DC veterinarians employ holistic treatment methods
Angie's List member Karen Irvin says she's convinced that acupuncture treatments helped relieve her dog Amiga's joint pain. So much so, she says, that "I would try acupuncture myself for pain control if it were ever necessary."
Irvin says the holistic treatments administered by highly rated Del Ray Animal Hospital in Alexandria, Va., during a three-year period improved the quality of life for the Labrador retriever and German shepherd mix, until she died at age 14. "Because she's a dog, it wasn't a placebo effect," the Alexandria resident says of the acupuncture treatments, which cost about $450 for a six-week course. "She didn't know she was supposed to feel better."
Dr. Anne Mixson, Amiga's veterinarian at Del Ray, earned her acupuncture credentials a decade ago when it remained a relatively rare specialty. She also trained in Chinese herbal medicine and homeopathy. "More and more, it's become mainstream," Mixson says of the holistic and Eastern practices that she integrates with conventional medicine. "It's pretty amazing what it can do. A lot of times drugs don't help for these [pets] or they don't tolerate them, but I can get more quality of life for the patient."
Although holistic treatments can't fix ailments such as cancer or injuries that require surgery, they can still play a vital role in a veterinarian's overall care, says Dr. Jordan Kocen of highly rated SouthPaws Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Center in Fairfax, Va. "A veterinarian's job is to decide which is the best therapy," Kocen says. "The more tools in your bag, the more you have to work with."
Nancy Scanlan, executive director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, says vets who practice holistic medicine require no additional legal certification, but they should seek additional speciality training. "Veterinarians who haven't gone through some type of certification or additional training usually do not have adequate skills to perform holistic medicine," she says.
Local vets say they tell patients upfront that holistic approaches take longer and don't always work. "Some people come with a bias against Western medicine, or a bias against alternative medicine," says Dr. Jane Morse of highly rated Ballston Animal Hospital in Arlington, Va. "Many come because they're at a dead end and other vets say there's nothing more we can do."
Angie's List member Marty Post of West Springfield turned to Kocen at SouthPaws for holistic treatments after her basset hound, Fred, developed an ear infection. Although Post says she's not sure that the Chinese herbs Kocen prescribed cured Fred's infection, she can't rule out their benefits. "I think they helped," she says.