Ask the Holistic Health Vet

© Matt Jones, Unsplash

If holistic medicine is the right healthcare option for you and your family, a holistic vet might provide the best care for your pets as well. We asked three holistic veterinarians some basic pet health questions and have printed their answers below.

Sharon R. Doolittle, DVM
Sharon R. Doolittle, DVM, graduated from Michigan State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1982. Currently her practice focuses on alternative therapies for dogs and horses, with a special interest in chiropractic for both performance dogs and horses, and animals with general medical problems. Dr. Doolittle’s primary practice area covers Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. She can be reached in Smithfield RI at 401-349-2668 or visit

Q. What should I feed my pet?

A. Feeding processed foods, with no real, whole food, creates health problems in our animals, same as with humans. Dogs and cats were meant to eat real meat, especially cats, that are obligate carnivores. Let’s face it — their ancestors didn’t go out hunting in the wheat fields for the juciest stalk they could find. They hunted and killed a deer or rabbit or some other kind of meat, and of course, they never cooked it, (unless someone can produce a picture of a wolf or tiger near an oven, then I will happily stand corrected!)

All joking aside, our animals came from ancestors who ate raw food, which was high in protein, low in carbohydrates, high in water content, and loaded with all the intact enzymes/life force of raw food. Today’s processed kibbles are nearly the exact opposite of that. They are foods high in carbohydrates, lower in protein, very little water content, and baked at high temperatures and pressures so all the enzymes/life forces are cooked out of it.

There is great controversy today about feeding kibble versus feeding raw. The anti-raw faction says that raw food has too much bacteria present such as E. coli and salmonella. A recent study in the JAVMA (Journal of the American Veterinary Association) showed a study of raw foods and some kibbles, and both showed contamination with these bacteria.

I advocate raw feeding with a few essential guidelines that MUST be followed. First, I advocate using a good commercially prepared raw food that is balanced to canine or feline nutritional standards (AAFCO — Association Of American Feed Control Official guidelines). Some people have the time and the knowledge to do a home prepared raw diet that is completely balanced, but I find that is the minority of people. Second, this change should be done as a slow transition from your pet’s current diet. Third, the transition should be done under the supervision of a holistic veterinarian who can help you with the appropriate digestive enzymes, probiotics and/or other body support products that may be necessary to make the transition.

Still not sold on the raw diet? No problem!! Just cook it! Take whatever raw diet you and your holistic vet have decided is the right one for your animal and cook it. Any diet can be supplemented with additional foods from your refrigerator. Additional veggies and/or meats can be added to help augment the base of commercial food. Dogs and cats will both benefit from getting off the kibble and onto one of the above options.

Q. How can I care for my canine athlete?

A. In my practice, I see lots of agility and flyball dogs, plus assorted other disciplines (field trials, obedience, etc.) As with any athlete, certain injuries or other performance-inhibiting problems often arise.

As one might suspect, canine athletes get lots of chiropractic subluxations! A chiropractic subluxation means that the two adjoining vertebrae of the spine have lost their range of motion. This inhibits proper neurologic firing, and therefore slows the split second timing needed for athletic endeavors. Hence, you may see a slowdown in times, loss of co-ordination, tripping or stumbling. Additionally the subluxations also lead to localized inflammation, which can become painful.

A very common complaint I get is dogs that aren’t jumping well and/or knocking bars. This is often pelvis and sacrum issues where the push off the ground isn’t what it should be due to the chiropractic problems, or these can also be front end problems (especially shoulders) if it is more that the bars are coming down. Toes are also an often overlooked problem, and yet they are so important for the grip needed on course.

Of course, there are also the full spectrum of soft tissue injuries in any canine athlete. Muscle sprains and strains are common, as well as actual tears to the muscle, which is much more serious and requires extensive layup time. Also, there are tendon and ligament strains and sprains which require time off as well. There are many therapies that can be offered, such as massage, acupuncture, laser therapy, ultrasound therapy, plus many specific supplements just for ligaments, muscles, etc., to promote healing of those specific tissues. There are also many herbal anti-inflammatories and painkillers that are available too, such as boswellia, willowbark, celery seed, and horsechestnut to name a few.

With all the potential issues from their athletic disciplines, the canine athlete is best seen once per month during heavy competition/training season. This way, any potential problems can be headed off at the pass, and things such as proper chiropractic alignment can be maintained. Proper wellness and maintenance care is a must for top athletic performance.

Margo Roman, DVM
Margo Roman, DVM, has studied and served on the faculty at numerous animal schools and research centers. Her own animal clinic, Main Street Animal Services of Hopkinton (M.A.S.H), was opened in 1983 as a mobile clinic, and is now a full service holistic veterinary practice offering chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, homeopathy, surgery and conventional medicine in a integrative manner. Visit to learn about and preview a series of DVD documentaries Dr. Roman is creating to bring alternative and integrative modalities to mainstream veterinary medical care. Dr. Roman can be reached at 508-435-4077 or visit

Q. I’ve just gotten a new dog from the local animal shelter. What are the best things I can do to raise a healthy pet?

A. When you get an animal from the animal shelter, you take what you have and you love it. After that, the primary concern is nutrition, getting them on a really healthy diet that is going to help their immune system stay as strong as possible. I recommend giving fresh organic foods, fresh meats, and fresh vegetables. You don’t want to go with things that are not human consumption quality, which means that it can have cancer, ground up tumors and other undesirable products in the food. When people say that dog food is dog food, it’s not. If you are feeding food that has inferior ingredients, it could very well be dangerous to the animal.

Over-vaccination is another big health issue. Many of the places that sell puppies feel one vaccine is good, and one every three weeks until about 20 weeks of age is better, but it’s not. You could probably reduce those down by about 70% and still have a good immune system established for that puppy. Giving vaccinations when they are not needed is potentially causing the immune system to overreact and attack itself. Find a veterinarian who is willing to reduce the vaccine load your dog is getting. Spread them out or give lesser portions of the vaccine.

If you get a young dog, check to see that their body is in chiropractic balance. At our office, we try to get all puppies chiropractically accessed so they can grow to the full benefit of their skeletal system. If they are not and are slightly torqued in one direction or the other, then they may have a problem in the future with a limb or a hip not growing straight. That is especially true with large breeds that are prone to hip dysplasia. You want to make sure that their body is always in the right frame so that they grow straight.

Another concern in raising a healthy pet is to make sure it always has a supply of good quality water. And finally, dogs need good quality exercise. Getting them out and actually finding a place where they can safely run independently without getting near cars helps to develop all of their muscles and back legs. When a dog is walked only on a leash on a flat surface, that’s not the way dogs usually walk. They are running up and down hills, chasing birds and chasing members of their pack. I like to encourage people to cross train their dogs when they are growing and find a place where you can get them up and down a hill, off leash and let them push off their back end, jump and do all the things that they would normally do.

Q. What is ozone therapy and how can it help my pets?

A. Ozone therapy has been used in Europe and other countries for over 50 years, but it’s just not accepted in this country yet. Once you buy the ozone unit, it is so inexpensive to use.

Ozone therapy stimulates the production of white blood cells, which fight infection, and speeds the healing and regeneration process. It kills every type of virus on contact and is a great purifier of the blood. Cancer, yeast, fungi and parasites are anaerobic diseases, which means they cannot live in oxygen, and ozone is “super oxygen”(O3). For over 100 years, ozone has converted sewage into drinking water, so imagine what it can do inside your body. All of our water here in Massachusetts is now ozonated to disinfect it, but without using pure surgical oxygen, which is the only safe source to use medicinally.

What we do for small animals is give the ozone subcutaneously infused in saline at high pressure so it is released into the tissue and the body pulls out the oxygen, very similar to a hyperbarometric chamber where you are forcing oxygen into the tissues. We’ve also bagged limbs and entire bodies for wounds after running the ozone through a moisture humidification process. Skin inflammation and “hot spots” really improve with ozone therapy, especially during the hot summer months. We run the ozone through virgin olive oil so it can be gently given without irritation into the lungs when necessary.

I had a client whose cat got caught in a fan belt, which completely ripped apart the cat’s leg. The animal hospital recommended immediate amputation, but she brought the cat over to me, which was stable enough to sedate. So I put the skin back together as best I could, used acupuncture around the site, then bagged the whole leg and bathed it in ozone therapy. The cat was healed and running around within a week.

Liz Hassinger, DVM
Liz Hassinger, DVM, is the owner of Wolf Rock Animal Health Center in Exeter, RI which blends both natural and conventional veterinary medicine. An active member of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, she has extensive training and ten years of experience using nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic care in her practice.

Q. What’s the best way to control fleas naturally?

A. Fleas are most annoying during the fall. As with so many afflictions, the very best way to fight fleas is by using a preventive plan before they strike. Conventional veterinarians recommend toxic chemicals, exposing your animal and even yourself to potential carcinogens. The holistic approach to flea prevention starts with high quality diet and good grooming. Animals that eat great foods rarely have problems with fleas. This is because their skin, coat and entire body are healthy. There are many great foods available these days, but they’re not the ones that are sold in grocery stores or even the big chain stores. Visit a small, holistic pet care store for a good selection. Homemade or fresh frozen diets are an even better choice; work with your holistic vet to be certain the recipe is complete and balanced. Within a few short weeks of improving the diet, you should notice a real improvement in the overall quality of the fur. Added benefit: less shedding!

Good grooming includes the use of herbal shampoos for bathing, and regular brushing to remove loose fur and dead skin. Many herbal shampoos, if left on the coat for about 10 minutes, are effective at stunning if not killing fleas, and they will be rinsed away with the final rinse. To relieve itching, you can finish with a rinse of colloidal oatmeal in water, available at drugstores in the skin care or bath department.

When fleas are on your pets, they are also busy laying eggs. Everywhere that they travel, tiny little flea eggs will drop off, getting scattered under furniture, and into cracks and crevices. To prevent these eggs from hatching, you’ll need to get busy with your vacuum cleaner. Clean under things, under edges of rugs and all cracks between furniture cushions. Don’t forget to clean your car and any other places that your friend visits regularly. It’s a good idea to put some herbal flea powder or strong essential oils into the vacuum bag, and replace them frequently. Shake out pet bedding regularly. There are also many natural sprays and powders that can be useful for flea treatment. Most contain essential oils which may carry some risks if applied to cats. I like to use a powder made from neem oil, diatomaceous earth and yarrow.

Lastly, we need to consider the individual animals. If they are suffering from any other complaint, such as dental disease, allergies, intestinal imbalances or emotional stress these must be addressed. It is common that in households with multiple animals, only certain ones tend to have flea problems. These individuals are not as healthy as they can be, and so they will attract the little bugs and other parasites as well. When you take the time to address their entire health and lifestyle, you will find that flea problems fade into history.

Find more Holistic Health articles on Alternative Medicine or see the Animal Services category of the Holistic Health Directory