Editorial October 2001 Issue

Whatever Works

Doing the greatest good, with the least harm.

We talk a lot about complementary health care practices here at WDJ: chiropractic, herbal remedies, acupuncture, and so on. But we donít discriminate against modern veterinary medicine. Not at all.

Itís true that weíre sometimes critical of some modern veterinary medical practices; we often hear about doctors who do little but dispense the holy trinity of modern pharmacology Ė antibiotics, steroids, and vaccines Ė and refer anything that fails to respond to these to specialists. When all you have is a hammer, the saying goes, everything looks like a nail.

We also fret about doctors who are insensitive to the side effects of their treatments; there are many times when dogs might be better off with less-effective, but less-harmful treatments.

The underlying mission of this publication, however, is to discuss and promote whatever works to improve the health and happiness of dogs, while doing the least harm. We find that the healing arts that are aimed at gently affecting the bodyís own self-healing processes seem to work in a quietly effective manner. But we also celebrate the marvels of technological and pharmacological innovations that allow veterinarians to diagnose and treat conditions that slower, gentler healing methods wouldnít be able to address in time.

Most of all, we discuss methods that complement each other to provide for the most effective and least harmful treatment. The case history that appears on page 16 of this issue is a perfect example of this. Itís about a dog who required a major surgery in order to get around Ė and who recovered to perfect soundness with the help of physical and aquatherapy, supplements, stretching, and so on.

Believe me, I practice what we preach. My 11-year-old Border Collie, Rupert, had a major health crisis last month Ė a sudden attack of cardiac arrythmia. He was walking toward me in our backyard when suddenly he started staggering and then sat down hard, panting. I ran to him, and could immediately feel that his heart was pounding like it was going to pop out of his chest. I rushed Rupert right down to the emergency veterinary clinic, not entirely certain he would survive the 15-minute drive down the freeway.

A veterinary technician took one look at Rupertís white gums and rushed him into the back of the hospital. They gave Rupert oxygen as they hooked him up to a heart monitor, and quickly administered some drugs to slow his heart. Twenty minutes later, they had his heart rate under control, although the rhythm was still whacky. With printouts from the heart monitor in hand, the veterinarian was able to tell me what Rupertís condition was called Ė ventricular tachycardia Ė but we would have no idea of what caused it without further tests.

Long story short: Rupert is doing fine, and taking a pill twice a day that keeps his heart rate and rhythm steady. After a couple of days and a couple thousand dollarsí worth of diagnostics at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California at Davis, we now know that Rupertís heart and all his other organs are in fine condition, and he does not have cancer or any strange infections. In other words, we still have no clue as to what caused the arrythmia. But, thanks to modern medicine, we have it under control.

Iím supposed to take Rupie back to Davis in a few weeks, to take him off the medication while being monitored. If his heart goes whacky again, then he goes back on the medicine, probably for life. If his heart stays steady, weíll cross our fingers and hope for the best. In the meantime, under the guidance of a veterinary herbalist and with Rupertís cardiologistís blessings, Iím starting him on a herb that is supposed to help regulate and strengthen the heart. And Iíll keep you posted about how heís doing.

-Nancy Kerns

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