.
There are tons of articles on the effects of diet on health. The overwhelming number of choices in the pet store is proof of changing ideas about nutrition for our pets. I used to treat bowel problems, skin problems and ear infections in dogs with some mention of diet, medication and flea control. Now I make sure that owners receive nutritional counseling for almost every medical issue. Changing the diet may not always help, but when it does, it helps prevent needless suffering and endless medication for itching, sore ears, chronic diarrhea and other problems.
Here are a couple of nutritional tips:
• Wheat gluten is commercial food and treats that may cause itching, ear problems and diarrhea. However, it isn’t uncommon for an owner to buy a decent commercial “grain free” food, then feed biscuits, dental chews or even “pill pockets” filled with wheat. Changing the food won’t help unless all food, biscuits and treats are considered. If you change to a “grain free” diet to help with chronic medical issues, you need to know the ingredients of everything the patient eats. Salmon and sweet potato commercial food has helped me clear up many ear, skin and diarrhea problems in dogs.
• Pets with a dull, dry and/or flaky coat may need more healthy oils in their diet. You can add olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil or fish oil to the diet. Adding one teaspoon to one tablespoon of oil several times weekly, or one to four teaspoons of fish oil several times weekly may really help a coat shine. You can also try a few canned sardines weekly – if your pet likes them and you can stand the smell!
Greg Martinez, DVM, has worked at Gilroy Veterinary Hospital with Dennis Harrigan, DVM, for more than 30 years, and with Marc Van Every, DVM, for three years. Over the last 10 years, he has become very interested in the natural role of nutrition in treating chronic medical problems and to prevent future ones.

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