Canine well-being: integrative vet care

Photo by Arseny Togulev on Unsplash

Usually, my holistic vet helps my dogs get better when they are sick or injured. She works with homeopathy, herbs and diet to restore or optimize health. When suitable, I include essential oils and acupressure to the healing process. However, if I need a quick diagnosis or there is an emergency, I work with a local conventional vet because my holistic vet is a two-hour drive away. Equally if surgery is required because my holistic vet is not set up for such procedures.

Combining both, conventional and holistic approaches, is called integrative care.

There are four local vet clinics in my area and even though I have always been treated politely, I have never felt comfortable declining their suggested treatment (pharmaceuticals) and explaining that I will seek counsel with my holistic vet. At times I have felt so uncomfortable that I did not speak up and just paid for the prescribed drugs, never giving them to my dogs. It just seemed easier that way as there appeared to be an unbridgeable gap between our understandings. Being so inauthentic doesn’t sit well with me. So I keep pushing myself to explore options that work for everyone involved.

Step with care and great tact ,
and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.

Dr Seuss

One evening recently, I noticed my 7-year old Blue Heeler X, Lenny, had a swelling on his face. After having a look at it I was fairly certain that it was tooth related and not an emergency that needed immediate attention. I gave him homeopathic pain relief and contacted my holistic vet in the morning, providing her with photos. She suspected an infection and thought the tooth likely would have to be extracted. I was not thrilled at the prospect of needing to involve a conventional vet but it had to be done.

Through being a foster carer for an animal rescue I had met a vet who I’d always found easy to talk to. In fact, when I took my Cane Corso to her a few years back to confirm my suspicion that he had ruptured his cruciate ligament, I was pleasantly surprised about her reaction when telling her that I was not going to choose surgery for him. She told me of two of her clients with big dogs (one a Lab, one a Newfoundland) who had decided on a non-surgical healing path for their pets too and that both had recovered very well. The suggested conventional treatment for a completely ruptured cruciate ligament in a large dog is pretty much always surgery.

I decided, she would be the vet for what I had in mind for Lenny’s tooth problem. I could only get an appointment in a week but that was okay because homeopathics had already reduced the swelling and Lenny wasn’t too perturbed, eating well and behaving as always. It also gave me time to wrap my head around how to best broach the subject with the vet of intending to do post-surgery care with homeopathics. I could have simply done what I did in the past, paying for and taking home the medication but not giving it to Lenny. But that wouldn’t have been genuine which is a trait I value highly. I also hold being safe in high esteem, that includes emotional safety. Having had such a positive experience previously with this vet and her openness to non-conventional ways, I felt enough confidence to give being fully transparent a go with her.

See the bulge on his right side? That was the swelling caused by a tooth infection.
Homeopathics returned his face to normal within 24 hours.

At the appointment I showed the vet the photos of what Lenny’s face and inside of his mouth had looked like a week ago. She was astonished to note that there was no external swelling visible at all. But she was fairly certain that at least one tooth if not several would have to come out, she would have a more accurate diagnosis after the x-ray. I asked what post-surgical care typically looks like for this type of procedure and was told antibiotics and nerve blockers (painkillers). Then I inquired how she would feel about me using homeopathics (as advised by my holistic vet) instead. She said she was happy for me to continue “for antibiotics” what I have been doing since it obviously works (no swelling anymore). I thanked her for her acceptance and support.

Until the day of the surgery I continued using Jin Shin Jyutsu – a healing art based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and similar to acupressure (I am a certified acupressure therapist for humans) but simpler, yet equally effective – on Lenny to support his body’s healing capacity.

“The surgery went well,” the vet let me know when she phoned me afterwards, “we found a wood splinter lodged in his gum that caused all this.” Lenny loves chewing sticks. She said, as discussed to continue with what I’ve been doing for antibiotics for five days and that she would send him home with painkillers just in case, and that Lenny would be indicating how he felt. I let her know that I’d be giving him homeopathics for pain relief but was happy to work with her comfort level and take home the suggested medication. I thanked her again for her openness and told her that in my experience it was rare among conventional vets. “As long as we both have Lenny’s well-being as first priority, I don’t have a problem,” she said in response. I left it at that, not mentioning that many vets – the same as many medical doctors – view holistic treatments as either placebo or quackery and therefore might not perceive it as she does that I too have my dog’s best interest at heart when choosing holistic solutions.

Lenny after just arriving home from the vet.

As I am writing this article it is day four after surgery. For the last three days Lenny has been a bit quieter than usual and tender when touched on the face, as you would expect after having four teeth extracted. This morning it was clear, however, that he is feeling much better. The just in case painkillers are still in the bag I received them in, we didn’t need them after all.


More and more people are looking for answers to their health challenges beyond allopathic medicine (Western medicine). Some arrive there only after this system has failed them, others are simply interested in more holistic ways. These people then want the same for their pets. Vets who further their studies including complimentary healing arts or those that are at least open to an integrative approach, working alongside holistic practitioners, are much needed but still rare.

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than closed by belief.

Gerry Spence

We all can sow seeds. I did by openly discussing with Lenny’s surgeon what my preferences are instead of hiding them. The utter astonishment on the vet’s face that the considerable swelling had disappeared by using homeopathy instead of antibiotics gives me hope that one day this seed will sprout. And I even got two for one – there was a veterinary student present during our consultation!

Vets are only people. People like their comfort zones. Shining an inviting light across the border into the unknown can help bring out curiosity … the first important step for any change.

The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.

Albert Einstein
Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash

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