A paradigm shift in the animal health care world has horse owners seeking alternative treatments of their horses. Integrative Medicine takes a more holistic approach to animal disorders than the present medical model that focuses mainly on neutraceutical solutions. With more and more vets becoming truly integrative, it can be easier than you think to find one who is right for you. We asked three top vets to weigh in on finding the right integrative care for our horses.
Q: How would someone find an integrative veterinarian and what qualities or training should they be looking for?
A: Cynthia Lankenau, DVM: All of the Certifying organizations of the different Alternative Modalities have lists of practitioners and their level of training. One should enquire as to the veterinarian's level of training; that is, did they just attend some classes or did they follow through with the requirements for full certification and what percentage of their practice is involved with the use of alternative modalities. I would recommend looking for a practitioner that has achieved full certification and is using that particular modality in at least 50% of their cases.
A: Rose DiLeva, VMD, MS, CVCP, CVA: All integrative veterinarians should be licensed veterinarians. After that most will take a number of courses to get certified in their particular modality. The best place to find a holistic vet is www.ahvma.org (American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association). It will allow you to pick a veterinarian by state or name. It will also tell you what holistic modalities that particular veterinarian practices (acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, energy medicine, etc.)
A: Joyce Harman DVM, MRCVS: The best way to find one is to look at holistic veterinary websites for people in your area and who practice and have training in modalities you are interested in. It is perfectly acceptable to ask a vet what training they have because if they have good training they will be happy to tell you. Start asking around in your horse community if anybody has used them or heard of them. When it comes to Chiropractic or Osteopathy it is a good idea to watch them before they work on your animals; some people have rough techniques and there is no need to be rough with your horse.
Q: Do you think that vets are also as passionate about more holistic approaches and are seeking out additional training and resources?
A: Dr. Lankenau: Being totally biased, I think that the veterinarians that have become involved in holistic medicine are very passionate about what they do. It takes years of extra training to become proficient in these healing modalities.
A: Dr. DiLeva: At the present time I believe that more traditional veterinarians are becoming more interested in the holistic approach. This comes, in large part, from the demand from our clients. Many individuals utilize some form of holistic care in their own lives and want the same care and treatment for their companion animals.
A: Dr. Harman: Yes, there are many more veterinarians becoming interested and those who still just practice traditional medicine are more willing to accept you having your horse being worked on with holistic medicine.
Q: What types of modalities are being accepted by vets who are becoming more integrated?
A: Dr. Lankenau: There is a wide range of individual variation. Massage, acupuncture and chiropractic care have become very common. Many practitioners are finding that drug therapy is no longer effective in these chronically ill animals and seek out training in alternative modalities in order to help their clients. Herbal medicine is becoming very popular, as is nutraceutical support and essential oils. I think once a veterinarian opens the door to one type of alternative modality, they very quickly understand the importance and value of the other modalities. Yet there are still many veterinarians who are quite frankly afraid and threatened by this type of medicine.
A: Dr. DiLeva: In my opinion, acupuncture, chiropractic and homeopathy have gained notice in the veterinary community, in part, because these modalities require significant additional education and participation in case reports and potential publication.
A: Dr. Harman: Vets who are becoming more integrative are implementing chiropractic, acupuncture, and nutritional approaches. Further down the list are vets who are interested in herbs; essential oils and homeopathic are secondary interests usually after they have learned one of the more common ones.
Q: As with most integrative medicine I would think you need a balance of both traditional and non-traditional approaches. How does a horse owner know if their vet has the right balance in their approach?
A: Dr. Lankenau: I just use alternative medicine. Alternative medicine excels at disease prevention; then there is no need for any other care. I feel that alternative medicine should be the first choice of treatment and conventional care resorted to last. Every veterinarian practices differently. Every client has different expectations and their own preference of therapeutic approach. Every client has to talk with their veterinarian about their approach when treating an animal and together decide if they are compatible.
A: Dr. DiLeva: I would ask to know where they received their training.
A: Dr. Harman: A lot of it is faith from the horseowner. There are many tools in the alternative medicine toolbox to treat the horse. The joy and the frustration of holistic practice is that each animal is an individual and will respond differently.
Dr. Rose DiLeva is a conventionally trained veterinarian who began her journey at the University of Pennsylvania. Since opening her practice, first as a mobile vet and then as a stationary one in Chadds Ford PA, Dr. Rose has continued her training, but in alternative modalities. She is certified in Chinese Herbology, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as Chiropractic treatments. www.altpetdoc.com
Joyce C. Harman, DVM, MRCVS, operates Harmany Equine Clinic, Ltd. in Washington, VA, 540-675-1855. Acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, herbs, nutrition and saddle fitting make up most of the practice. www.harmanyequine.com
Dr. Cynthia Lankenau owns a mixed animal practice in Colden, New York (Holistic Center for Veterinary Care) where she works with all species of animals in a holistic setting. She is certified in acupuncture, chiropractic and homeopathy. She has studied Western and Chinese herbs extensively and is the president of the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association for 2010-2012. She lectures at AHVMA, AVH and VBMA regularly.
• The Veterinary Institute of Integrative Medicine (www.viim.org) has a database of holistic veterinarians to help animal owners find a veterinarian to support them in their integrative approach.
• American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association - www.ahvma.org
• International Veterinary Acupuncture Society - www.ivas.org
• American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture - www.aava.org
• American Veterinary Chiropractic Association - www.avca.com