Tag Archives: holistic medicine

Home Remedies 101 : Part 3

For dog owners, the only sound that sums up summer more than the soothing sound of the ocean is the jingle of ID tags as their dogs shake their heads and scratch their ears. Why all the noise? Because summer often means ear infections for our canine companions.

In dogs, ear infections are often caused by environmental allergies. When the air gets warm, pollen, mold spores and other allergens begin to thrive and waft around on the currents, causing allergies to flare up. These allergies can make the skin that lines the ear canal inflamed, opening the door for secondary bacterial and fungal infections.

And if your dog loves to swim, excess water in the ear canal can create the kind of dark, moist environment where yeast and bacteria thrive. 

Many of my patients ask me how to clean their dog’s ears at home, so I thought I’d share my advice.

It is virtually impossible to totally clean your dog’s ears at home. They all have a very long vertical ear canal leading to a horizontal canal, which means you cannot reach with normal Q-Tips. Veterinarians are taught special techniques for cleaning, and they use an “otoscope” to look, visualize and detect any damage to the eardrum.

Due to the delicate nature of all of this, the only safe things at home are to use natural “holistic” cleaners or white vinegar diluted into water helps to discourage the yeast commonly found in ears. You can wipe with a cotton swab (not gauze).

Note about ears – Virtually ALL ear infections are secondary to an underlying allergy, often to a food component and/or environmental pollens. So it is important to see an integrative, natural or allergy orientated vet to get to the root cause and try to stop any cycle of ear infections.

Also it is not recommended to regularly clean healthy ears. The body produces a natural protective wax and if there’s no odor or itch or redness then we don’t want to remove this wax by unnecessary cleaning.

Reasons why pet owners should never use LONG medical Q-Tips:

  • They can break off and become a foreign body in the ear canal;
  • If owner actually reaches the eardrum they will inadvertently rupture this with the Q-Tip.

In short, any odor, abnormal discharge, redness, itching or head shaking warrants a visit to your integrative vet. There may be a foxtail or foreign body inside of the canal in any of these cases, which can permanently damage the ear, it is painful and can also cause hearing loss. Even infections allowed to wait too long can have the same (disastrous) consequences.

As an integrative vet, I believe it is CRITICAL to find the underlying CAUSE of mild to severe ear issues so we can stop the cycle of repeat infections, which can lead to irreparable damage and/or the need for MAJOR surgery.

Spring Has Sprung!

CATS everywhere are yowling for attention…the females are restless and the boys are a ’fightin’. Even your spayed and neutered felines are feeling the fun in the air. I have had a few early fighters in my practice already, with small abscess repairs and a not-so-fun week of confinement with that embarrassing e-collar….

Be aware that it is far better to build a “catio,” or other large wired-in area for your kitties, so they can safely play “wildcat” without the associated risk. Along with cat-fights, the risks on the rise as it gets sunnier include coyote predators, owls, bobcats and of course, cars driven by happy teens out for spring and summer fun.

If you must let your kitty wander the ‘hood during the day, please have them in for supper (theirs) by about 5 pm, before dusk descends. If you notice your pet lying around, a little quiet, or subdued, often they have a developing abscess somewhere that just hasn’t demanded your attention yet. It’s best to really feel around for a sore spot on kitty’s body so you can detect that swelling before it gets too big or-yuck-ruptures.

Lastly, let’s talk about restless DOGS and spring. Most of you responsible pet owners have spayed and neutered dogs. But for other reasons, dogs too, want to really get out there and run and play and sniff our (finally) abundant, post-rain grass!

With all of that drive and activity, you may start to notice more knee and elbow strains in the more active pups, and joint stiffness and pronounced limping in those older “weekend warrior” canines. We have been using several amazing ALL-NATURAL products that are REVERSING JOINT DISEASE, REMOVING INFLAMMATION FROM THE JOINTS AND BONES, and doing a little general reverse aging as well. (I’m in for the human version….). Call and ask today about BIOCELL, EXCEL CAMELINA OIL, AND VETSMART HIP AND JOINT…remember, pure, clean, and 95% absorbed the minute it passes their doggy lips!

Let’s keep the SPRING in your pet’s steps this Spring!

Home Remedies 101 – Part 2

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of my most valuable home remedies for pet health that can keep your dog’s tail wagging and kitty purring. These tips will help you to gauge when to call your integrative vet.

I get asked a lot about how to safely remove a ticks from your dogs.  Well let me start by saying that if your dog spends lots of time outdoors, tick checks should be part of your daily routine. Here’s how to spot a tick – and what to do if one has grabbed hold of your pet.

Start by running your fingers slowly over your dog’s entire body. If you feel a bump or swollen area, check to see if a tick has burrowed there. Don’t limit your search to your dog’s torso: check between his toes, under his armpits, the insides of his ears, and around his face and chin.

Ticks can be black, brown or tan and they have eight legs. They can also be tiny: some species are only as large as the head of a pin.

Don’t use your hands or fingers, as you’ll squeeze the tick contents into your dog! Use tweezers or a tick removal device. Pinch the area of skin under the tick to make a “hill”.

Grasp low at the “neck” of the tick or lower, and slowly twist and pull, allowing time for the tick to detach. You may want to apply Frontline spray or topical first to allow ticks to loosen and some even fall off.

It’s normal for a reactionary bump to remain. Just note if there is a black piece still there then this is the head of the tick. The head itself poses no real risk, as the dog’s body will naturally push it out over time.

The tick’s body has the diseases, so as long as it is removed before 24-48 hours of being on the dog-it requires that time for disease transmission. If it’s been longer than 24 hours, plan to consult your vet for tick disease testing and possibly preventative antibiotics.

Unless you can’t get to the tick, you don’t really need a vet to remove it.

I hope you found this article helpful.

Much love, light and health.

Dr. Tiffany Margolin

Dr. Tiffany Margolin posing with a dog

PEA: A Natural Animal Pain Supplement

Article on PEA

I am often asked, of late, about the beneficial effects of cannabis, or any derivatives from the marijuana plant, for my patients.

Since my community is one of natural healing and hemp-savvy people, this is not surprising. In addition, many of my (human) clients have experienced relief in some form from the use of various parts of the cannabis plant.

Natural health

While many people realize they are not going to give “pot” to their pet due to undesired side effects (the very worst being fatal), they still wonder about hemp-derived supplements.

Lucky for my community, I have been working with a pure, body-produced substance called palmitoylethanolamide (PEA for short).

PEA Pills

PEA has more times the anti-inflammatory potency of cannabinoids (part of the endocannabinoid system) –or cannabis–with NONE of the side effects or psychotropic effects.

First, let’s look at where musculoskeletal pain comes from and how it worsens into more irreversible conditions in the body:

Although there are many kinds of pain, by far the most common and disruptive to your pet and thus, to you, is musculoskeletal pain.

Over 80% involves some part of the back or neck, with the remaining involving round joints such as hips, knees, and elbows.

The development of pain progresses from initial small injury, reactions of the surrounding muscles and connective tissues, spasms, to constricted blood supply, then comes anoxia, acidic environment,  pain modulators with nervous system reaction, and finally stagnation (stopping of processes).

This is painful. If it lasts and no restoration of circulation occurs, then the body will lay down fibrous tissue. This is avascular and replaces healthy normal tissue causing more adhesions and constriction-then restricted movement, not to mention more pain.

If the inflammation and fibrous tissue issues are still not addressed, the body then tries to stabilize the affected, painful areas, especially when this occurs between the vertebral bodies (in the spine). This progresses from fibrous tissues to the migration and formation of laying down new bone. So now you have the first bone spurs, then eventually, bony bridges between the vertebrae.

This fusion of areas of the spine is the foundation of much pain and lameness that we see in small animals. The pain can sometimes spread to the joints in their wrists and ankles.

If we can address these issues far before the fiber and bone is laid down, you have a HUGE window of prevention and reversal of this whole process.


Common Sources of Pain and Distress in Dogs (PEA-responsive):

  • Neck and spine problems
  • Ear inflammation/pain
  • Stifle/knee pain
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures

Cat experiencing chronic pain

Common Sources of Pain and Distress in Cats:

  • Neck and spine pain (very common in cats)
  • Arthritis of the knees
  • Anxiety
  • Allergies
  • Seizures (of non-tumor origin)

Mammals have an “endocannabinoid” system that produces this substance-PEA-naturally. Chronic stress, inflammation, and other dysfunctions can lead to low production of endogenous PEA.


Positive Effects of PEA

Used for many years already in Europe, PEA has had profound and remarkable anti-inflammatory effects on the humans and pets using it. It is markedly anti-inflammatory, very safe, with minimal to no side-effects, and can be combined with all other medications and drugs. (Always check with your vet or doctor before taking any sort of pill).


Some features of PEA include:

  • Painkiller and anti-inflammatory compound
  • Anticonvulsant activity
  • Addresses nerve pain
  • Reduced scar tissue formation
  • Aids in treatment of glaucoma
  • Produced in our cells, natural compound
  • Protects cells
  • Proven to be effective and safe in many clinical trials in more than
  • 5000 patients tested- with no documented adverse drug interactions
  • Can be combined with any other compound
  • Available as a capsule and as a cream


Some additional natural and western (medications) that can be used individually and in combination with PEA for pain:

  • Boswellia
  • Turmeric (with black pepper)
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs
  • Glucosamine/chondroitin (injections work best, followed by oral supplements)
  • Muscle relaxant medication (can work in tandem with modalities such as acupuncture or chiropractic as well)
  • Noni poultices
  • NSAIDS-Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Opioids
  • Steroids


PEA Helps Treat Back Pain

One of the things I find most intriguing about the cannabinoids and PEA is that PEA can replace steroids, one of the more powerful and problematic treatments for back problems. However, if chronic pain is severe, a more integrative approach may be necessary for your pet.

I am asked if Cannabidiol (CBD) is the same. It is different as it derives from the plant (as opposed to the body) and it works through a different mechanism. Because it is from the cannabis plant, there may be varying psychotropic effects, albeit small.

Narcotics, opioids, non-steroidal drugs all act via different mechanisms than the PEA.


How Cats Benefit from Using PEA

A note about CATS: Cats metabolize many western medications very differently than dogs. They cannot tolerate most non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and can have strong negative reactions to antihistamines (for allergies). With such a narrow range of options, the natural substances, and specifically PEA, has been very promising. And since cats groom quite a bit, the use of essential oils or rubs can be dangerous.

Since my background includes Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, I make sure to take into account the “constitution” of a pet when I’m treating them.

This can be a complex subject, but simply, think about breeds and how they look. A Labrador is often an “excess” dog. They have big, red tongues and have heavy features. They can hold heat, specifically DAMP heat.

A thin, older Maltese is often a “deficient” animal and is prone to COLD. Thus I talk to people about avoiding environmental conditions that increase pain in that particular body.

Keeping labs cooler, using foods that cool their body, while keeping the Maltese warm and feeding them carbohydrates that produce heat– these can all enhance the results of natural pain control.


We Offer Holistic Animal Care


Vet assistant holding a dog
I also offer acupuncture, chiropractic, cold laser therapy and Myofascial release as natural physical adjustments that are used to speed up and help with health results.

If you’re interested in learning more about our holistic animal care, please contact us.

Flea Misconceptions and Safe Solutions

dog who could have a flea issue



“I think my dog has fleas again, but I don’t see any….I just put the flea stuff on last week…” Carol says.

“What’s Chance doing? ” I ask.

“He’s scratching again like mad.” She explains.

Therein lies the rub, or the scratch, as the case may be. If a dog or cat is scratching, it may not be fleas or any external parasite. Most animals that actually carry an infestation of fleas (or one or two) are NOT that itchy. This is because the itchy ones are often demonstrating a flea ALLERGY, a reaction to the flea bite/saliva.

Furry dog 

Signs Your Pet May Have a Flea Allergy

Tiny molecules of flea saliva can cause the itch. If a pet is actually itchy and allergic, whether to fleas or other things such as food/pollen, then they don’t tolerate fleas living on them. Thus the itchy animal may not have fleas at all.

However, and this is what may be confusing, they still need flea control. Because the pet that is itchy usually has an ALLERGY to fleas, if flea control is not used (one that works), than a big allergic reaction can result even without many fleas around.

In addition, allergies are ADDITIVE, so if your pet has, say a pollen allergy or dust mite allergy, then it may not be active until or unless the wrong food or a flea bite ADDS to the immune system’s aggravation.

So one component of an allergy can put the pet above his “threshold” for itching. Thus it’s quite possible to control flea allergies or food allergies simply by limiting one or the other, not always both.

Now that you know fleas DO need to be controlled, what is the best way? 
I often get the question:

“What type of flea spray or powder do I use in my HOUSE?”

My client is worried about the fleas living around the house or yard.
The good news is most of a flea’s lifecycle is ON the pet. Why is that “good” news? Because if you control the fleas ON your pet, it is less and less likely as time goes by, that they will live and hatch in your environment.

Of course, there are exceptions. In California, where I live, the fleas LOVE the weather. They hang out and reproduce most of the year. If you have carpet, there are more places for eggs to land and stay.

However, if your house is wood/tile or another hard surface, controlling and killing on-board fleas will leave you flea-free and happy.

cat and dog lying next to one another 

Cats Can Cause Flea Problems for Your Dog

The other culprit that can be a “stealth” source for fleas on dogs is…your CAT. Not only do cats tend to act as flea “buses” bringing the “outdoors in”, but the fleas we find on dogs are frequently CAT flea species. Unfortunately, they find dogs just as tasty.

Speaking of cats, what if you have indoor-only cats? Do you have to be concerned about fleas? Well, it depends, if you have hard surface floors and minimal material upholstery or area rugs, then it is highly unlikely your cat will have flea problems.

If on the other hand, you move into a carpeted home WITH your cat, there may be eggs or larvae in the carpets waiting for a better deal. Enter: your cat. In this case, it is wise to use a topical or oral product for at least six months  on the carpet.

Consider using a safe product such as diatomaceous earth or boric acid powder. Sprinkle it into the carpet and vacuum it up, to desiccate remaining pests.

 Dog getting a bath using flea shampoo

Misconceptions About Flea Shampoo

One popular misconception is the use of FLEA SHAMPOOS. Flea shampoos do not have any lasting impact on killing fleas, and are bad for this reason:

They use toxins to kill the fleas on the pet but they don’t typically last more than 24 hours, so you have to use more toxins –increases total toxic load. Please don’t use “flea shampoo” unless your pet has an overwhelming infestation of fleas /ticks and MUST have that “kill” effect due to health risks.

There are also now oral products on the market that work much more safely for a quick kill effect on a heavily infested pet. They are intended for only a 24-hour effect and must be followed with a longer acting flea /flea combination preventative.

 Dr. Tiffany Margolin posing with a dog

Veterinary-Approved Flea and Tick Protection

So what DO you use? There are veterinary-recommended flea and tick products evolving every month, it seems. Some kill only fleas, some ticks, and fleas, and some include extras like internal parasites, heartworm, mites, and mosquitoes.

This article is not intended to recommend specific products, but I advice you only use a product obtained through a veterinarian.

Over the counter products (non-veterinary) either do not work well, or, far worse, some have proven fatal to a number of pets-specifically CATS –and the companies are still not being held accountable.

You’re playing Russian roulette to use some of the highly toxic compounds sold in over the counter pesticide-laden flea products.

The veterinary compounds still have some negative qualities, but the overall goals are modulation of the insect metabolism, and avoiding ill effects on your pet.

I am a holistic vet and I’m frequently queried about natural alternatives for flea and tick control.

Please DO NOT USE ESSENTIAL OILS DIRECTLY ON YOUR PET. Too many are not correctly mixed or diluted and can cause severe irritation of the skin.

In cases of cats, they can have severe reactions to ingested essential oils. I find feeding a measured amount of garlic (a small amount daily) and nutritional yeast to DOGS can prevent fleas.

This recipe was recently posted for a natural flea and tick powder that can also be used:

-1 cup Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
-1/2 cup Neem Powder
-1/2 cup Yarrow Powder
-20 Drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil–Leave out the
essential oil if using for cats.

A word about ticks, they are MUCH tougher than fleas, and they do carry some diseases that can be life-threatening.

Although we’re at a lower risk of that in California, there are still dogs who have contract tickborne diseases.

The risk occurs when the tick has been attached to the dog’s skin for over 24 hours.

To kill or repel ticks requires specific compounds, and only some of the products do this.

I personally find that these are “big guns,” only to be used if your pet picks up ticks in their own yard.

If you’re worried about ticks when out on a hike or camping with your dog, I recommend getting a tick collar that is only used at the time of the outings and checking your pet over carefully once back. This way the more toxic products don’t stay on/in your dog when they’re not needed.


Ear Mites vs. Yeast Infections

Lastly, people often mention they are concerned about their pets’ “ear mites.” In many well-homed, indoor dogs and cats, mites are a very low probability. Usually, the dark waxy material that has an odor, is a yeast infection, with its roots in food allergies.

In fact, one of the cardinal signs or “flags” of a food allergy is excess ear wax/yeast, odor, and itching.

Your veterinarian can easily distinguish yeast infection from mites. In addition, cat ear mites (the more common case) do not transmit to dogs.

Unless you place your cat’s ear wax into your ears, they won’t be interested in your ears!

In the case your cat really does have mites, there are simple topical products that result in a quick resolution.

As summer progresses into the cooler months, remember that California fleas are like California people…they are here for the weather, all year long!

In late fall/winter, you can reduce flea control measures or increase application intervals to every other month, but stopping flea control completely is unlikely.

Consider trying one of the natural remedies mentioned above if you’d like to experiment. It may be the perfect answer.

For more flea and tick solutions, please contact us by clicking here.

Holistic Approaches: Back or Leg Pain in Dogs

holistic approaches to back or leg pain in dogs

Just the other day I received a call from a VERY distressed owner.

“Doctor, Cici isn’t doing well at all and she has a leg problem. We have X-rays but she is still limping and can’t seem to get comfortable. Can you help her?”

I wondered about the X-rays. I’ve so often heard, “Oh yes, they took X-rays (properly termed radiographs) of EVERYTHING. They didn’t find anything”! 


What Are X-rays Not Picking Up?

Usually, what I find in these cases are that hips, a knee, an elbow or shoulder is the focus of  the radiographs. I cannot TELL you how many times there are NO pictures of the pet’s neck or lower spine. 

Yet, the VAST majority of pain appearing as a limp or stiffness in middle-aged or older dogs comes from the spine.

There are a great number of structures  in the region of the spine, that affect the gait or the way a pet walks. Besides the obvious “disc” (that may bulge or be calcifying), there may be inflammation of structures around the bones, muscle spasms, fibrous tissue from old injuries, or plain, simple “arthritis” of different areas of the spine. ALL of which can cause progressive or intermittent signs.

The important thing is that you can learn to recognize this and help the vet to help your pet.


Signs of Pain in the Back, Legs or Neck:

  • Shifting front leg lameness or limping that is hard to localize to one leg (front legs look for neck issues).
  • Slow to squat or push up from squatting when defecating (lesions in the region of the tailbone).
  • “Hunching” of the lower back, a curve that seems more pronounced than before (this can occur in younger dogs as well with muscle spasms of the back).
  • Spasms that look like a standing seizure in small dogs, in which they curve to one side in a “C” shape and are struggling to walk.
  • Snappiness upon petting, scratching or bumping your dog’s hips or lower back.
  • An intermittent or unexplainable yelp of pain or shaking (often neck pain).

“But doctor, he never cries or whines.” 

Think about your own knees or back. When they hurt, do you cry out? Do you whimper? Dogs are even more stoic than we are. It’s not the sharp, unbearable type of pain (except with acute neck pain) that they are usually suffering. Instead, they tend to “suffer in silence”, which only keeps us from recognizing how uncomfortable they may be.

Although it seems animals don’t “tell us where it hurts,” they actually do. We just need to learn their pain language and pay attention. If you think it’s a leg (and you have an older pet), you may want to be sure to rule out back pain with your veterinarian. 


Back Pain or Leg Pain?

So why is it so important to know whether it’s a “back or a leg?” Because the effective treatment can be radically different. 

When I got the call about Cici, I saw her, and my stomach lurched. This dog was in severe pain. And she was on pain medications appropriate for a JOINT or a LEG. But I realized she had neck pain, and her radiographs were only of the elbow and hip joints. 


Holistic Approaches to Solve Cici’s Pain

Because she was in so much pain, she could not tolerate excessive handling, so her owners decided to try acupuncture, one of our holistic approaches, for her neck and a treatment trial of corticosteroids and muscle relaxants, often the best initial way to address the immediate pain and swelling.

The next day I was hesitant to call, afraid I would hear nothing good. On the contrary, Cici had had her best night in weeks. Her owners were ecstatic, grateful and relieved, and Cici was out of pain (finally).

In reviewing her history, all I had to do was listen (she had a metal rod in her back for gosh sakes)! And to pay attention to her level of stiffness and movement. Dogs with joint pain rarely if ever, shake in pain when lying still. But neck pain is different, often sharp and severe.

I’m happy to report that Cici is feeling like herself again.  She will be under observation and receive continued acupuncture treatments to help as much as possible with her ongoing issues. She is not a candidate for surgery again, and many times these situations can get better and stay that way with the right balance of holistic approaches and western medicine.

For more information about how to tell if your pet is in pain, what to do about it, and if you’re interested in talking further about a couple holistic approaches to your dog’s pain, please call From the heart vet.

Heart Disease: Understanding the Signs and Solutions for Cats


One of the best-kept secrets of cats is the presence of undiagnosed heart disease. Why is this? One of the main reasons is that unlike other species, cats DO NOT COUGH WITH HEART DISEASE.


Signs of Heart Disease in Humans and Dogs

This may be a new fact to you, but dogs and humans alike, tend to cough as they develop heart disease. It is, in fact, one of the cardinal signs we use to detect or determine that there may be a heart problem. Heart failure in cats is very difficult to see in the early stages, especially for you, the owner.


Another Sneaky Way Cats Are Showing You They Have a Heart Problem

Besides not coughing, kitties tend to hide the fact that they may be becoming intolerant of exercise. EXERCISE???? You think, “Now when was the last time I saw my cat actually EXERCISE?”

Well, it’s true. As one vet cardiologist put it, “It’s hard to see that your cat has gone from sleeping 23 hours/day to sleeping 23 ½ hours…..”


Cat Breeds That Are More Prone to Heart DiseaseBlue_point_ragdolls

But truly, this is simply to illustrate the reasons you may not catch the early changes. One issue that comes up is your cat’s BREED. Maine Coon kitties, ragdolls,
and Himalayans have higher incidences of heart disease than your sweet, garden variety Domestic Shorthairs.


How to Know Whether Your Cat Has a Heart Issue

What do we do? Well, first and foremost, we discuss your cat’s habits and changes. Some cats, while they may not cough or show exercise intolerance, will have a decreased appetite, loss of interest in grooming, look “scruffy,” or have lost general weight and condition.

If something seems “off” in your cat, it probably is. Please listen to your instincts, and get your kitty to the vet to get the diagnosis made early enough to do something about it.


Options You Have If Your Cat Has Heart Disease

The “gold standard” of testing for heart disease in a cat is an echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart in action. No other test will visualize the moving heart as well. Some doctors want concurrent blood pressure (recommended) and a chest x-ray (to look for fluid in the lungs) as well.

Blood testing may be done to determine if your cat’s kidneys are functioning well enough to filter the heart medications available. We do have medications to support heart function, reduce blood pressure, and act as diuretics to help take the “load” off of a cat’s ailing heart. 

Realize there are options, as well as supplements and natural ways to help your cat. Some natural supplements are veterinary-quality CoQ10, Standard Process Cardiac Support (canine and feline), and Chinese herbs that support heart function and reduce blood pressure. Check with an integrative vet for a whole health plan once a diagnosis of heart disease has been made.

If you believe your cat may be having a heart issue, please reach out to us, we can help.

Acupuncture: Let’s Needle it Out

Today, From the Heart Mobile Vet offers acupuncture and other holistic forms of care for your pets. This is a relatively new part of my practice because integrative medicine has just begun to gain momentum in veterinarian practices. Let me take you down memory lane to a couple years ago when I first was introduced to acupuncture for animals. 


The Beginning of Acupuncture in Veterinary Care

In recent years, acupuncture has begun to find its way into mainstream veterinary medicine. Not two days ago I was sitting in an informal meeting with several alternative/integrative medicine practitioners. We were discussing how acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal and homeopathic medicine had made its way, finally, into increasing numbers of veterinary clinics. It seemed to me that the grassroots movement and consumer demand in human medicine had applied pressure to the veterinary industry.

I was a classic example of a Western medicine–trained vet. As a graduate in 1991, it was with great pride that I diagnosed most problems with radiographs and blood testing, and if it wasn’t showing up there, it didn’t exist. I used the appropriate pills (as directed by the pharmaceutical companies that conducted our seminars) to “fix” the problem.

As I progressed into the inevitable arena of refractory, unresponsive, chronic illnesses, it was alarmingly clear that we were missing A LOT. We were missing early stages of disease or changes that could indicate the later onset of disease in pets. The occasional oddball veterinarian would mention a brush with acupuncture or chiropractic medicine. There might be a story about ONE animal that they thought benefited.


How Acupuncture Has Helped My Pets

It wasn’t until my own dog was showing obvious signs of stiffness, pain and hesitation to jump, with NO sign on X-rays of arthritis that I really came on board with the needles. I quietly slipped over to the only local animal hospital performing pet acupuncture regularly.

The first day Spirit had her treatment, she was a changed dog. She trotted, tail up, into the park and leaped into the air after a tennis ball! I felt my guilt ease and my curiosity peak.


Benefits of Acupuncture on Animals

Pain, of course, is what most of us hear about when it comes to the application of acupuncture. However, pain is just a minute segment of what this method can treat. There are a myriad of signs, symptoms and conditions that respond to, in many cases, a combination of needling, herbs, and dietary changes. Integrative medicine is just that. There is no way to separate one thing from the other, and diet, the lifestyle of the pet and mode of treatment (including conventional and alternative) all combine for the best outcome.

Speaking of combining, one of the more common areas of feedback I hear is that acupuncture doesn’t “hold.” Well, that is extremely dependent on the condition being treated. I was just reading about intervertebral disc disease. This occurs when there is an actual breakdown of disc material in the back, and the disc collapses, bulges or calcifies and causes extreme spinal pain or paralysis of the legs. As you can imagine, this is usually classified as surgical, since the material is actually moving against the spinal cord and needs to be removed.

However, in many cases, owners do not want to subject their beloved pet to surgery, or would like to exhaust other options prior to performing an extensive, invasive procedure. Although the needles will not actually penetrate the disc space or get near the spinal cord, acupuncture can still be very effective in some cases. If Fido responds, as long as you are consistent about follow-up with regular treatments (a lot better than surgery if it works!), then the results will often “hold.” If they do not, this is an indicator that surgery may be necessary.


Complementary Treatments to Acupuncture

In addition to acupuncture, combining several modalities will often strengthen and prolong good results. A great complement to needling is the application of veterinary orthopedic manipulation (VOM), a nontraumatic activator technique adapted from human chiropractic. This method uses a spring-loaded activator to stimulate and rehabilitate the blood supply to the spinal cord and discs. Sometimes if acupuncture doesn’t achieve the desired result, VOM is used, or vice versa. More often, they can be synergistic and result in a better outcome when used in conjunction.

When combining treatment modalities, a pet owner may want something even less “invasive” or physical than the above treatments. In these cases, I recommend the application of alpha wave technology. This technology uses low-frequency sound waves, applied to the body in various areas, to act as “electroacupuncture.” There are no needles and no current is applied. Rather, the sound waves stimulate your pet’s brain to produce alpha waves. These are the healing waves mammals produce when they sleep. They stimulate endorphins, relaxation and generally promote tissue repair and healing.

Now this information is not intended to steer you away from having a necessary surgery. If your pet has a fractured leg or ruptured tendon, surgery is very important—it reconnects the pieces. Alpha-sonic and acupuncture technology can then be used to speed healing immensely, as a form of physical therapy. VOM is also a very effective way to minimize muscle spasms in the back and to lower the risk of a disc problem during post-operative recovery.

In cases of organ malfunction, acupuncture gets very specific and the application of Chinese medicine principals becomes even more, apparent. Customized herbs and dietary changes must often be implemented, along with regular needle application and the monitoring of blood results.

Education on Acupuncture for Veterinarians

Courses in acupuncture are being taught more widely in veterinary schools, and chapters on acupuncture are now found in many veterinary texts. There is a great difference in the approach Chinese medicine takes to problems as compared to Western medicine. Even the same problem in different animals may be treated quite differently by the acupuncturist. As Chinese medicine deals with the body as a whole, treatment also addresses the whole body or “constitution,” correcting at various levels the imbalances detected. Thus, as the body comes into balance, the specific signs, symptoms and “problem” should respond, and, ultimately, resolve.


Is Acupuncture Right for your Pet?

Realize that acupuncture is a cumulative treatment modality. It can often take several initial treatments to ascertain how well your pet will respond. The sessions may take from 15 to 30 or more minutes. The good news is that, in the hands of a certified and trained practitioner, your pet should have no discomfort and will actually be quite relaxed following these sessions.

One of the most important things to remember is to seek an integrative veterinarian who is aligned with your philosophy and will work with you to find a whole-body approach to your pet’s problem. This way, you and Fido will live a longer and healthier life together.

Holistic Medicine and Why I Love it

This is the story of how I started working with holistic medicine.


Jodi, my 46-year old sister, friend, and mentor had three types of late-stage ovarian cancer all through her body. By the time it was detected, the cancer had already crawled up her descending aorta- like the stealthy, silent killer that it is. The surgery lasted eight hours.

For the next five years, Jodi fought with the grit of a woman determined to be there for her two young daughters. Kim, my other sister, and an oncologist treated Jodi. Kim had the BrCA gene too. 


Kim made the decision to be proactive in preventing her own disease. She was certainly not the first to make that hard choice, but she was still my hero. Upon finding she had the gene for ovarian cancer, my physician sister announced (very calmly) that she was going in to be “spayed”. That is actually our little inside joke—because I am the veterinarian. Even though we smiled at the term, it was a very somber time for my family.

My doctor sister (Kim) and I have a joke. She says I’m the brilliant one because I have to care for all sorts of species- and they can’t tell me where it hurts. I say that SHE is the genius, helping save people suffering from cancer every day. From that moment on, I became determined to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening to women of any age.


Modern Medicine Didn’t Cut It

My health troubles were not over. During this time, my father and Jodi were undergoing cancer at City of Hope simultaneously at one point. From the stress of it all, I developed severe high blood pressure, vertigo, arrhythmias and severe insomnia. I was actually taken to the hospital from my WORKPLACE in an ambulance at one point. I wish I could say it was the ONLY ride in an ambulance that year.


After a series of doctors and a battery of tests, what they had to offer was Xanax and beta blockers. What? No diagnosis, no cure. This experience became my teacher and the catalyst that drove me to the world of natural medicine.


My Catalyst to Practice Holistic Medicine

Originally from a highly western medical family (my sister an oncologist, my aunt a general practice doctor, myself a Davis-graduated veterinarian), I had grown up with a typical skepticism towards holistic methods.

After my experience, I changed my attitude and was actually healed with entirely holistic methods. I take no medication of any kind now. I use only functional nutrition and herbs to stay healthy. After holistic treatments healed me 100%, I began to study with doctors from all over the world.

Tiffany with a bird

Then, when I added chiropractic, functional nutrition, Chinese and Aeryuvedic medicine to my own practice, my patients did so much better. It became a joy to practice medicine again. Medicine that was GOOD for the body. Acupuncture, herbs and healing nutrition were the treatments that kept my sister alive and strong during chemotherapy and facilitated her remission for five years past the time she was given to live.


Holistic Medicine Works

The irony is that the disease recurred when she began to eat sugar again (cancer loves sugar). Even though this pained me, I had seen how nutrition and holistic methods helped heal and continue life for my sister during her remission and for me. This changed  my life and that of my patients, forever. Thank you, Jodi.