This year marks the 250th anniversary of veterinary medicine, as the world’s first veterinary school opened in Lyon, France in 1764.
However, veterinary medicine has been around since people and animals have coexisted, and there are many ancient techniques in veterinary medicine that have been used for thousands of years.
They are reaching the forefront once more as clients demand all available treatment options for their pets and veterinarians start to consider the staying powers of antique methods.
According to Dr. M.A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), alternative veterinary medicine is best described as a term for a group of treatments that lie outside of the conventional or mainstream treatment of veterinary medicine.
Occasionally, the terms “alternative," “integrative" and “complementary” have been used as synonyms; therefore, veterinarians now use the acronym CAM to reference all three terms.
The American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines for alternative and complementary medicine state that holistic veterinary medicine includes, but is not limited to, the practice of acupuncture and acutherapy, botanical medicine, chiropractic, homeopathy, massage therapy, nutraceuticals, as well as conventional medicine, surgery and dentistry.
“Holistic veterinary medicine considers all aspects of the animal’s life in the context of its environment, behavior, medical and dietary history, emotional stresses as well as a comprehensive physical examination, and other factors that may play a role in the animal patient’s life,” explains Crist.
Most alternative medicine treatments are based on clinically accepted medicine. However, it is difficult to find scientific data to support the theory that these modalities are safe and effective.
There are still a lot of questions concerning alternative veterinary medicine techniques as some practitioners believe there is still little evidence today to back up the powerful claims.
“Some veterinary practitioners view complementary and alternative medicine as controversial,” notes Crist.
“Owners need to understand that some of these modalities are slow and gentle and take time to take effect,” says Crist.
Crist said conventional and alternative veterinary medicine is becoming more available because of client demand.
If an animal does partake in any alternative technique the owner should inform the vet if a pet takes medications, herbs, and supplements are used on a regular basis.
One bit of advice from Crist is to always purchase high-quality products from a reputable and established supplier.
To practice in any of these modalities veterinarians must first be certified and well versed in their area of interest within the scope of complementary and alternative medicine.
“It is important that if an owner requests any of these integrated modalities that he or she is referred to a veterinarian certified in that field.”
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.