East meets West at your practice
Many pet owners who've benefited from acupuncture and chiropractic techniques now want the same treatments for their dogs and cats. To service this demand, roughly 2,000 veterinarians nationwide have expanded their practices to provide a holistic approach to pet care, according to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. These practitioners say you can achieve an added source of revenue, a higher rate of healing, and a lower rate of complications by combining both mainstream medicine and holistic techniques.
Practice owner Dr. Dirk Yelinek says that as many as one-third of his clients at Redondo Shores Veterinary Center and Housecall Services in Redondo Beach, Calif., choose holistic or integrative services. "I don't claim miracle cures," he says, "but my patients live longer and more comfortably." Here are the steps to take if you decide to go in this direction.
GET CERTIFIEDBe willing to make an initial sacrifice of time and money to become trained in one or more holistic therapies. Certification courses through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and certification through the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association run more than $4,000 each. And it can take up to a year to complete 200-plus hours of coursework and an internship. The programs cover Eastern medical theories as well as current scientific theories and biomedical science. "The training is rigorous, with classroom study, home study, case reports, and hands-on experience," Dr. Yelinek says.
SPREAD THE WORD
Some practitioners don't promote their services because clients can find them on the associations' Web sites. They prefer to let clients take the lead in requesting alternative therapies. Other practitioners offer their holistic services during office visits. They also get the word out by distributing brochures, contacting human acupuncturists and chiropractors for referrals, and informing callers of services via on-hold recordings.
OFFER BOTH APPROACHES
Alternative and mainstream medicine work well together: Acute cases and severe trauma call for Western intervention, while chronic conditions may respond better to holistic therapies. For instance, acupuncture can be used for persistent pain and to alleviate postsurgical swelling and inflammation. Or clients may seek holistic or integrative treatments when their pets have reached the maximum dosage on medications or have experienced serious side effects.
FOCUS ON PREVENTION
Advise clients that holistic therapies work best for prevention and in the first stages of disease. Dr. Kahja Mohiuddin, owner of Raymond Avenue Veterinary Hospital in Pasadena, Calif., says clients may be disappointed if they wait too long or expect a quick recovery. "People may come to you with end-stage cases and say they want the holistic approach now. But it's not going to work," he says. "If a cat has cancer, the owner shouldn't get his hopes up."
CONTINUE TO EXPAND
Five years after being trained in acupuncture, Dr. Yelinek added spinal manipulation to his toolbox of techniques. Herbal and nutritional supplementation also complement his holistic practice. For instance, he gives pets with arthritis glucosamine and chondroitin in addition to acupuncture treatments. "Aside from the training, the overhead is quite low," he says.
For most holistic practitioners, the knowledge they gain benefits not only their patients' but their own health as well. Dr. Mohiuddin says, "Holistic medicine shaped up my life. I started eating better and exercised more. I focused on staying healthy so I can radiate healing." Good health habits along with holistic therapies at the first sign of trouble are his prescriptions for patients' well-being—and a thriving integrative practice.