Panacea or Poison?

The truth usually lies in the middle, but you know your dog best; use your judgment.


From the first issue, one of WDJ’s missions has been to bring you “in-depth information about effective holistic healthcare methods.” However, the word “holistic” is subjective, and it’s frequently used to mean very different things.

Whole Dog Journal editor Nancy Kerns

Many people use the phrase “holistic healthcare” when they, in fact, mean natural, alternative, or complementary healthcare. However, we use the phrase in its original sense – to mean “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems.” We look for therapies and practitioners that offer the most benefit and do the least harm, whether it’s a conventional prescription medication or an organic essential oil, a veterinarian who specializes in oncology or one with advanced training in chiropractic. We don’t eschew vaccines – but we do advise using the least number needed to protect your dog. We don’t promote the use of unproven alternatives to heartworm preventatives – but we do offer explicit advice on how to minimize their use without leaving dogs vulnerable to heartworm infection.

And, to use a recent example, we don’t tell owners to refrain from ever using toxins on their dogs, but we do give them information about how to use toxins, such as the minimal use of topical pesticides and oral flea-killing medications, when less-toxic flea control has failed and the dog is suffering – and when the substance is not contraindicated.

Judging from the number of critical comments regarding September 2017’s article on prescription flea-killing medications, you might think we told our readers that the medications were terrific and should be given to every dog, every month, for life – no worries! Um, no. We think those medications should be reserved for last-resort use. But we’re also aware of cases where they can literally save lives – for example, with dogs who are severely allergic to fleas and who live in areas where fleas are a year-round pestilence. And if an owner is considering their use, she should know, as just one example, which products are likely to aggravate her dog’s epilepsy, and which products don’t pose that risk.

There are publications that denounce the use of most conventional veterinary medical practices and therapies, vaccines, heartworm preventatives, and pesticides included. There are others that impugn every sort of medicine that’s not conventional; they take an equally dim view of acupuncture, chiropractic, traditional herbal medicine, massage, and more. Please don’t confuse us with any of them. We’re committed to giving you solid information about all of the most beneficial options available to you.