May 2, 2011

The Declining State of Canine Health. Can Holistic Veterinary Medicine Save Our Dogs? One Vet Believes So.

Our dogs are suffering from the same health issues that plague Americans. They’re fatter, more likely to die from disease and traditional medicine seems to be without answers.

I asked Dr. Judy Jasek, a holistic vet and owner of the Belleview Animal Clinic in Englewood, Colorado (www.belleviewanimalclinic.com), what dog owners can do to save their best friends.

What is the current state of health of the canine world, generally?
Unfortunately, I think it’s declining. There are more diseases we haven’t seen before. Cancer is almost common for old dogs. We are seeing chronic inflammation, chronic itchiness, chronic ear problems and autoimmune blood disease. And conventional veterinary medicine does not know what to do with these things. Holistic medicine offers more options.

In light of that, what advice do you have for dog owners to improve their dog’s health?
First and foremost, fresh food must be the mainstay of your dog’s diet. It’s a daily insult to the body not to give your dog fresh food. A steady diet of processed, dry food is very detrimental despite what the big dog food companies would have you believe. If nothing else, feed your dog some leftovers. Next, we need to back off from all the vaccinations. It does way more harm than is recognized.

Do you recommend any vaccinations at all, then?
Yes, dogs should be vaccinated for Parvo and we actually do see cases of Parvo. (Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease the can cause severe intestinal problems, and cardiac failure, particularly in puppies). Colorado requires a rabies vaccination although we do not see many cases of rabies in this state. An alternative to many vaccines is called nosode, which is a holistic method of vaccinating. That involves putting a little bit of the disease in a homeopathic solution that is administered to the dog. It stimulates that part of the dog’s body to eliminate the disease.

Are more people coming around to the holistic point of view for their pet’s health?
Absolutely. We are getting new clients all the time because people are looking for more options and choices than traditional vets can provide. And more importantly, people don’t just want to be told what to do. People know there is more to it than a bag of “prescription” dog food and vaccines. They want to be part of the decision of their pet’s health. Holistic vets are the minority now, but it’s a growing movement.

Can you succinctly explain the difference between a holistic vet and one who practices conventional medicine?
The most fundamental answer is that the holistic vet looks at and treats the whole animal – body, mind, and soul while a traditional vet treats only the symptom.

Provide a common example, please.
The owner of a very itchy dog visits my office. The dog’s conventional vet has put the dog on prednisone to control the itching. That’s a short-term solution, a band-aid. To treat this dog, I want to know what causes the itching. So, I look at the dog’s environment, diet, stress factors, and then work to find a solution that will help rebalance the dog’s body. That could be Chinese herbs, a change in diet, homeopathic treatments, acupuncture or a combination of things. The holistic approach is broader, strengthens the dog’s entire immune system, and is ultimately healthier.

You didn’t begin your career as a holistic vet, what made you switch?
I experienced some chronic back and leg pain that was finally relieved by some holistic bodywork after conventional treatments failed. And I had a horse with severe behavioral problems, which made him practically unapproachable. A chiropractor completely turned that horse around. That planted the seed. Now, as I learn more the more enthusiastic I am about the holistic way. While you run into dead ends on the traditional side, you have so many options holistically.

What’s your greatest pleasure as a holistic vet?
I love to see an animal get that spark back in their eyes. It’s rewarding to see them get well and live the vibrant life they deserve, especially those that are older and have had problems.

Dr. Jasek has been practicing holistic medicine since 2003. She earned her DVM from Colorado State University in 1988. Belleview Animal Clinic offers the following holistic treatments: acupuncture, nutritonal counseling, chiropractic, Chinese herbs, homotoxicology,laser therapy, physical therapy and nosodes.

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