CREATURE FEATURE : Healing the Puppy Within
You’re worried--the dog hasn’t chased a car in weeks. Or the cat has been ignoring you more than usual. For many Southern Californians, that no longers means a trip to a vet and wrestling horse pills down a pet’s throat. Instead, it means turning to a new breed of veterinarians who are exploring alternatives to traditional drug-based treatments and healing their patients with acupuncture, chiropractic and other practices.
Of the more than 53,000 veterinarians in the United States, only about 200 to 300 use alternative treatments. There are about 10 such practitioners in California, says Stephen Blake, a San Diego veterinarian who has taken a non-traditional approach with his patients for more than a decade.
“I like the word holistic,” says Blake, who has been a vet for 21 years. “It encompasses looking at the patient as a whole rather than just one diseased part.” By that he means “looking at the mental, emotional and physical body.”
Blake began his search for alternative treatments because he was uncomfortable prescribing animal versions of medications that he wouldn’t take himself because of their side effects. Little had been written on veterinary applications of holistic remedies, so he began reading up on human treatments and gradually adapted what he learned for use with animals.
Blake now uses acupuncture, chiropractic, reflexology, nutrition and homeopathic and herbal remedies to steer his furry patients back to good health. But he says he will turn to chemicals or surgery in extreme cases where the holistic approach fails to work.
Some pet owners left him after he made the shift to alternative medicine, but others have come to him specifically because of it. Ruth Sandler, for example, brought her terrier, Flopsy, whose allergies were causing severe breathing problems. “Traditional vets prescribed more and more chemicals and she was still getting sicker,” says Sandler. “Four different veterinarians wanted to put her to sleep her before I took her to Dr. Blake in desperation.”
Blake gradually weaned Flopsy off drugs and commercial dog foods and put her on a regimen of four different homeopathic remedies. “We had been giving her eight or 12 pills a day,” says Sandler, “but within six months of those first treatments, she was like a completely different dog.”