These Certifications Could Offer Your Pet Lifetime Wellness – Does Your Vet Have Them?

Story at-a-glance -

  • In this video, Dr. Becker interviews Dr. Donna Raditic, clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center. Dr. Raditic created and oversees the school’s five year-old Integrative Veterinary Medicine service.
  • Dr. Raditic became interested in integrative medicine after working for several years in a traditional veterinary practice. She began to wonder what more she could do to help animals stay well or recover from illness and disease.
  • In her work with the integrative medicine service at UT, Dr. Raditic sits down with her colleagues and puts together a total health plan for each patient. It’s especially rewarding when the team gets to create a wellness-based lifetime plan for puppy and kitten patients. It’s a method of approaching a pet’s well-being that isn’t taught in vet school, and Dr. Raditic feels very fortunate to have the opportunity to offer students, pet owners and also other faculty members the tools to embrace a proactive, integrative approach to animal wellness.
  • Thanks to help from the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation, Dr. Raditic has also created a fellowship program for veterinary students. It is modeled after AVMA-recognized residency programs, and will involve research in the future.
  • Between now and March 30, 2014, every $1 donated to the AHVM Foundation will be automatically tripled. That’s right – Mercola Healthy Pets will contribute $2 for every $1 you donate, up to $250,000, from March 23 through March 30, 2014.

By Dr. Becker

To kick off our American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation (AHVMF) fundraising efforts this week, I'm excited to have the opportunity to interview Dr. Donna Raditic. Dr. Raditic received a B.S. degree in Animal Science from Cornell University in 1982, and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine degree from Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine four years later.

After graduation, Dr. Raditic worked in a small animal veterinary practice for nine years, and then started her own integrative practice in 1997 in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. She also specialized in animal acupuncture, chiropractic, and botanical therapies.

Dr. Raditic also completed a residency program with the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN), and is now an ACVN diplomate, which means she's a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.

Dr. Raditic Currently Heads Up a Young and Flourishing Integrative Veterinary Medicine Service at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center

In 2009, Dr. Raditic was asked to develop an Integrative Veterinary Medicine service at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center. She is currently a clinical assistant professor at UT's veterinary hospital where she sees patients for acupuncture, chiropractic, cold laser therapy, and massage. Dr. Raditic also provides preventive health programs and nutritional recommendations, including the use of supplements, as well as nutraceuticals and botanicals.

The Integrative Veterinary Medicine service Dr. Raditic oversees is a source of information for veterinarians and clients of the veterinary hospital interested in investigating alternative therapies. Veterinary students join the service to expand their training to include complementary and alternative veterinary medicine.

Dr. Raditic lectures and publishes information for professionals and pet owners about holistic care, proper nutrition, supplements, and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and rehabilitative medicine. Her veterinary experience is broad-based and complete – from a conventional veterinary practice, to owner of an integrative practice, and now back to academia as a clinician and educator.

Dr. Raditic's experiences over the last 28 years in the field of animal health and well-being have been very fulfilling for her. She believes our pet patients deserve the best care veterinary medicine has to offer, as they are our vigilant guardians and constant loving companions, and they ask for so little in return.

How Dr. Raditic Became Interested in Integrative Veterinary Medicine

I kicked off our interview by asking Dr. Raditic what it means to be an ACVN diplomate. She replied that an ACVN diplomate is a veterinarian who has received specialized training in the area of clinical veterinary nutrition. The ACVN designation is part of the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) program for specialists. Dr. Raditic explained that it was one of her career goals, and she's very pleased to have received certification in the specialty.

The ACVN certification is Dr. Raditic's most recent, but I know she has other certifications as well, for example, in acupuncture and chiropractic. I asked her to describe for us how she became interested in integrative medicine.

Dr. Raditic explained that after graduation, she joined a high-volume, high-quality small animal practice. The practice was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so she was exposed to lots of different things and found it very exciting. Dr. Raditic guesses it was in her eighth or ninth year at that practice that she finally grew comfortable enough not to fear what was going to come through the door next. She was gaining confidence in her abilities, and starting to think, "Okay, what else can I do?"

She decided to sign up for the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) in Calgary, Canada. So her first venture into the realm of complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) involved learning acupuncture. Then she learned some traditional Chinese medicine.

At first all the language used in CAVM was foreign to Dr. Raditic, but it started her on the path of looking into other approaches to help animal patients. She eventually added courses in herbs, and training in chiropractic to her toolkit. As she explains it, "It's just a path you start, and you learn to integrate it into your work, who you are, and what you represent."

Her final exploration was into the area of nutrition, because pet owners have lots of questions about what to feed their companions. They want to do it right, and of course, Dr. Raditic wanted to do it right as well. So she looked into becoming a specialist in veterinary nutrition. She went through the ACVN program and feels it gave her a broader perspective and lots of tools.

Why Integrative Medicine Is Such an Exciting Approach in the Treatment of Pet Patients

Next, I asked Dr. Raditic to talk about her integrative medicine department at the University of Tennessee, and why she feels integrative medicine and research is so important.

She answered that when she first started working at UT, she was seeing clients who wanted a different approach to helping their pets – an integrative approach. Also, students began requesting to work with her because they were hungry for information on alternative ways to treat patients.

So Dr. Raditic began outlining in her own mind ways she could teach students and show them what she was doing. It's one thing to do something yourself -- it's another to try to effectively teach it to others.

Regardless of the patient or the health issue being treated, Dr. Raditic says she and her team sit down and make a plan that includes everything from the animal's basic nutritional needs, to conventional medications that may be necessary, to alternative therapies that may prove beneficial. They put together a total health plan for the patient.

A client may bring a new puppy or kitten in, and because they've had a less-than-optimal experience raising a former pet, they're interested in doing things differently with their new furry family member. It's exciting to sit down and outline a lifetime plan for optimal health for that animal. This is a way of approaching a pet's well-being that isn't taught in current veterinary school courses, so Dr. Raditic feels very fortunate to have the opportunity to offer students, pet owners and also other faculty members the tools to embrace a proactive, integrative approach to animal wellness.

How the AHVM Foundation Has Helped Dr. Raditic's Service Grow

I asked Dr. Raditic how funding fits into the picture to support not only her integrative medicine service, but hopefully other services in other veterinary schools. Where does funding come from?

She replied that in her case, she's been very fortunate to receive a good deal of outside funding through the AHVM Foundation. Dr. Raditic explained that she wasn't even aware that the foundation was working to put services like hers into veterinary schools. She says the AHVMF has worked very hard to help, "pounding the pavement" looking for financial support right alongside her.

I asked Dr. Raditic to talk a little about the fellowship that was started at UT. She replied that she and her colleagues were kicking around the idea of implementing a one-year program for veterinary students who didn't go into practice immediately upon graduation. Some of these students had asked if they could sort of hang out with the integrative service for a few months.

So Dr. Raditic got the idea of formalizing a program that students could take advantage of after graduation to receive training and experience in integrative veterinary medicine. She modeled the program after AVMA-sanctioned programs. The program ultimately grew into a two-year fellowship for an individual student to work not only in Dr. Raditic's service, but also do rotations in clinics and other services. 

Dr. Raditic explained that in a traditional resident program, students must do research, so she and her colleagues also plan to design a research project that will be American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM)-level research involving abstracts and studies. This aspect of the fellowship brings research into the mix, but as always, it depends on funding. It provides a way to tie the integrative service to conventional medicine and the research world. Dr. Raditic believes the research portion of the program will be very important due to the need to create evidence-based studies in alternative therapies.

Why This Is a Very Important Time for Integrative Veterinary Medicine

Mercola Healthy Pets is very excited to partner with Dr. Raditic to support not only the two-year fellowship program, but also the expansion of her integrative service at UT, and hopefully, similar services at other veterinary schools across the U.S. and around the world. Dr. Raditic's service is sort of the flagship in that it allows students to gain training in integrative veterinary approaches at a really substantial level.

Dr. Raditic believes this is a very important time for the integrative movement and CAVM. The American Veterinary Medical Association (which is the veterinary equivalent of the American Medical Association) has recently and for the first time formally recognized the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, as well as the American Acupuncture Veterinary Association. This is hugely important in terms of the AHVMA and AAVA receiving recognition and attention, which opens doors, including doors to funding opportunities.

As Dr. Raditic points out, "All of us learn this in life: timing is everything. And this is the time." She feels we have some real problems in academia right now. Students are graduating with huge debt loads. Qualified individuals are hard to hang onto because they have such high debt loads. Universities don't have funding for basic programs. People are becoming aware of these issues and asking how to best deal with them.

Dr. Raditic feels that putting integrative medicine services into veterinary schools is part of the answer to some of the problems the profession is facing. Students need more tools and bigger vision, and integrative veterinary medicine provides that.

Dr. Raditic says she is "amazed, honored and humbled" to be a part of the integrative medicine movement. She would like to see an integrative service in every veterinary school, and she believes the AHVM Foundation will lead the way. She believes DVMs and others interested in CAVM and integrative medicine must invest personally, professionally and financially in the foundation to make things happen.

"I can tell you from my standpoint, having been an associate, having owned my own practice, now being in academia, being old and having watched this whole thing unfold," says Dr. Raditic, "The time is now."

"It is now time for us to move forward and for all of us to be a part of what the foundation represents, because it's going to answer a lot of questions," she continued. "It's going to solve a lot of problems, and it's going to take veterinary medicine to a whole new level."

My Thanks to Dr. Raditic for Joining Us Today

That sounds like a perfect vision to me! It's inspiring to partner with Dr. Raditic and the AHVM Foundation to achieve this vision by providing an opportunity to fund some of the programs we've discussed.

Dr. Raditic believes it takes visionary people to see where all this could and should go, and she kindly added that she feels I'm a part of that bigger picture, as is Mercola Healthy Pets, and all of you listening and reading here today as well.

I want to thank Dr. Raditic for her time today. I'm so excited about all that she has accomplished and her plans for the future!

How You Can Make a Difference

Mercola Healthy Pets has partnered with the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation (AHVMF) to raise over $880,000 in the last two years. Last year's campaign allowed the foundation to fund half a million dollars in research and professional education grants – including studies for herbal and homeopathic treatment of cancer, postural rehabilitation studies, and the development of a new fellowship at the University of Tennessee. We also made it possible for Louisiana State University to add a veterinary acupuncturist to their teaching hospital.

Animals bless us with their companionship and love. Each of them is one in a million. People who know this are uniting to build a group of one million members who value holistic healthcare research and education. By donating, we provide the energy to make these dreams a reality.

I'm tremendously excited to announce that now through March 30, 2014, all your donations will be automatically tripled. For every $1 you donate, Mercola Healthy Pets will donate an additional $2, up to $250,000. So please, take a moment right now to Be One in a Million and make a donation to the AHVM Foundation.