Take 'alternative' as a complement
Q: My cat has cancer, and I'd like to find a holistic veterinarian who offers acupuncture and herbal treatments. What should I look for?
A: Veterinarians who describe themselves as "holistic" usually mean that they look at everything in an animal's life that might affect his health, such as diet, home environment and social situation. Most of us would say that we do that, but what you are looking for is a veterinarian who practices complementary, or alternative, medicine.
To make sure your cat gets the best care, ask the following questions:
* How can alternative therapies complement the treatment my cat is already receiving?
* Do these therapies have any potential risks?
* Where did you receive your training in acupuncture and herbal medicine? The Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine, in Fort Collins, is the only program that teaches medical acupuncture grounded in neuroanatomy and neurophysiology.
Little is known about the safety of herbal treatments for cats, so be doubly cautious. Also, be concerned if the veterinarian pooh-poohs conventional treatment, claims that his or her approach is the only valid one, or suggests that you stop seeing your cat's primary-care veterinarian.
To find a veterinarian in your area who offers complementary care, search the website of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (www.ahvma.org).