Acupuncture and the Bright Red Black Lab

Story at-a-glance -

  • Dr. Caroline Pattie is the only holistic practitioner at a four-doctor veterinary clinic. She is a huge advocate of acupuncture and has seen it work near-miracles. She plans to add more tools to her veterinary toolbox with other hands-on healing modalities
  • Dr. Gerald Buchoff attended veterinary school in India. In his practice back in the U.S., he evolved from conventional to more holistic modalities gradually, while also serving as President and in other positions for the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association
  • Dr. Christina Chambreau graduated from veterinary school in 1980 with virtually no exposure to holistic or alternative therapies. By 1988, her veterinary practice was 100 percent homeopathic. She advises pet guardians to ask lots of questions of their vets, keep vaccinations to a minimum, and avoid processed pet food

By Dr. Becker

I’m at the AHVMA conference today, chatting with holistic veterinarians as part of my Highlighting the Healer interview series.

Dr. Caroline Pattie

My first guest is Dr. Caroline Pattie, from Northern Virginia. Dr. Pattie knew at age 5 that she wanted to be a veterinarian. She graduated from veterinary school in 2008 and joined the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) as soon as she realized she’d been “drinking the Western (medicine) Kool-Aid.”

Dr. Pattie worked as a veterinary technician while waiting to get into vet school, and her first experience with holistic medicine involved a dog who was recumbent (he couldn’t stand or walk). The vet she worked for at the time suggested acupuncture. Dr. Pattie had no exposure to acupuncture, and thought of it as a “woo-woo thing.” The dog had one treatment, and “I’ll be damned if that dog didn’t try to cross the lobby to see me the very next day,” says Dr. Pattie. It sparked her interest in acupuncture and other non-traditional therapies.

Dr. Pattie attended the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia, where she was able to take a complementary medicine elective. Her interest in holistic and alternative therapies continued to grow. After graduation she went into practice, and within a year she thought, “I can’t do this for the rest of my life.” She loved Western medicine, but she saw its limitations. She knew there was more she could be doing for her patients.

Dr. Pattie says that practicing holistic medicine makes so much more sense to her than confining herself to Western medicine. She feels personally healthier since learning some of the theories of holistic healing.

“Being a healer and providing service is the rent you pay for living,” says Dr. Pattie. “Being able to give back what you’ve been given.”

The Case of the Bright Red Black Lab

At her practice, Dr. Pattie is the only holistic practitioner. Her counterparts don’t know a lot about alternative therapies, and the owner has had some negative experiences with holistic-oriented associates in the past. Dr. Pattie has been the first to help him feel more comfortable with offering non-traditional therapies, which has allowed him to expand his practice.

One of the cases she remembers was a black Labrador Retriever with the worst allergic reaction she’d ever seen. The dog’s body was bright red and his skin was weeping. She overheard her boss talking to the dog’s owner. He said, “We’ve done all we can do. We’re just going to try to let the drugs work.” The poor dog was on IV fluids and steroids, among other things.

Dr. Pattie immediately called the owner herself and said she was going to try acupuncture. The owner was agreeable. Dr. Pattie began inserting needles into the dog, and when she hit a certain spot, she says, “it was like a furnace.” Sounds came out of the dog’s body that reminded her of a smokestack. She says, “It was one of the first and few times in my life that I’ve seen energy.”

The dog’s body continued to make the smokestack sounds. Prior to the treatment, the dog had only been able to stand in his kennel and pant. As Dr. Pattie worked on him, the dog sort of collapsed against the kennel door, then slid to the floor and fell asleep. When her boss came to check on the dog he was astonished.

Dr. Pattie says it was wonderful to be able to share the power of the treatment with other staff members who were skeptical. They may not understand what she does, but to see it in action meant they had to respect it.

Dr. Pattie feels that when the body gets “stuck” in some way, resulting in a health crisis, acupuncture can provide a road map to a better location. When it works, it is a very fast, inexpensive method to release the body from a “stuck” position.

Finding Her Way with the Help of a Supportive Community

Dr. Pattie is certified in acupuncture, so I asked her what other alternative modalities she’d like to learn. She’s a little intimidated by herbs at this point, but she’s very interested in energy work and osteopathy. She gravitates more to hands-on types of therapies, so chiropractic might also be in her future.

Dr. Pattie says she loves being in the company of other holistic healers at the AHVMA conferences. In the beginning, she was afraid it would be very competitive, but much to her relief, this group is all about supporting each other, not competing with one another.

Dr. Gerald Buchoff

My second guest today is Dr. Gerald Buchoff, of Little Falls, New Jersey.

Dr. Buchoff graduated in 1980 from Govind Ballabh Pant University School of Veterinary Sciences in Uttar Pradesh, India. He was attending Rutgers University and was president of the school’s veterinary science club. He invited a professor to speak to the club about veterinary education in India, and the professor inspired Dr. Buchoff and two other Rutgers students to finish their education in India. They received an excellent education and became very strong surgeons.

As part of his education in India, Dr. Buchoff was exposed to homeopathy and Ayurvedic herbs, but there wasn’t much emphasis on manipulation-type treatments like chiropractic. When he returned to the U.S., he went to work for a veterinarian in Secaucus, New Jersey. The two eventually became partners at another practice, which Dr. Buchoff ran for 20 years.

Back in the early 1980s when Dr. Buchoff was just starting out, he wasn’t practicing any alternative modalities. But his clients often suggested things to him that they’d read about. They also asked him why he couldn’t do more for their pet’s allergies, or cancer, or other disease, and he had to tell them, “That’s all I was taught.”

Graduating Vet School with an Incomplete Toolbox

Like so many veterinarians who begin exploring holistic therapies after they graduate, Dr. Buchoff felt he came out of vet school with a veterinary toolbox that was only partially full. So he began taking courses in alternative therapies. He took a short course in acupuncture in the mid-1980s, then delved deeper into it in the mid-1990s, by reading books by Dr. Allen Schoen and Dr. Cheryl Schwartz. He also took other types of courses – in homeopathy, chiropractic, Chinese herbology, aromatherapy, homotoxicology, etc.

Dr. Buchoff began gradually incorporating holistic medicine into his practice. For example, he realized that giving antibiotics without probiotics was really hurting his patients. He was taught in vet school to “First, do no harm.” But he was doing harm by giving antibiotics and not balancing them with probiotics to temper side effects. He learned new ways of doing things slowly, and eventually became certified in chiropractic and other modalities.

Another area Dr. Buchoff dove into was nutrition. About 20 years ago he heard about Pat McKay’s raw diet. He was a little leery, but he also thought it was healthier for pets than cooked food. So he started selling her food, which he had shipped frozen from California to New Jersey. A few years later, he started making his own raw food, which was mainly meat and vegetables. Then about 5 years ago, he consulted with a number of different holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists and got ideas for improving his line of raw food, Dr. B's Raw Diet for Pets.

These days, he adds whole blood, green tripe, many glands and organs, non-toxic bone meal, and garlic (in mild amounts) to his recipes so that each bit of food represents the whole animal.

Integrative Veterinary Medicine’s Bright Future

Dr. Buchoff has been actively involved with the AHVMA since 1996. In 1999 he began attending board meetings, and he eventually became the vice president, then president-elect, then president, then immediate past president.

Integrative veterinary medicine is coming into its own, and hopefully soon we’ll see all the different modalities come together under one umbrella. It’s not necessary to differentiate traditional from alternative from holistic. It’s all medicine.

Dr. Buchoff believes integrative veterinary medicine has a bright future. Being a holistic veterinarian means removing the roadblocks to health, and understanding that the body has its own intellect – its own ability to heal. If the barriers are removed, the body can heal as long as things haven’t gotten so bad that there are tissue changes. And even when things are very bad, we can increase quality of life, which is a very important focus even when patients are terminally ill. It’s also important to provide a good quality of death for our patients -- a comfortable passing on to their next existence.

As proactive practitioners, we want to prevent biochemical cellular changes before they manifest in tissue damage. We have enormous potential to change the course of illness in its early stages. It’s about focusing on the general health and history of the animal to keep him healthy, and offering the right nutrition and energy to promote healing.

Dr. Christina Chambreau 

My last guest today is Dr. Christina Chambreau. Dr. Chambreau graduated from veterinary school in 1980 at the age of 30, and at the time, she didn’t even know what a vegetarian was!

Fast-forward two years. Dr. Chambreau was working at a practice in Maryland and a client came in and said, “Would you send blood results from my pet to my homeopathic veterinarian?” Dr. Chambreau said, “Sure. What is a homeopathic veterinarian?” She knew nothing about homeopathy, and the client didn’t either, so she called the vet, who sent her a bunch of little bottles with white pills in them. And those white pills cured a cat who had been on antibiotics for three years for a urinary tract problem.

As Dr. Chambreau describes it, "That was the big hook from the sky that said, 'Let’s start this'.”

Advice for Every Pet Guardian: Ask Questions of Your Veterinarian

Fast-forward to 1988. Dr. Chambreau’s practice was 100 percent homeopathic and she had a full understanding of health from a holistic perspective. What’s most important to her is that people ask questions. She gives lectures all over the world, and she teaches, so people contact her all the time because she’s a known expert. But what she sees as a problem is that people aren’t asking their own veterinarians questions.

For example, if a conventional vet tells a pet owner to give heartworm prevention once a month, the pet owner agrees to do so, then comes to Dr. Chambreau to find out if they should really do it. Dr. Chambreau responds, “Well, do you know how your dog gets heartworms? It’s from exposure to another dog’s stool.”

Clients aren’t asking their veterinarians “What if” questions. Another example is when a vet recommends an MRI because a pet isn’t walking very well. The pet’s guardian doesn’t ask the cost, or how the MRI results might change the treatment protocol. He or she doesn’t ask if there are any alternatives to the MRI. Dr. Chambreau wants every pet guardian to ask questions of their vet.

Another thing she’d like to see is everyone involved with animals -- pet owners, vets, vet technicians – to learn about reiki or another energy healing modality like quantum touch so they can “take the bad out of things.” When a pet is receiving her required rabies vaccine, the injection site should receive reiki. And reiki should be offered for the next several days to reduce the risk that the animal will get sick from the vaccine.

Dr. Chambreau believes that if we offered reiki to our animals every day, their health would dramatically improve, as would the health of the planet. And since she is also passionate about sustainability, she loves holistic approaches because they have less impact on the planet. For example, acupressure involves no needles, no paper, and no vials.

Vaccination and Diet Don’ts, and Why You Should Keep a Pet Health Journal

Dr. Chambreau also believes vaccines cause tremendous damage, and we overdo them. She recommends no vaccines at all beyond legally required rabies. She believes in getting antibody titers early on, or giving just the cores to puppies and then titers after that.

Dr. Chambreau says a woman called her because her dog was lethargic for 4 to 6 months at a time, and then was fine for several months. She had no idea, nor did her veterinarian, what was wrong with her dog. Dr. Chambreau had the woman put together a timeline -- a chronology of events, including when vaccines were given.

After putting together her timeline, the woman called for an appointment and said, “I know the answer. My dog gets vaccinated and two weeks later, she develops a vaginal infection. She gets antibiotics for a month, and then she’s lethargic for several months. She returns to normal until the next vaccine. This has happened three times in a row.” Dr. Chambreau sees this type of revelation over and over again.

Finally, Dr. Chambreau focuses on diet, and specifically, that there’s no one perfect diet for every animal. She does believe that processed food, even if it’s high quality and organic, just isn’t good. It’s like “eating a can of really good organic beef stew every day, and nothing else, for the rest of your life,” she says.

Dr. Chambreau also came up with a wonderful idea to help pet owners keep better track of their pet’s health. It occurred to her that when it comes to helping our companion animals live long healthy lives, many guardians don’t know what steps they’ve taken that have been really helpful.

So Dr. Chambreau put together the Healthy Animal Journal. Using it, you list your pet’s current and past symptoms, and then on separate pages, the treatments given or lifestyle changes made, and the results.

It’s a great tool to keep track of your pet’s health, and it can be shared with your vet during checkups. It’s especially helpful for people with pets that have a serious disease or a chronic condition. It’s often necessary with a sick pet to try a variety of therapies to find the right one or the right combination, so keeping a journal can be very beneficial in those situations.

Many Thanks to Today’s Wonderful Healers!

I want to extend my sincere thanks to Dr. Caroline Pattie, Dr. Gerald Buchoff, and Dr. Christina Chambreau for sitting down with me today to discuss their innovative healing techniques and their commitment to the health of animals.