AHVMA 2011 Pearls

I recently had the pleasure of lecturing on veterinarian/client communication skills at the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) annual conference. Dr. Doug Knueven, a holistic veterinarian (combines Eastern and Western medicine) in Beaver, Pennsylvania was the conference coordinator.  Much to my delight, Dr. Knueven has graciously offered to provide you with some pearls from the conference (thank you Doug!).  Take it away Dr. Knueven!

Before I give you the goods, I’d like to start with a little background. The AHVMA was founded in 1982 by a hand full of veterinarians who were interested in complementary medicine. It has grown to an organization that is almost 1,000 members strong. AHVMA members practice diverse therapies including acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, homeopathy, natural nutrition, massage therapy, energy medicine and much more. Most of us continue to practice Western medicine as well (we haven’t thrown the baby out with the bath water) using an integrative model of health care.

The AHVMA 2011 conference provided 122 hours of continuing education for veterinarians and veterinary technicians. Lectures spanned the range of therapies mentioned above as well as client communication (thanks Dr. Nancy!), integrative oncology, nervous system issues, emergency preparedness, and electromagnetic biophysics (Yikes!!). Most lectures applied to pets but we also had a stampede of information for vets who work on horses, cows, and goats.

Approximately 400 professionals attended. Most were AHVMA members but a fair number were conventional practitioners who were interested in learning more about some of our fascinating topics. Attendees came from as far away as Europe, Japan and Australia. Our lecturers had varying backgrounds and areas of expertise. We had several veterinary speakers who are board certified specialists.

So here are some pearls of wisdom from the AHVMA conference:

Dr. Greg Ogilvie, who specializes in both internal medicine and oncology, spoke about how diet influences cancer:

Cancer cells have a “sweet tooth.” Pets with cancer should be fed a low-starch diet.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid can help prevent cancer, fight cancer, increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy, and decrease the side effects of chemotherapy. The best source of DHA (highest concentration of active ingredient) is from oils that come from algae.

Do not give your pet high doses of anti-oxidant vitamins A, C, and E concurrently with chemotherapy as they can interfere with the action of the drugs.

Dr. Mona Rosenberg is a conventional oncologist who works with holistic veterinarians to provide an integrative approach to treating cancer.

She turned me on to a great website for the Society for Integrative Oncology (www.integrativeonc.org). Although this group is meant for human patients, most of the basic concepts are equally true for pets.

Dr. Barbara Royal addressed pet diets.

She uses integrative therapies with zoo animals and found lessons for pets from problems encountered while working with wild animals kept in captivity. The bottom line is that zoo animals encountered health problems when their diets varied from what they would get in the wild. Mother Nature is not easily fooled. Many pets benefit by being fed diets with little to no heat processing since this is what they evolved eating.

Dr. Lea Strogdale, an internal medicine specialist discussed diseases common to cats.

It turns out that slow motion video reveals that cats are inefficient at drinking water. This is why some cats like to drink from faucets or fountains. This makes sense since cats evolved from desert creatures where puddles are scarce. Because they do not drink efficiently, cats are prone to chronic dehydration. The bottom line is that many of the chronic diseases we see in cats, such as urinary crystals, chronic kidney disease, and constipation, may be due to the dehydrating effects of dry cat foods.

Do not feed your cat dry food. Many cats benefit from high-moisture canned or raw diets.

To entice your cat to drink more water, keep the bowl topped off or use a very broad bowl so she does not bump her sensitive whiskers against the sides.

I hope you have found these holistic pearls helpful. One final note, if you would like to find a holistic veterinarian in your area, check out www.ahvma.org and click on the “find a holistic veterinarian” button.

Dr. Doug Knueven


Now, Dr. Knueven will be happy to entertain your questions!

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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9 Comments on “AHVMA 2011 Pearls

  1. Hi Susan,

    You bring up a great point. The definition of alternative veterinary medicine is basically any medical procedure that is not proven by the “scientific method” or is not taught in North American veterinary medical schools. Holistic medicine involves the idea of taking into account the whole patient – body, mind, and spirit. There is a lot of research validating the effectiveness of acupuncture, herbs, chiropractic and even homeopathy. At the same time, there certainly is the possibility of charlatanism when dealing with holistic methods and supplements. It takes research on the part of the consumer to be sure they are not taken advantage of.

    Of course, the same could be said for conventional medicine. It is estimated that 50% to 70% of drugs used in every day veterinary medicine are used off-label and have not been proven safe and effective for how they are being applied. In fact, much what passes for medical science is not as clear cut as you might think. Check out this article and you’ll see what I mean. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/11/lies-damned-lies-and-medical-science/8269/

    The psychological term “confirmation bias” where evidence supporting one’s beliefs tends to be perceived as plausible and evidence challenging one’s beliefs tends to be perceived as implausible, is something we all suffer from. Perhaps, evidence is in the eye of the beholder.

  2. Snoopydoc,

    You have posed a great question. I have not seen the studies you refer too. I will say that there always seems to be conflicting evidence in the literature for just about anything. It is important to look at the accumulated studies in totality. The information I have relayed comes from a veterinary oncologist that was intimately involved with research on how nutrition interacts with cancer. I trust that even though I am not aware of all the studies out there, he probably is.

  3. Is there scientific evidence that alternative therapies are effective and safe? Have you read Trick or Treatment by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst? I understand that people have an emotional attachment to alternative treatments and no veterinarian wants to alienate such a large population of believers, but is it responsible to encourage people to spend money and hope on unproven therapies? Unless recent evidence contradicts past research on the effectiveness of most alternative therapies, I confess, I am disappointed to see them encouraged here.

  4. Recently published studies in human medicine have shown that DHA/EPA may interfere with chemotherapy rendering those agents less effective. Should we avoid giving these fatty acids to our canine and feline patients while they are undergoing chemo also?

  5. Recent studies in human medicine recommend that patients undergoing chemotherapy avoid taking EPA/DHA because the fatty acids could make the chemo agents less effective. Could this be true in our canine and feline patients as well?

  6. Hi Janise,

    It is very possible that a holistic vet can help you formulate a homemade diet that will meet all the requirements of your pet. I’m not aware of a commercially available diet. You might want to have your vet call Hills and see what their experts suggest. – Good Luck!


    Dr. Ogilvie recommended LifesDHA. Here’s the web site. http://www.lifesdha.com/ I do not know about this company personally but I do trust Dr. Ogilvie.

  7. Regarding Dr. Strogdale’s comments about cats: firstly, I am glad to see someone recommend an all-wet diet for cats… it is not that “many cats benefit…” it is that ALL cats will benefit! Diabetes and obesity were omitted as negative health consequences of dry, starchy kibble diets and should have been included.

    There is a little bit of illogic here, though. That cats do not take in adequate fluid to maintain healthy hydration probably doesn’t have much to do with their sensitive whiskers or their structural shortfalls… it is likely that cats simply have poor thirst drives due to their desert heritage. Cats do drink preferentially from faucets, but I suspect it has to do with the freshness of the water, not from whence it is delivered. Cats also increase their fluid intake when given access to a water fountain which keeps water from going “flat” (i.e. de-gassing) and cats rush to drink when their bowls are refilled with new water. I would suggest being a whole lot more concerned about how long that water has been sitting there than about whether or not some whiskers are going to bump the inside of the bowl. Whiskers are meant to bump things… that’s one way cats acquire spatial information… doesn’t mean that it is unpleasant for the cat!

    Give your kitty a fountain and don’t feed her dry food, and she will be more likely to avoid many of the health issues which typically affect pet cats.

  8. How timely to get this email! I am considering making an appointment with a holistic vet! My 13 yr old MB 55 lb has been on a low phosphorous vet kidney diet for 5 years. His kidney functions test are now normal and have been for the last 4 years. Now he has IBS ( just got out of the hospital) and is on Hill’s ID.
    Is there a diet that is good for IBS and low in phosphorous?