What is a holistic vet?

in Contributors by

By Tracie Korol

When I came to the Lowcountry seven years ago, the word “organic” had not yet arrived. It is fairly common now though used in a fairly cavalier manner as is “natural” (a word that means nothing) and now, “holistic”, a word that has been adopted to placate a growing demand for “wellness”, and you know how I feel about that word. So, what does holistic mean now that we see it attached to local veterinary practices?  What should it mean?

Traditional veterinary practice (conventional) is much like what Western medicine is for humans. The focus is aimed at determining what the problem is and then trying to solve it. It is based primarily in pharmacological medicine. A traditional veterinarian may very well have your pet’s best interest at heart, but he or she is sometimes at a loss as to how best solve a chronic or undetermined condition. Western veterinary medicine offers all the diagnostic doo-dads — ultrasound, X-ray, MRI, chemotherapy, blood transfusions, all the way up to organ transplants and, as many of us know, tend to run up the bill. They will vaccinate pets every year and sell you all kinds of pesticides to put in or on your animal.

Holistic veterinarians practice a more Eastern thought in that the body is treated as an individual, and as a whole. While two different patients may present similar symptoms, their respective treatments may be quite dissimilar. In addition, holistic veterinarian practice is centered on keeping the pet healthy overall to prevent issues from starting. When a chronic issue surfaces, holistic veterinarians are likely to look first to whole food diets, herbal supplements,  nutraceuticals and complementary and alternative therapies such as chiropractic, homeopathy, acupuncture, essential oils and energy healing (Reiki).  They do not over-vaccinate nor do they recommend poisons oral or topical.

Diseases are seen as a natural course of life and not necessarily something to ‘solve.’ Moreover, health and disease are viewed as a natural rhythm of life and fully inter-related. Holistic medicine is about finding the root cause of a problem and treating from there, not simply treating the symptom. Often, it’s not the “quick fix” Americans have come to expect. For instance, steroids will stop your dog from itching in a few hours but why is your dog itching in the first place? For sure, you’ll be back in three weeks for another shot when Doodle begins to dig at her belly. A holistic vet works with the animals than rather than do battle against their disease symptoms. He’ll ask about food, lifestyle, reaction to stimuli (heat and cold, sound, dampness, etc.). He’ll ask about your dog’s spirit.

An integrative approach is one that combines conventional practice with holistic practice. These vets have a firm ground in traditional medicine, but recognize that holistic medicine is a valuable addition and, in some cases, be the best course of action. This type of veterinarian realizes that conventional and holistic medicine can complement one another. This is the kind of doc I look for.

I worked with and trained under many fine (and now famous) integrative vets in New England and was disheartened to learn that like “organic”, holistic hadn’t yet made it to this area. However, I recently found Charlie Timmerman, DVM, member of the AHVMA (American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association) at the Aiken Veterinary Clinic.

Seven of my dog friends are now friends of Dr. Charlie. Four of those friends were sent home to die, one had chronic itches, one has heart disease and one a rare auto-immune disorder. The dogs sent home to die from various cancers have all had a drastic reduction in tumor size, they’re healthier than they have ever been (most likely), some have had ancillary ailments vanish along the way and all are doing well.  My itchy friend is in a one-year program to forever eradicate the cause of her “allergy”, a process that involves homeopathy, auto-sanguis treatment and a recently added clinical trial. None of the treatments involve synthetic pharmaceuticals and all included a drastic change of diet — healthy fresh foods and raw proteins. The owners of the death sentence dogs are delighted they have a few more years with their Best Friends. And, it’s all pretty easy and infinitely cheaper.  It takes a little more time, but I’m willing to give time to the creatures I love.

As for Dr. Charlie, he’s in the office Mondays and Thursdays.