Making a case for holistic vet care

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM and his companion Skai.

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM and his companion Skai.

By Peter Dobias, DVM

When I was growing up, my teachers often loved to describe the future. They told us vivid stories of fast trains, space travel, aircraft hovering over streets and buildings that looked nothing like what we knew in the real world.

It is now 2014 and the future my teachers described is now the past except for medicine. It seems that not much has changed and our medical system continues to be chronically stuck on using pharmaceuticals that are largely toxic chemicals.

Some people may say that we did make progress because we are able to transplant organs, replace joints and perform triple bypass surgeries and also that antibiotics and some other medicines save lives. I do not disagree with that.

However, drugs are heavily over-used and their use in the majority of cases could be compared to attempting to purify water by pouring sewage in it. The question is why did we get here and what can be done about it?

Revealing statistics

The most recent reports show that the number of veterinary visits in North America is dropping while the number of pets is rising. The same decline has been registered in the processed pet food industry.

This may suggest that because dogs eat less processed food and a more natural or home-made diet, they are healthier and do not need to see a vet as often.

These days, the general trend I see is that dog lovers are more empowered: they feed better natural food, use top-quality supplements and understand that the use of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines should be minimized.

One question many people ask is: “Why is it that some vets do not adopt similar strategies?” I believe that many vets would love to learn more about natural and holistic therapies, but often they can’t get away from their practices to take long and extensive courses. Many colleagues also fear that they may be ostracized or even lose their licenses for using alternative therapies.

The reality is that most veterinary colleges will not back up their members unless they use conventional treatment protocols. At first sight, the situation may seem daunting but it is not. As the demand for alternative therapies rises, more practitioners are taking post-graduate courses in holistic medicine. Some veterinary colleges are starting to embrace a more natural approach to treatment. Holistic Veterinarians in North America are organized through the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association that also supports research in the area of holistic and alternative therapies.

It is also important to dispel the myth of holistic veterinarians as being “witch doctors.” We have graduated with Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degrees and have gone the extra “mile” to educate ourselves in more natural treatment methods. One of the reasons why these methods are often discounted and ostracized is that “big pharma” can’t license natural substances. They are not patentable and therefore are not as profitable.

The purpose of the second part of this article is to give you an outline of the basic principles of how to keep your dog healthy, naturally. Every system in nature is part of a cycle of cleansing — replenishing and renewal. Our planet could be compared to an “aquarium” where the process of cleansing —nourishing and and maintaining the flow — is the foundation of good health. Your dog’s body is no different and the following essential principles of maintaining health apply to virtually any disease healing.

0614peter:skaihigh5Detox / Cleanse
Cleansing is an essential part of every natural process and the water cycle plays a crucial role. Water washes and purifies every rock, every leaf and inch of fertile soil, running down the streams and rivers to oxygenate and break down impurities all the way to the oceans where it evaporates to begin the process again.

When it comes to maintaining your dog’s good health or recovering from disease, the cleanse consists of a semi-annual herbal detox and super green detox. Some people suggest a weekly fast which can be very helpful but also challenging.

Many toxins also come from unnecessary vaccination (mercury, formaldehyde) or processed food. That is why minimizing vaccines and feeding a natural raw or cooked “non-processed diet” should be part of your dog’s health plan.

Find out what’s missing and nourish
The cycle of providing nutrients in nature is usually effortless. However, many dogs are fed heavily processed food and even if they were fed the most wholesome diet, it has proven not to be enough. The main reason is that intensive agriculture has depleted our soils and this depletion is also evident in dogs.

Analyzing your dog’s hair for minerals and heavy metals is a simple and inexpensive method of getting a good baseline of your dog’s situation. It is usually an eye opening experience especially for the skeptics who say that dogs need no supplements.

The essential nutrients should be supplemented in the most natural form available. Many people are not aware that most vitamins are made synthetically from coal and crude oil and that they can never be compared with whole food natural nutrients. The basic groups of nutrients are minerals and essential amino-acids, naturally cultured multi-vitamin, probiotics to support the digestive and immune systems and Omega 3-6 oil.

Ensure the energy flow
I like to compare the body to a watering system in a garden. If the water doesn’t flow and the branches get blocked, the garden beds stop thriving, the plants get diseased and eventually die.

When it comes to your dog’s body — the spine is the main “energy flow highway” and the branches supply energy to different organs. When the spine gets misaligned and the spinal muscles become tight and congested, the organs start deteriorating due to energy flow deficit. That is why I often say that your dog is as healthy as his/her spine.

Important principles of maintaining your dog’s back and spine are:

• Replace a collar with a front clip harness especially if your dog is a puller.

• Find a good chiropractor, physical therapist or osteopath and take your dog for regular check ups. (one to three months is perfect depending on the age)

• Reduce or modify obsessive and one-sided activities such as frisbee, ball retrieving and jumping up, especially if your dog appears to have repeated problems. Ask yourself what dogs would do in nature if they had a choice. Would they chase 50 rabbits in half an hour or just a couple? The level of exercise must be just right, not too little, and not too much.

No matter what your dog’s age is, following these few principles of holistic and natural healing will make a huge difference in your dog’s life. When you run across a dilemma when making a decision about your dog’s care or treatment, use conventional drugs only when absolutely necessary and always ask: “What would nature do?”

—Dr. Peter Dobias has been in veterinary practice since 1988. In 2008, he decided to sell his holistic veterinary practice in Vancouver, BC, Canada to dedicate his work life to disease prevention and empowering dog lovers with holistic healing and nutritional knowledge. For more information, questions and articles visit