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Can Vet J. 2010 January; 51(1): 106.
PMCID: PMC2797342

Integrating Complementary Medicine into Veterinary Practice

Reviewed by Lea Stogdale, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM

Goldstein RS, ed. Wiley-Blackwell, Ames, Iowa, USA. 2008. 908 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0-8138-2020-0. $192.00. 

This comprehensive text is about the importance of nutraceuticals and biological support for the management of chronic diseases, alongside pharmaceuticals, surgery, and other western treatments. Increasing numbers of owners request, find, and use complementary modalities for their own health and for the well-being of their pets. This book enables western-trained veterinarians to add nutrition, neutraceuticals, herbs, and supplements to their therapy recommendations.

The authors stress, continually, the importance of a diagnosis: accurate and comprehensive. But, this is a therapeutic text not a diagnostic manual; diagnostic criteria are not mentioned. The authors also emphasize presenting the owner and ultimate decision-maker with the variety of therapeutic options available, and of then respecting the owner’s choice for their pet. All sections and chapters are extensively referenced, and the index is comprehensive at 80 pages in length.

This text is divided into 8 sections: Section 1 — Introduction and validation of therapeutic nutrition, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, homotoxicology, and western herbal medicine. Each of these 4 modalities is clearly explained, including the supplements recommended. Sections 2, 3, 4, and 5 — are presented in the easily accessible format of “Current Veterinary Therapy.” Diseases are grouped into chronic degenerative conditions, infectious diseases and neoplasia. Western herbal medicine is given its own chapter. Section 6 — discusses vaccinations. Sections 7 and 8 — glossary and resources.

Many of the disease conditions, however, are addressed by way of clinical signs rather than by etiology, e.g., leukopenia, cardiac arrhythmias, alopecia, diarrhea. This is more in keeping with traditional Chinese medicine, and it may take western-thinking veterinarians a little getting used to this approach. On the other hand, FeLV, FIV, and FIP are grouped together, and the information about FIP is mostly incorrect.

I am not sure as to why western herbal medicine is given its own chapter and not included in each disease/sign after “Appropriate nutrients” and before “Chinese herbal medicine.”

Every disease sign has an “Anticipated prognosis” — a redundant subtitle followed by necessarily vague comments.

For many disease signs, the authors do not distinguish between dogs and cats. This is especially problematic for gastrointestinal problems and all aspects of nutrition. Throughout the text, I found the comments about nutrition vague and inadequate. In particular, grains and glutens are barely discussed. I found only one recipe for dogs, and that was for degenerative myelopathy.

I found several comments dated. For example, feeding a low-sodium food in hypertension, withholding food in cases of diarrhea, and some pharmaceuticals listed.

This is a medical text not a management treatise. It advises on diagnosis, western treatments, nutrition, and complementary options. It does not make recommendations as to how you will charge for your additional time and expertise. There is no discussion as to how the owner will get the recommended supplements into their pet, especially into their cat.

Overall, this book fulfils its stated purpose of “Integrating Complementary Medicine into Veterinary Practice.” I think this book is useful to veterinarians in the early learning phase of complementary medicine. By clearly explaining the most commonly used complementary medical modalities and the supplements they use, and by discussing these approaches alongside pharmaceuticals, western-thinking veterinarians can gradually add to the options that they present to their clients for their patients’ benefit.

Articles from The Canadian Veterinary Journal are provided here courtesy of Canadian Veterinary Medical Association