Category Archives: Exotics

Holistic Veterinary Medicine

In recent years, pet owners and veterinarians have taken a greater interest in a holistic approach to health care. By definition, a holistic health exam should include discussion of all aspects of the pet’s lifestyle: Their medical history, diet, activity level, and their social interactions with humans and other pets are all taken into zoey2consideration. A holistic approach to medical care may incorporate both traditional diagnostics and therapeutics, such as prescription diets, medications, and dental care, as well as complementary and alternative modalities, such as acupuncture, herbal supplements, massage therapy and more.

The scope of complementary and alternative veterinary medicine is vast, and not all modalities are believed to be equal in their efficacy. In some cases, research has been conducted to fully understand how or why a given therapy works. In other cases, the effect a therapy is supposed to have is largely unsupported conjecture (and in some cases it may just be a sales gimmick!). This article is meant to help you understand which therapies we believe are helpful.

Acupuncture and Acutherapy

  • Traditional Chinese medicine, as it has applied to human health for centuries, is used as a basis for veterinary acupuncture.
  • Specific points on the body are examined and stimulated by use of acupuncture needles. Additional means of stimulation can include pressure, moxibustion (application of a heated substance), injections of saline or B-vitamins at specific points, low-level laser therapy, magnets, and more.
  • Acupuncture and related therapies are accepted as an effective mode of therapy in human medicine, and they are widely believed to be effective in animals as well. The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes acupuncture and acutherapy as an accepted and “fully integrated” approach to therapy.
  • Veterinarians may elect to pursue formal training in traditional Chinese medicine and the use of acupuncture outside of the standard veterinary school curriculum. Ask your veterinarian if they (or their colleagues) have been trained to perform acupuncture, low-level laser therapy, or related practices.
  • At Bolton Vet, Dr. Cassandra Oswald is formally trained in veterinary acupuncture. Many Bolton Vet doctors routinely make use of low-level laser therapy. You may search for an acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine practitioner local to you at www.tcvm.com.

Veterinary Chiropractic

  • The scope of veterinary chiropractic includes the evaluation, manipulation, and adjustment of specific joints. It does NOT include prescribed medication or supplements, surgery, or injections, and it cannot be considered a replacement for standard veterinary care.
  • Clinical and anecdotal evidence suggests that veterinary chiropractic can be beneficial, but formal research is limited.
  • Veterinarians may elect to pursue formal training in veterinary chiropractic outside of the standard veterinary school curriculum. Ask your veterinarian if they (or their colleagues) have been trained to perform chiropractic medicine.
  • At Bolton Vet, Dr. Cassandra Oswald is currently pursuing training in veterinary chiropractic. You may search for a certified veterinary chiropractic practitioner at animalchiropractic.org.

Veterinary Physical Therapy & Massage Therapy

  • laser1Veterinary physical therapy is the use of noninvasive techniques, such as low-level lasers (see photo to right), electrical sources, magnetic fields, and ultrasound; rehabilitative exercises; hydrotherapy; and applications of heat and cold for the rehabilitation of injures.
  • Veterinary massage therapy includes only the use of a person’s hands and body to massage soft tissues.
  • Physical therapy and massage therapy techniques may be performed by a veterinary technician under the supervision  or referral of a licensed veterinarian who is providing concurrent medical care.
  • Many veterinarians, particularly those who perform orthopedic surgeries, will make recommendations for physical rehabilitation and can instruct a pet owner in basic protocols and techniques.
  • Physical rehabilitation techniques are incorporated in a modern veterinary school curriculum, but veterinarians may elect to pursue further training independently.
  • Local to Bolton Vet, formal physical therapy programs include Wizard of Paws in Colchester CT and Pieper Memorial’s physical therapy department in Middletown, CT. Many Bolton Vet doctors routinely make use of low-level laser therapy.

Veterinary Homeopathy

  • Veterinary homeopathy incorporates an interesting strategy: Tiny amounts of substances that are capable of causing clinical signs in healthy animals are administered to sick/injured animals with those same clinical signs. The therapy is believed to work because the doses administered are extremely dilute. They may work via “reminding” the body of the clinical signs present, thereby prompting recovery.
  • The human and veterinary medical communities’ understanding of how homeopathy may work is not complete. It is among the less scientifically-supported modalities.
  • Many pet owners are not aware that HOMEOPATHIC medicine is not the same as HERBAL medicine (see below for more on herbal medicine…)
  • Clinical and anecdotal evidence suggests that veterinary homeopathy can be beneficial, but formal research is very limited.
  • Since some of these substances may be toxic when used at inappropriate doses, it is imperative that veterinary homeopathy be practiced only by licensed veterinarians who have been educated in veterinary homeopathy.
  • Veterinarians may elect to pursue formal training in veterinary homeopathy outside of the standard veterinary school curriculum.
  • At Bolton Vet, Dr. Cassandra Oswald is formally trained in veterinary homeopathy. You may search for a Certified Veterinary Homeopath local to you at theavh.org.

Veterinary Herbal/Botanical Medicine

  • spring9Veterinary botanical medicine is the use of plants and plant derivatives as therapeutic agents.
  • There are many examples of the use of herbal/botanical products in veterinary medicine. Some are believed to be more effective than others:
    • Citronella oil (an extract of lemongrass) is widely recognized as a mild insect repellant.
    • Cranberry extract is frequently used to prevent recurrent urinary tract infections in humans and animals, and its mechanism of action is well-studied and understood.
    • Supplements containing Milk Thistle are generally considered a standard of care in the treatment of some types of liver disease.
    • Buyer (or Googler) beware, there are also many herbal products and “natural” supplements that are quite costly, yet not necessarily effective. Supplements are not FDA-regulated, so there is no guarantee a product that is sold actually contains what is on the label (!!). Your veterinarian can recommend trusted brand-name supplements.
  • Since some of these botanicals may be toxic when used at inappropriate doses, it is imperative that veterinary botanical medicine be practiced only by licensed veterinarians who have been educated in veterinary botanical medicine.
  • Veterinarians may elect to pursue formal training in veterinary botanical/herbal medicine outside of the standard veterinary school curriculum. You may search for a Certified Veterinary Herbalist at www.vbma.org.

Nutraceutical Medicine

  • Nutraceutical medicine is the use of micronutrients, macronutrients, and other nutritional supplements as therapeutic agents.
  • Research in this field is ongoing. There are many examples of the use of specialized nutrition or neutriceutical products in veterinary medicine. Some are believed to be more effective than others:
    • There is a great abundance of carefully formulated prescription dog and cat diets to treat or help control a wide variety of diseases, including allergies, obesity, joint pain, kidney failure, and liver disease.
    • Glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids are widely recognized as a dietary supplements for joint support and prevention of arthritis
    • St. John’s Wort is believed to have analgesic (pain-relieving) and anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) properties; yet at an excessive dose, this plant extract can be toxic, potentially causing skin ulceration and dermatitis.
    • Some skin conditions are responsive to zinc supplementation, however, excessive dietary zinc can also be quite toxic.
  • Nutrition and veterinary neutraceutical medicine are incorporated in a modern veterinary school curriculum, but veterinarians may elect to pursue further training independently.

References & Further Reading:

AVMA Guidelines for Complementary & Alternative Veterinary Medicine

 

Holistic Vet Care – View/Print as PDF

 

Tips for Exotic Pet Care

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The title “Exotic Pets” refers to a huge range of animals – birds, reptiles, small mammals, even insects – but there are a few general ideas that can be applied to all of these “special species” to better manage their care.

1. Get the Basics Right – A huge proportion of exotic pets’ health problems are the result of owners not providing the correct care for the animal. It can be challenging to meet the needs of an animal that is native to any environment from a rainforest to a desert! Before choosing to adopt an exotic pet, seriously consider whether you can care for them properly. Reptiles and amphibians can be particularly challenging even for experienced pet owners to keep healthy in captivity. Research your pet’s needs thoroughly. In some cases, websites and pet store employees can be good sources of information, but often they are not up-to-date on the best level of care. Please, please, please, call or email your vet to get the best information. They may discuss the best standard of care with you in detail, or refer you to a web resource they trust.

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2. The Value of a Routine – Exotic pets are often prey species, and as a result, they will generally hide signs of illness as long as possible. The reason for this is simple – if a prey animal allowed itself to appear sick or hurt in the wild, it would quickly be captured and eaten by a predator. Even though our exotic pets are safe from predators in our homes, this inclination to hide signs of illness is “built in.” How, then, do we know if an exotic pet is not feeling well? Subtle signs will often be present if we know how to look for them. One of the most helpful things an exotic pet owner can do is maintain a routine for their pet. Provide fresh water and a measured amount of food at the same time every day. This way, if less is consumed, you will notice the difference more readily. If you offer a new food item, begin giving just a small amount at first, and never give too much of any treat. Know what times of day your pet is normally active and alert and what times they generally rest. A pet who hides or sleeps more than usual may not be feeling well.

3. Monitor Health at Home – We must continually be on the lookout for signs of illness in our exotic pets. A few sneezes, a loss of appetite, or a day spent hiding may be the only clues our exotic pets provide before becoming seriously ill. One more tool we can use is monitoring our exotic pets’ weight. A gram scale – a kitchen scale or postage scale – can allow our small exotic pets to be accurately weighed once weekly. Young animals should continually gain weight and never lose it. Most species will reach their adult weight and maintain it, with only very small losses or gains over time. Some species, like reptiles, may continue to gain weight at a slow rate throughout their lives. Write down your pet’s weight weekly – if you ever notice a significant decline in weight that is outside of the usual pattern, this is likely a sign of illness. Of course, being significantly overweight is also a health concern.

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4. Visiting the Vet – Exotic pets are often more stressed by a trip to the vet than our dogs and cats, and the benefit of seeing a vet has to be weighed against the fear they may experience as they leave their familiar environment. Fortunately, we can take steps to reduce the stress of a vet visit for exotic pets. Transport your exotic pet in a small solid-sided container (such as a Kritter Keeper), preferably covered so that it is dark. For some species, small fabric pet carriers available in pet stores work well. For others, a simple cardboard box may be effective if it can be closed securely. Assure your exotic pet is kept warm during transport in the colder months. Particularly for birds and reptiles, even a brief chill can be dangerous. Warm water bottles may be effective; there is also a product called a “Snuggle Safe” which is a microwavable heating pad that stays comfortably warm for several hours.

5. Talk to the Vet – If you notice something out of the ordinary and are concerned, feel free to call or email your vet before making an appointment – it may or may not be necessary to visit. In some cases, emailing a photo or video of what you are noticing can be helpful, too.

Here are some of our favorite online resources for exotic pet care:

Ferrets – Hugawoozel

Rabbits – The House Rabbit Society

Guinea Pigs – Guinea Lynx

Rats – Rats Rule

Birds – Up At Six 

Reptiles – Melissa Kaplan’s Herp Care Collection

Tips for Exotic Pet Care – View/Print as PDF