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Treat the Whole Dog

Hilary Wheeler, D.V.M., was “that kid,” the one who loved animals, stitched up her “hurt” stuffed toys, and read James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small series faithfully. It’s no surprise that she went into the field of veterinary medicine, even though the journey was not easy.

“Halfway through college, I couldn’t believe how many more classes I needed to take,” she said, laughing at the memory. Despite the misgivings, she finished her education and has served in the veterinary field for over 20 years where, she said. “A lot has changed.”

“Today’s pet owners are more demanding, and that’s a good thing,” said Wheeler, who practices at The Whole Pet Vet Hospital & Wellness Center in Los Gatos.

She explained that 20 years ago, most pet owners relied on their vet for advice and accepted it without question. The simple reason was that they had nowhere else to look for information. Thanks to the internet, that has changed, and owners are educating themselves and researching their options for pet health. While everyone knows there is a lot of nonsense on the internet, Wheeler said, “There is also a lot of great information—well-researched articles written by medical professionals that can help owners make decisions about their pets.”

What the pet owners of 2016 want is a multimodal approach to health care, one that integrates both Western treatments like antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs with Eastern treatments like acupuncture and herbs, in addition to nutritional counseling and other treatments like cold laser and hydrotherapy. Citing the recent news coverage of “cupping,” an ancient Chinese method of improving blood flow practiced by athletes in the 2016 Olympics, Wheeler noted that many of these seemingly new therapies are actually quite old but are being re-discovered. What’s more, they are proving to be effective in difficult cases.

Polly, an American bulldog, was suffering from severe demodex, a parasitic mite afliction, that was not responding to traditional Western treatments. A combination of Chinese herbs, medicated baths, anti-parasitic therapy, and a home-cooked diet helped to clear up the secondary infections and heal her skin. Napoleon, a Brussels Griffon, has intervertebral disc disease and luxating patellas. Acupuncture and chiropractic treatments keep him happy and active. Many dogs benefit from the multimodal approach, especially those that are elderly, for whom surgery would be risky, and for those that cannot tolerate drugs but need pain relief and improvement of mobility.

Wheeler also cites a shift in focus from just treating illness to prevention and wellness. Today’s pet owners are asking their veterinarian, “What can I do to keep my dog healthy and with me as long as possible?” They want individualized health care just as they would have for themselves. They want vets to think outside the box and explore the best treatments for their dog. “It’s not one size fits all.”

Want to learn more about Dr. Wheeler and the “wholistic” Approach to veterinary medicine? Visit her web site and blog at TheWholePetVet.com.

Brigid Wasson is the founder of The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting, providing infrastructure building, management team support, and lifesaving programs for animal shelters across the country. She lives in Sonoma County with three dogs: an Anatolian shepherd, a Corgi/Terrier, and a Pomeranian/terrier. For more information visit AnimalShelterSuccess.com.

Main article photo by: courtesy The Whole Pet Vet