Dr. Lisa Donato and Tyler. Image: Courtesy of Dr. Donato
Dr. Lisa Donato, a holistic veterinarian on Long Island, spoke with Pulse Insider about the benefits of holistic animal care and shared tips for keeping dogs and cats healthy in the summer heat.
Long Island Pulse Insider: Can you explain what type of holistic pet care is available, for pet owners who might not know about it?
Dr. Lisa Donato: TCVM or Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine which includes Acupuncture, Tui Na Massage, Chinese Herbal Medicine and Chinese Food Therapy, Animal Chiropractic, Craniosacral Therapy Homeopathy and Homotoxicology, Western Herbal Medicine, Tibetan, Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine, Nutritional therapies.
Pulse Insider: Can you describe, in some detail, the steps of your initial diagnostic process?
LD: I start with a conventional examination. I examine the tongue and palpate the femoral pulse which is a component of the Chinese Medicine examination. I also examine the spine from a chiropractic aspect and scan the energy field for areas of heat (often due to inflammation).
Pulse Insider: What information should a client know about their pet/have available before booking an appointment?
LD: I need to see ALL medical records (even from the time the patient is a kitten or puppy) from all general practitioners and specialists. I examine all laboratory work and need to see the actual radiographs (X-rays) if they were taken, as well as any radiology reports. I examine the radiographs from a conventional and chiropractic point of view. I recommend that the owner bring in all medications and supplements and bring a label of the food they are feeding.
Dr. Donato treating a patient with acupuncture
Pulse Insider: What are the benefits of holistic pet care as opposed to a more strictly Western approach?
LD: I think looking at a patient from a holistic point of view takes into account the body-mind-spirit of the patient and not just the physical body. The environment of the pet and the clients themselves are important facets of the pet’s health. I believe in integrating holistic therapies with conventional medicine, which provides us more tools, to use. For example, Acupuncture works very well for patients post-op to heal quicker and reduce pain. I don’t think it should be one or the other alone. These therapies often help patients who are at a “dead-end” with conventional medicine also.
Pulse Insider: More specifically, can you describe the benefits of treating an animal with acupuncture?
LD: Acupuncture can literally be used to treat anything and everything. I have used it for arthritis, neurological problems, internal medical diseases (kidney disease, heart disease, etc), behavioral issues, allergies, and in patients with cancer. In general, it helps 80 percent of patients but can take 5-8 weekly treatments before seeing a benefit.
Pulse Insider: What does acupuncture treatment entail?
LD: I have the clients help me in the examination and treatment of their pets. I feel there is greater trust with the owner and it strengthens the human-animal bond. I use thin, sterile stainless steel needles that are ½ to 1 inch long which are inserted into acupuncture points on the body. These are specific points on acupuncture channels where the body’s Qi or vital energy is stored and flows. Qi must flow smoothly and not become stagnant otherwise imbalance and disease can develop.
Pulse Insider: As the heat rises, do you have any tips for how to keep a pet comfortable and healthy?
LD: Stay in the air-conditioned rooms! Use a spray bottle filled with cool water to lightly spray the pet, when needed. I like to spray the ear tips and tail tips (these are cooling points), foot pads and foreheads (many calming points on the head). Depending on the patient’s digestion, fruits including watermelon and pear (no seeds) are good cooling foods. Exercise your dog in the early morning or late evening when it is coolest.
Pulse Insider: Are there any specific health risks owners should be aware of in summer as opposed to other seasons?
LD: Certainly there is a greater risk of overheating which can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Some patients have greater difficulty breathing in hot and humid weather, especially asthmatics and brachycephalic dogs like Boston Terriers. Tar on the road can burn off foot pads so be careful where and what time of day dogs are exercised. Pets can also become sunburned, especially on the face (nose in particular) so provide shade and use a suntan lotion. Do not leave a pet in a parked car. They can overheat and die within minutes!
Pulse Insider: What are the healthiest all natural ingredients to look for in pet food and treats? Are there any specific dog food brands you recommend to pet owners?
LD: Home-cooked food is always the best but is often not always possible to do. Adding fresh whole foods to dog or cat food is second best (if appropriate for the patient). Dry food is more processed than canned food. Stay away from food with BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin which are preservatives. The first ingredient of a food should be meat. Right now I like Canidae and Blue Buffalo brands.