In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic we’re currently facing, I feel it’s crucial for me to share more of my philosophy on health by highlighting the differences between Eastern and Western medicine.
Eastern medicine spends a great deal of time and effort trying to prevent disease, whereas Western medicine focuses on treating symptoms.
Whenever an Eastern medicine health professional's patient comes down with some sort of illness, that's considered a failure on their part.
They use modalities like acupuncture, herbal plant medicines, and proper nutrition to avoid the development of sickness (or at least reduce the impact if it's something unavoidable).
Reducing stress levels and exercising regularly are other aspects of health that are heavily focused on in the Eastern model.
In Western medicine, we're primarily taught to stop the symptoms the patient is experiencing, typically through prescription drugs or surgery.
The downside to this, is that both can be very risky and could be avoided if a person was following the Eastern medicine lifestyle.
Today, I'm going to talk a little bit about YOUR personal health and take a side road from the veterinary side of things.
I strongly feel that true health for humans is the support of mind, body, and spirit.
(Not getting into anything specific here, as I realize there’s a wide range of beliefs in regards to spirituality. Whatever your belief system is though, I feel that it’s helpful for these 3 to intersect in some way, shape, or form.)
"An idle mind is the devil's workshop" is something I often heard from parents and grandparents growing up.
This concept translates in a way that's very universal.
Essentially, it means -- to be healthy, we have to have our minds engaged, active, and working.
We need some sort of challenge or goal to be working toward.
A life purpose + hobbies that we’re passionate about.
If all we do is focus on all the negative going on in the world 24/7 glued to news stations, that’s going to take a toll on our overall health.
A fear-based mindset has so much more impact on health and well-being than you would ever imagine.
Something else that needs to be addressed here, is that outside of challenges from this global pandemic, many pet owners just plain take better care of their pets than they do themselves.
It's important to realize that you can't operate at 100% if you aren't taking care of yourself.
And when you can't operate at full capacity, it becomes much more difficult to take care of your pets.
“Remember to take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup.” - Ancient Chinese Proverb
As I’m writing this, something else that comes to mind is the phrase "a body in motion, stays in motion".
This rings so true, especially in times of stress.
It’s so tempting to hop on the sofa or easy chair after a hard day's work and not do any sort of physical activity.
If we want optimal health (i.e., strong immune systems to prevent or lessen the impact of illness), we need to get up and get going.
It’s one of the “laws of opposites”.
You'll have more energy, if you expend more energy.
This doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money on a gym membership or a bunch of workout equipment.
Walking in your neighborhood is an easy (and free) activity that can benefit you in so many ways.
And if you have a dog, you can take him or her along as a win-win!
We cannot ignore the fact that we are spiritual beings.
Whatever that means to you, when you boil it down, it's just plain important to nurture your inner self.
(The part of you that makes you, you.)
As a holistic veterinarian, my approach is to treat your pets with this same approach.
The approach of treating them as a whole being and not just isolating a single symptom they're presenting with and focusing on that.
It's all about getting to the root cause of the many things that could be contributing to any health problems they're experiencing.
And ideally, if someone is a client of mine before their pet has a problem, keeping their pets in great health to avoid illness as much as possible.
At times, all I’m able to do is treat symptoms, but my goal is always to identify the problem and prevent it from becoming a full-fledged disease.
I can use allergies as an example.
(Did you know what you see below is an allergy symptom?)
Pets get allergies just like people do, except their symptoms generally manifest as skin problems and not as upper respiratory problems like people tend to suffer from.
(Some pets will occasionally develop upper respiratory congestion, but it isn’t very common.)
Pets will typically do one or all of the following when they have allergies:
Licking / chewing their feet
Head shaking / tilting due to chronic ear infections
Scooting due to impacted anal glands (as shown above)
Additionally, there are 3 primary causes of pet allergies.
This may seem like an oversimplification, but it’s true.
Many veterinarians will just treat the isolated symptoms above to mask the problem, but my approach is to narrow it down to one of the primary root causes below and remedy the core issue.
The main root causes of pet allergies are:
Seasonal Changes (usually from grass or tree pollen)
For a more in-depth view into my holistic approach to pet allergies, feel free to check out my post on that here: Natural Allergy Care for Dogs and Cats
I see so many pets that have presented to other veterinarians with mild allergy symptoms that are immediately put on aggressive immunosuppressive medications with no advice on how to prevent the symptoms from occurring.
I see a similar approach taking place with the COVID-19 pandemic.
We're being encouraged to wear masks and social distance, which are preventative measures that will hopefully prove to be as effective as we're all aiming for.
Vaccines have been rolled out for a while now as well, but it's entirely up to you to research the safety / effectiveness of the ones available and decide if getting vaccinated is right for you.
What I would personally urge you to do, is to research and find out what you can do to strengthen your immune system.
It's very likely that a large percentage of the population will have been infected by the time this whole thing blows over.
I want you to be prepared so the impact is far less on you and your loved ones if you do happen to contract the virus.
Dr. Wood's Self-Care 101 for Pet Parents
Circling back to where we started, here's a list of self-care suggestions that are more of a proactive than reactive approach to help you find balance. (AKA more of an Eastern medicine approach than Western to serve as preventative wellness.)
Exercise your mind by taking some time to:
Work on a crossword or jigsaw puzzle with your furry companions close by. If that's not your thing, maybe read a book that sparks your interest with them on the sofa next to you.
Call a friend you haven't talked with in a while and catch up. This can help to keep you from feeling so isolated with all the social distancing going on. If your friend has pets, maybe you could do a video call on Zoom or Skype where both of your pets are visible on the call!
To spice up my second suggestion above, try and focus one or more of these calls on solving some of the world's problems and brainstorm solutions with each other. Productive + positive conversations will help keep you out of a funk and benefit all involved.
Move your body:
As mentioned earlier, keep your body moving a little bit each day.
I’ve noticed that more people are walking together as families here lately.
Walking is a great way to get some fresh air, meet some of your neighbors (from a safe distance), and get some natural vitamin D from the sunlight.
It doesn’t get much easier than that to get some movement, nutrition, and stress relief all at the same time.
Of course, if you have any dogs in your life, bring them along!
(I’m assuming your cat doesn’t like walking on a leash, but I’ve seen some who do.)
It's also helpful to make sure that both you and your pets are eating plenty of immune-boosting foods on a regular basis.
*COVID-19 doesn't affect pets, but this is just good general advice for preventing the impact of illness on both you and your pets.*
If you want to learn more about what foods I recommend for pets, download my free Pet Nutrition Cheat Sheet below:
Nurture your spiritual life:
Do this in whatever way works for you.
One thing I will say across the board though, is learn to calm your spirit by not falling prey to worry, fear, and "what if" possibilities that can so easily become overwhelming.
Your body and immune system will thank you for it!
Here are some ideas worth considering:
Setting aside quality time with your pets at the beginning and end of each day with no distractions. You might even put your cell phone on silent or airplane mode during this time.
Meeting weekly with a community of like-minded people (virtually for the time being). For some this might be church, for others it might be finding people who have similar interests on websites like Meetup.com or relevant Facebook groups.
Making a list of all the things you've always wanted to do and coming up with ways you can make progress toward those goals, no matter how small or large the steps might need to be.
In summary, I'd like to challenge you to approach this pandemic by putting on your "Eastern medicine hat" in place of your Western medicine hat and bring your pets along for the ride.
In good health,
Dr. Terry R. Wood