The Thought behind the Needles, the Herbs, and Alternatives


The Terms:

The Meaning:

What does it all mean?

Where does it fit my life and in my pet’s life?

I can’t even read the back of a food label anymore without mispronouncing ingredients!! 

This blog was created in order to answer some questions you may have regarding these types of treatment modalities. With all the different strong beliefs out there, confusion with words, and uncertainty, it’s no wonder we can get so easily disoriented.

Let’s start by defining these different phrases for you as best we know how.

According to NIH (the national center for integrative health), the definitions are pretty simple.  Complementary medicine is when alternative medicine is used along with conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is when non-mainstream practices are used in place of Western or conventional medicine. Integrative medicine is a little bit of a gray zone between these, and mostly means “bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way.” Natural medicine or natural healing can be grouped to

gether with alternative therapy using natural and organic home remedies.  An example of this would 

be my mother, who felt that apple cider vinegar was the cure for everything that ails you!

The Purpose:

While some people may already be very interested in complementary and integrative medicine, some may not feel very comfortable with it as a modality. How can some random laser fix a skin issue when I can’t see anything happening? You want to stick needles in my cat and expect it to help back pain?  You think these herbs that smell a bit like grass can help my dog’s neck issue? A change in diet really doesn’t make that big of a difference…does it?

No, I get it. I was conventionally trained in veterinary school. While trying to cram all things in regarding the body system of all animals, the disease processes and how they worked, all treatment options, there wasn’t much time to focus on ‘alternative medicine.’ At the time of my schooling, I also didn’t understand how alternative treatments could work. Is there science behind it?  People still joke by saying I am practicing ‘voo-doo’ medicine!

After some years out of school, I realized that sometimes we don’t have all the answers or the ability to manage pain even with all our conventional advancements. I started to become frustrated when I couldn’t give other options to alleviate pain, couldn’t always address animals that wouldn’t take pills, and was interested in seeing each patient, each animal, more as a whole being rather than just a presenting problem such as ‘back pain,’ ‘diabetes,’ or ‘lick granuloma.’

The purpose of integrative medicine, for all intents and purposes, is choice and options. We have scientific evidence that these modalities work in certain situations. We have seen the proof with the application in our hospital. The purpose is to help your animal, your pet, your furbaby, any safe way we can to alleviate any pain or discomfort that may be present and to promote overall balance, whether that be a mental or physical condition.

The Application:

That depends on you and your animal! I can, however, go over some of the types of complementary medicine we are currently offering, and expand on where we want to go as well!  Because these can be very detailed for each specific modality, we plan on being more informative in subsequent blog articles! Keep watching to learn more.

What we do now:

  • Acupuncture – Dr. Tracy is currently certified in Veterinary Acupuncture from the Chi Institute. This means that she has not only pursued the training, she has also gone through the process to achieve her certification by pursuing multiple case studies and additional training.
  • Cold Laser – cold laser therapy utilizes photons of light to bring in healing cells and reduce inflammation. It can be used in a number of acute and chronic conditions such as skin issues, arthritis, chronic ear infections, and joint issues. Once again, we will address some of the myths/truths about this therapy and how it works along with testimonials in a later blog post.
  • Herbal Medication – during her acupuncture training, Dr. Tracy studied traditional Chinese Medicine as a whole, which also included Herbal Medication. This has been integrated into the therapeutic protocol for many of her patients, and she plans on continuing broaden this offering over the next several months.
  • Fear Free Certification/Cat Friendly Practice – this may not seem alternative or that is has anything to do with integrative medicine, but we believe that mental health and wellness play a huge role in how comfortable you and your pet are. By attempting to apply Fear Free protocols to our exams and procedures, we are able to ideally help your pets respond better overall by making wellness and sick visits less stressful.

Where we’d like to go:

  • Herbal Medication Certification – while this may take a few years, Dr. Tracy is planning to achieve her CVCH, or Certification of Veterinary Chinese Herbs
  • Physical therapy certification – this is also on the horizon to integrate physical therapy into our protocols for overall health of your patient and to aid with pain and inflammation.

We look forward to writing more about this topic, and answering any questions you may have. Please let us know if you have any questions, or anything you are interested in we have yet to address!

Have a great end of your summer!

Dr. Tracy and Blue Ridge Animal Hospital