Dear Dr. Eisenberg:
My dog has skin allergies and now has been seizuring every few days. My veterinarian is not sure if there is any relationship between the two problems, but I think there might be a connection. I am a strong believer in holistic medicine since I have been using different remedies on myself after I was diagnosed with cancer. Are there "alternative" therapies or medications used with animals? My veterinarian is always dispensing pills and this worries me. What can I do?
Looking for an Alternative
Your problems with your dog could very well be related. Unfortunately, I would have to know little bit more information such as age, breed, gender of your dog, as well as, feeding habits, medication and vaccine history, and lab and diagnostic tests already performed. There has been established a connection between idiopathic epileptics (repeated seizures of unknown origin) and hypersensitivities (allergic reactions). Some of these hypersensitivities have been described as linked to skin, the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, eyes, and ears. Some veterinarians have noted a link between epilepsy in dogs and food hypersensitivities. Because of these relationships, these veterinarians have had success treating epileptic patients by optimizing the immune system response in an attempt to lessen the hypersensitivity reaction. Elimination diets, combined with the supplementation of the anti-oxidants, vitamin A and C, and the trace mineral selenium, have also been shown to help the hypersensitive epileptic patient. These approaches that look at the entire balance of the patient may reduce the need for traditional medication used for epilepsy, which include Phenobarbital, phenytoin, and potassium bromide. Because the aim of this approach is to prevent or control allergic reactions, the overall immune function may be improved through nutritional immunotherapy. There are many "alternative" therapies used with the animals that are similar to those used with humans. Complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) is increasingly incorporated into veterinary practices. Such treatment modalities include acupuncture, chiropractic, aromatherapy, herbal therapy, physical therapy, and low energy photon therapy. There are specialists available who have passed certification courses in many of these areas of CAVM. The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) and the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) have listings of qualified veterinarians who may be able to help guide you in the car of your pet.
As in Western medicine, a comprehensive history of the patient is critical. With treatment modalities such as acupuncture and homeopathy, the history is very detailed. Noting changes in response to weather conditions, behavior patterns, behavior towards other animals, and food preferences is important to the history. The veterinarian may then decide to use certain modalities alone or incorporate them into conventional therapies. For example, acupuncture may be beneficial to the treatment of various neurological, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, dermatological, reproductive, cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. Certain therapies complement each other very well. Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, nutritional supplementation, acupressure, and physical therapy have been used together for many years. Chiropractic care and acupuncture also work well together. Traditional homeopaths often use individual remedies alone so that the response can be more readily assessed to the remedy prescribed. Rather than the relief of symptoms, the goal of many alternative therapies is the resolution of the underlying cause, whenever possible. For example, rather than using steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication in the treatment of arthritis, a holistic practitioner might explore the causes of the condition, evaluating the possibility of food allergies and drug reactions, as well as, the addition of nutritional supplements to support joint function. These might include vitamins, minerals and chondroprotective agents. The practitioner may also include acupuncture and chiropractic care to help the body in its own balance of mechanics.
As one can see, there are quite a lot of alternative therapies available for pets. I would suggest exploring other options or discussing them with your veterinarian. Most are interested in alternative treatments if they know that the client is interested in them.
Thanks for your letter!