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Chatper 47: Holistic veterinary care: Treating the system, not the cancer
In Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine (CAVM) and integrative veterinary practice, we work cooperatively with our patients’ biological systems as we attempt to gently support organs, drain toxins, and improve cellular energy production. Because each patient’s illness is a unique expression of his or her own biology, therapy is individualized. We don’t treat a patient’s cancer; we treat the system that gave rise to the tumor. When a patients are ill, we need to do simple things to help them begin to heal :

The neurological system will not allow deeper healing until the body is able to relax and rest. This is also necessary so clients and veterinarians feel comfortable discussing a wide variety of subjects.

Good stuff helps us build and repair the body. The most important good stuff we have is food, so getting a patient on the right diet is critical to healing. In treating chronic diseases like cancer, all patients get some sort of therapeutic nutrition as part of their individualized health program.

As toxins accumulate in the body, they damage tissue and block healing. Toxins can create diseases as well. A variety of treatments can help the body to clear toxins and drain them from tissues.

The pet’s steward and veterinarian communicate and respond as needed to adjust therapy as the case progresses.

With Jazzy, we are using many different products that work synergistically to support her system and make it harder for cancer cells to grow, reproduce and spread. She eats a low-carbohydrate, grain-free, high-protein, high-fat diet packed with green vegetables like kale and broccoli, which directly inhibit cancer growth.

Digestive system support. A major part of Jazzy’s care involved first supporting her digestive system. Roughly 80 percent of a dog’s immune system surrounds the gut. The microenvironment of the intestines is critical to absorbing nutrients and supporting normal immune responses. New research shows that beneficial organisms called probiotic bacteria don’t just populate the gut; they also appear to modulate the function of other bacteria and the intestinal microenvironment. A patient who cannot properly digest and absorb nutrients will not have optimal healing potential, so this attention to diet and digestion is essential.

Herbal support. Herbs are highly useful nutrients for patients with any chronic medical condition. Special herbs that contain sophisticated plant chemicals called adaptogens make patients feel better and help them adapt to disease conditions. Other herbs assist in improving immune activity of killer cells, draining toxins and supporting organs like the liver and kidneys. Some herbs can actually block the growth of blood vessels into tumors, an important function known as antiangiogenesis, while others can actually cause tumor cells to mature and die.

Detoxification. When cancer cells die they release massive amounts of highly toxic material. Natural substances can be used to assist in draining toxic material and resuscitating damaged cells. A major use of natural medicines is to support such drainage and detoxification functions. When we use radiation or chemotherapy to kill cancer cells, it is helpful to also support the clean-up necessary afterward. Natural therapies perform that function in an integrative environment, and that is the basis of holistic and integrative cancer therapies. Jazzy is a good example of how that works!

Integrative veterinary medicine depends upon effective research to inform and guide our decision-making processes. Because pharmaceutical companies in search of patentable, for-profit drugs pay for most research, the pool of funds for integrative veterinary medical research is much smaller. Private foundations and donors who care deeply about improving health and health care for people and animals fund much of the work. If you want to join us in improving integrative veterinary research and education, please visit the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) Foundation website at and make a donation.
Richard Palmquist , DVM, is chief of integrative health services at Centinela Animal Hospital in Inglewood, Calif. Past president and research chair of the AHVMA, author and international speaker, he has consulted with ABC and CBS news. Contact him through 

March 2012
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