Integrative medicine is an emerging field of medicine which combines the best options from multiple conventional and alternative medical therapies to improve patient health and treat disease. By utilizing all reasonable medical therapies, integrative medicine can help resolve the underlying disease condition, prevent or minimize treatment side effects, maximize successful treatment outcomes, and improve quality of life in ways that is often not possible with a single medical system. This may seem like an intuitive concept, and many people are now seeking this type of medicine for themselves and their pets. So how does integrative veterinary medicine differ from traditional conventional medicine?
Integrative veterinary medicine uses many of the techniques of traditional conventional medicine, including diagnostic testing like bloodwork or x-rays, surgery, and pharmaceutical therapy. These conventional techniques are great for helping provide a picture of what is wrong with the pet, and for treating acute and severe illnesses where time is of the essence. They often fall short, however, when a diagnosis cannot be reached or when a pet has a chronic problem such as an allergy. These techniques can also be invasive and have multiple side-effects. This is where complementary therapies come in.
Complementary therapies are also known as alternative or holistic therapies and include things like acupuncture, massage therapy, homeopathy, homotoxicology, chiropractic, herbal medicine, supplements, and dietary therapies among others. These therapies share the common goals of restoring balance in the body, supporting the body to heal itself, and maintaining wellness instead of just treating symptoms. They tend to work more slowly and generally are gentler with fewer side effects. Complementary therapies are great for chronic conditions, which are much more prevalent as our pets are living longer, but they can fall short in acute or severe conditions.
Thus, integration of conventional and complementary therapies provides the best of both worlds—quick (sometimes life-saving) symptom treatment combined with the support to heal the body and maintain health. Using both together allows a more thorough treatment of an individual patient, can minimize side-effects, and can lead to quicker healing with less recurrence of disease. With integrative medicine, other factors that may contribute to disease, such as diet, environment, stress or anxiety, and genetics, can be considered and included in the treatment plan. The beauty of integrated veterinary medicine is that it can be adjusted to meet individual patient needs and owner preferences. What works for one pet with a particular disease may not work for another pet with that disease due to individual differences in metabolism, tolerance of treatments or therapies, and owner preference.
At Harmony Veterinary Center, we strive to provide integrative veterinary medicine to each patient in conjunction with client philosophies. Some clients prefer a more conventional approach and some prefer a more integrative approach. We do our best to adapt to your needs. Most of the alternative modalities are not taught in veterinary school and require special training and knowledge gained through independent research, coursework and certification. Because of the breadth of alternative therapies, it is not possible to understand and provide all alternative therapies. We are happy to research alternative therapies you may be interested in or to refer you to another practitioner to help provide that therapy.