Although Finn Smed no longer has a body to function from, his spirit, concepts, and ideas are still very alive - and deserve respect and support. This page was created in cooperation with himself in 2003, and it was meant to help dog owners understand that veterinary medicine is more than x-rays and chemical analysis. Although he never solicited the title "holistic", his overall approach to dealing with animals makes it self-evident that he deserved it many years before the term was officially created.
Characterizing Finn's approach to medicine is actually very easy and simple:
What a wonderful world we could have for our dogs if all vets would truly adhere to ethics like this!
In respect of a great mentor that will be missed,
Overview of the contents of this page:
|Cooperation across boundaries||Natural medicine||When using natural medicine...||What is "holistic"?||Natural diet for dogs|
|Why veterinarians are busy...||What the animal would say...||Why should a veterinarian be doing this?||A few small tips and general advice||Ending suffering before misery|
|My basic philosophies|
Mother Nature has spent some 15 million years on creating the wolf - and man has spent some 150,000 years on domesticating the wolf to become the dog we know today. The cat is a little older - but was domesticated later. So what do a few hundred years or even a few decades matter in this perspective? Nothing! At least not when we talk about how the body and the mind functions, how the metabolism runs, and how the internal organs all function in harmony with each other.
We are not here to alter or change or to "improve" on what Nature gave us. We are here to take good care of those gifts - and to enjoy them.
Taking good care of them does mean that we don't ignore suffering, but try to help. If we cannot do anything else, at least we can end the suffering...
Fortunately, there is a lot we can do when problems arrive. By understanding our animals and respecting the way they function, body as well as mind, we can often do a lot to reduce many kinds of problems - and we can enjoy seeing our companions be happy!
The most important thing we can do is to preserve good health for them. We need to prevent disease and accidents. We do this by proper training and exercise - and by supplying healthy, natural nutrition. Add to this some careful observation and support with problems while they are still small, and, most of the time, this will do!
In the few cases where fate still wants to knock on our door and our animals get sick, veterinarians like me can often help. It is a blessing to experience the joy coming out of this - from the animal, as well as the owner!
Life is supposed to be a joy. Both for the animals and for us. The only way we can achieve this is by learning from Nature and treating our pets for what they are: a gift from Nature. We need to respect their special needs, particularly where they are different from ours. And we need to give them a life that makes sense to them.
This is not always easy - because, where do you go to learn about this? You won't learn it in school. You won't learn it from your parents. And you will most definitely not learn it from the media or from commercial advertising! (Maybe I should exempt my own TV shows from this - but that's about it, then....)
But I promise you: it is worth the trouble trying! Keeping an open mind and observing helps a lot. Using common sense (although it isn't really very common) helps too. Then there are tools and skills you can acquire - or use through others. Yes - there can be some tough decisions to make, but you need to learn to take charge - because you ARE in charge when it comes to your animals! Your veterinarian can sometimes help you, with advice, with knowledge, with access to services and by extending services. But he is your servant....
|Man's best friends|
To thrive or not to thrive:
The dog and the cat are Mother Nature's daily reminders to us that not everything in our crazy world necessarily has to be crazy. Just think of them as the wonderful animals they are - and give them a life that makes sense on their terms also.
Throughout all four(+) decades of my active practicing as veterinarian for dogs and cats, I have always been fascinated by many of the "old-time" remedies that have excellent therapeutic impact of the body's natural balances.
Particularly in my time as practicing veterinarian, things sometimes went very fast in terms of developing all kinds of new synthetic drugs that often wrote history - sometimes with their wonderful positive "miracle" effects, and sometimes with their devastating side effects.... Unfortunately, the race for fame and profit too often left behind the consolidated principles of good medicine: to support the body's own functions - not suppress them and not take control over them.
Accepting the risk of being seen as "reactive", I see a lot of good value in many "old-time", natural remedies. They have stood the proof of time - and are generally far less radical than many modern synthetic drugs that rarely come without some very risky negative effects in addition to the good they might do. But, just because the "good old stuff" is old and cannot be patented (and thus cannot make any serious profit for neither the manufacturer nor the veterinarian), that does not make them inadequate or useless.
Fortunately, "natural medicine" is now experiencing a renaissance, both for people and for animals. There is a huge selection available, and huge amounts of knowledge associated with the use of those remedies.
However, this is not to be perceived as an abandonment of modern medicine and drugs. We do not need to classify ourselves as "for" or against" neither them nor the classic remedies. When we act responsibly, we need to give ourselves as many choices as we can, when it can benefit the well-being of our animals. But making informed choices does take that we obtain the information we need about our options....
This implies that we do understand the negative side effects of the medicine we use - and that we take it into account instead of ignoring it! The classic example is vaccination. Vaccination is not free of very severe negative side effects, particularly when repeated unnecessarily or used in exaggeration with several vaccines at a time. Vaccination should therefore not be something we just give "to be sure". It should be applied with the same kind of respect as we deal with, for instance, radiation!
Unfortunately, our modern dogs and cats are not impressively healthy. The main reasons for this, are, in my observation:
The farther we move away from Nature and Nature's own ways of doing things, the more disease our animals will get...
|Vaccination - when and why|
A vaccination is one of the really big challenges for the animal's immune system. It consists of an injection of foreign tissue that bypasses all natural warning systems in the body and thus takes the immune system "by surprise". The emergency response such an impact triggers can only be sufficient if the body can and will mobilize a healthy immune response to the intrusion. This, again, is only possible if the animal is perfectly healthy at the time of vaccination. If it isn't, the response will either not be sufficient for any future protection - or it will be too weak, so that the animal actually gets severely sick from the vaccine!
For this reason, it is very important that a thorough health check-up can confirm the chances of an adequate immune response to the vaccine - prior to the vaccination being done. Such a health check-up should minimum include:
Vaccination is not all evil, but I seriously miss some diligent protocols that balance the need for protection against the most dangerous diseases with the risk of damage from the all too common overvaccinations with mixed vaccines. Vaccinating with 5 vaccines in one shot, and repeating this every year is a sure-fire way to destroying any animal's immune system. As Professor Ebba Lund from the Danish Royal Academy of Veterinary Science said in the follow-up show on TV after my series on dog health, "We do not vaccinate our children every year either!"
Ebba Lund recommends that the very first vaccination be given no earlier than at 12 weeks of age, then possibly one more vaccination when the dog is about a year - and then possibly one more, later on it its life, targeting the most dangerous diseases, and nothing more. Those vaccinations, of course, are not multi-shots, but single vaccines.
Seriously, there are not that many dangerous diseases that we need more vaccinations that this! Not from a point of view of protecting the animal. I am fully aware that other authorities, such as governments, and Kennel Clubs, and other self-declared "health police officers" want to see certain vaccinations done, at a scale far beyond this, but there is no scientific justification for it, and it definitely does not serve the animal's best interests.
Just a note also on Parvo: Vaccinating against it does not help anything. I have seen more dogs with Parvo that had their shots than I have seen dogs that contracted Parvo without being vaccinated against it. Parvo is simply not dangerous to adult dogs, and when we let the adult dogs generate natural immunity against it, their puppies are safe too, as long as they don't get weaned too early.
|Sterilization - what is it "fixing"?|
Let me be totally blunt on this: Any use of drugs or chemicals for the purpose of restricting a dog or a cat from going into estrus ("season") is plain simply cruelty to the animal! The damages to the immune system and the metabolism are profound and leave no excuses for using those kinds of "medicine" on our animals.
Spaying/neutering.... well, although less damaging, those artificial body alterations lead to many hormone imbalances that result in all kinds of problems in the metabolism, particularly when done before puberty. Many skin problems and problems with other hormone producing glands, like the thyroid and the adrenal glands, are much more common for spayed/neutered dogs than for "intact" dogs.
During my visit to Canada in 1996 (I was doing lectures at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC), I had the great pleasure of being able to do a test on some of the participants' dogs. I was prohibited from checking directly if any of the 87 dogs were neutered/spayed. I was only allowed to look at them, and to touch their head, neck, and shoulders. I was still able to point out exactly which 58 were spayed/neutered (not a single miss....), based on the visual effects of the altered metabolism, such as obesity, greasy coat, unhealthy skin, and many times also mental disorders that show on the behavior as fear and lack of self confidence.
In all my years as practicing veterinarian, I have only castrated 4 males due to purely medical reasons, and, in the case of females having problems with their uterus justifying removal of the organ, I have always left the ovaries intact, if by any means it was possible.
I have NEVER used estrus preventing chemicals on any animal - and I will never do it.
|The carnivore stomach|
First, the anatomy. Both dogs and cats are carnivores. They have a stomach that functions as a depot organ. It is very good at doing some serious work when it is called to duty - but when it isn't, it will close and rest. This is a great invention from Nature's side - it saves the animal from the raving sensation of hunger. (This is not to be mixed up with the fact that any carnivore has a chronic appetite for food, unless its stomach is full. They are meant to eat whatever they can get, when they get it. They are not programmed for expecting another meal tomorrow!)
You should help your dog or cat with this, by giving the animal at least one day every week where its stomach can contract and rest completely. (The carnivores in all responsible ZOOs have at least one day per week with no food - for very good reason. Your dog or cat is no different.)
Then, the physiology. The acidity of a carnivore stomach is generally very high - some 10,000 times more acid per unit of volume than in a human stomach! When expressed in pH units, the carnivore stomach has a pH below 2 - compared to the human stomach that typically ranges between 5 and 6. The stomach pH is crucial for the functioning of the pancreas and the glands in the stomach itself. These glands need the low pH (="high acidity") in order to produce the right enzymes for the digestion - and for those enzymes to function. For all this to work, RAW MEAT is crucial - as this is the main trigger of the acid production. Also fiber is crucial - dogs are supposed to fill their stomach when they eat, and you do that best by letting your dog have lots of fresh raw VEGETABLES also; they add to the volume and make good stimulation for the intestines' function.
A natural diet can do all this. But kibble or canned food cannot, no matter how well manufactured they might be. At some point in the manufacturing process, they have to be heated, and the heat destroys a whole array of well-known important nutrients - plus many more we do not even know about...
|Cooperation across boundaries|
I make it an honor to see professional practitioners of all kinds as service suppliers at my hospital. I do not accept dogmatic boundaries for "right" and "wrong" treatment. What counts is exclusively the results we can achieve for the animals - and those are sure much better when we can work together!
For many years (more than 20 now...), I have had an excellent cooperation with a chiropractor. He soon got followed by an acupuncturist and a zone therapist. I might add to this myself as "natural medicine man".
Occasionally, when other areas of expertise are needed, I am happy to extend the cooperation also into those areas. The main thing is that I do not want to include amateurs in this teamwork.
I do not have any respect for a veterinarian that takes a 3-months course in acupuncture and then starts using this knowledge on the animals. Each of these disciplines are vast - they take a much firmer devotion from the practitioner if they are to be applied seriously and with responsibility. Unfortunately, those non-serious "semi-studied" veterinarians contribute to a very bad, but undeserved, reputation of those "alternative" treatments, including natural medicine. It is sad.
As mentioned, this is an area that fascinates me. I have devoted as much time I could over the last decade to study this vast knowledge area, and to run experiments with treatments in my clinic, whenever it has been responsible to do so. The result have led me to a close cooperation with Wolle's Nature Medicine, whose products have shown to be outstanding, time after time again.
Experiments with natural medicine on skin problems
Many skin problems are caused by imbalances in the immune system and many are caused by lack of essential nutrients. We may not always know which ones exactly we are talking about - but we really do not need to, as long as we know where we can get them from! Wolle's have three standard products that have shown remarkable results in the area of skin problems: Their "HorsePower", "809", and "1870" (they generally use numbers to identify their herbal mixtures).
Over a period of 11 months, I treated 121 dogs with various skin problems that were impossible to assign a specific diagnosis for. The dogs fell in three main groups:
I am still in progress organizing my data also for treating other diseases with natural medicine - this is just a start, but a very encouraging one, I would think...
|When using natural medicine...|
To all those who are positive for using natural remedies and natural medicine for treatment of their dogs or cats, I want to point out:
|What is "holistic"?|
For human doctors, there has to be a dialog between doctor and patient/client. For a veterinarian, this must be expanded into a triangle: the veterinarian - the animal (patient) - the owner (client). But in both cases, it is important for a successful treatment of ailments and diseases that the doctor/veterinarian understands what "normal" is for the patient. The daily routines, the sociological and environmental factors, diet, exercise, family circumstances, etc. all play a role in this.
Both humans and animals are more than "just a body". Mental factors are extremely important, also for dogs and cats. The old-time "house doctor" knew his patients and their lives - and because of that, he could often provide much more valuable service than what a modern doctor can who exclusively relies on numbers from analytical tests.
For a veterinarian, it is the same. A thorough understanding of the animal's psyche and daily life is important for a successful treatment. Yes, expensive x-ray pictures and laboratory analyses of blood samples can often provide some valuable information. But the truth is that the very same information is most often easily available by simply asking the owner, or watching or interacting with the animal! Sure, it takes some experience and insight to achieve that - but isn't that what you expect from a serious doctor? I think you should.
Once the diagnosis is determined, treatment almost always leaves many options. Sometimes, the different treatment options can be combined, as they will reinforce each other. Sometimes, they will conflict with each other, and the choice of one will exclude the others. And sometimes, no treatment is necessary. But when it is, it is important to choose one that will support the animal in its current situation.
As I said, many times, we have options that allow us to pursue more than one venue. Other times, we need to make a choice between conflicting methods. But when we incorporate "alternative disciplines", like acupuncture, chiropractic, zone therapy, homeopathy, and herbal medicine into the picture, we can very often make two or more completely different approaches work together. On top of that, we need to take into account also the mental well-being of the animal. The results I have seen from this are incredible - and much more powerful than what we can achieve by focusing on only one as "the best"... It is really a matter of using as many forces as we can to pursue our purpose of bringing the animal back to good health.
This is what I see as a "holistic approach" to medicine.
I am applying these principles in my hospital, the best I can. Let me give you some examples:
|Natural diet for dogs|
Ingredients of a healthy diet:
The foundation for a happy and healthy dog is balanced nutrition. The only way of giving the dog everything it needs is by following as closely as we can to what a natural diet would consist of. This is, in practice, not always easy, and we are often faced with the necessity of making compromises. Fortunately, there is room for many variations, as long as we stick to the basics.
Dogs are domesticated wolves. What their bodies are tuned in on in terms of food is primarily meat and organs, with skin and hairs and some bones added. Smaller prey animals are almost completely consumed! And of the larger ones, nothing but a few of the biggest bones are left behind for the crows.
In addition, especially when hunting success is lacking, dogs and wolves might also occasionally eat some vegetables, berries, and faeces of other animals, but that is merely "supplements".
This kind of food is not really available "as is" for many people. We have to make compromises. Over time, man has certainly made sure that dogs do quite well on much more vegetable ingredients in the diet - simply because that's what people had to feed themselves!
Historically, dogs are known for loving bones, so, traditionally, they have got a lot of those, many times with very little meat on, though....
Grain products, like bread, rice, etc. have become "dog food" too - simply because many people had nothing else to feed.
Now, just because dogs can survive on a diet that does not contain much meat does not mean that they should be fed grains and vegetables and bones exclusively! It does not mean either that they should live mainly of such non-natural ingredients.
Dogs are meant to be carnivores. "Carnivore" means "meat eater". Please respect that.
Carnivores also don't cook their food. They eat it raw. Please respect that too.
As you can see, most of the stuff that is sold in pet stores as "dog food" isn't dog food at all.... Just leave it on the shelves and get some real food for your dog.
Frequency of feeding:
If you puppy want to eat fewer meals that this, listen to the request and feed less often!
Please help your dog or cat operate their body functions on their terms.
|Why veterinarians are busy...|
It is a sad fact that the number of visits to the veterinarian for the average dog owner has increased dramatically over the last four decades. As I see it, the most important reason for this is that people no longer respect the animals' nature, but try to make them comply with their own convenience and lack of knowledge. Many times, it is simply a misunderstood expression of love, based on some horribly incorrect assumptions of what the animals truly needs. Dogs and cats are not miniature humans, and they do not thrive on being treated as such. They need to be part of the family, oh yes - but on some terms that make sense to them.
On top of this, it makes things much worse when these loving pet owners simply get exploited by the pharmaceutical industry, the pet food industry, and even by veterinarians! To me, our dogs and cats should be beyond the point where finances are the key to the way we treat them. Few pet owners want to treat their animals like productive farmers do - they do want a personal relationship with their animals. But that does not come automatically - and it does not come when you listen to too much commercial advertising that literally wants to brainwash you so you let go of your money...
|What the animal would say...|
This is a hot topic I could fill many pages on.... our pets cannot know what is good for them and what not. Like our children, they depend completely on our responsible custody.
As long as we keep close to Nature, we have a fair chance of making healthy choices. But whenever we deviate from that, we need to be very, very careful about what we do. The default choice should be to not do it, if it does not fit with Nature. Sometimes, however, the benefits of deviating could be obvious: saving our pet from a cruel death! Vaccination against Distemper is one such example. Injecting body fluids to a puppy that has Parvo is another. Yet, when we achieve the benefit by just one vaccination, and we know that continued vaccinations cannot do any good, but only accumulate and increase the negative side effects, what benefit is there for the animal in your paying your veterinarian for over-vaccinating? With the body fluid example, things are easier to understand, I guess: there is no reason to continue in the intravenous injections when the puppy can drink and keep water in the stomach OK; in fact, we could severely damage other organ functions if we did! But the two examples are completely parallel.
Same thing with food. Dogs are not genetically programmed to handle large amounts of grain in their digestive system. In fact, when grain products constitute a majority of the food, the chemical balances in the gastrointestinal system get completely screwed up! And yet, most dog owners are happily feeding kibble products that contain a minimum of 65% grain.... it just makes no sense to me.
No wonder that we see this incredible increase in skin problems, allergies, digestive problems, and all other kinds of problems that are related to the metabolism not functioning as it should - and the immune system being weakened to the point of it giving up...
I wish I could stop this madness.
|Why should a veterinarian be doing this?|
In order for a veterinarian (or family doctor) to enter the arena of holistic medicine, we need to spend more time and energy on understanding those factors that influence the well-being of our animals (or family members). We need to comprehend what creates wellness. It is not enough to diagnose disease and prescribe drugs. If the whole body and the mind are out of balance, it won't help much. Yet, if we do focus on giving all those natural contributors to wellness a good support, then we can much faster reach the point of not needing any artificial medication any more - in far more cases.
It takes time. It takes effort. It might even cost money. Is it worth it?
I think so. The animals don't hide their joy when they feel good again. And seeing the owners enjoy that is a true blessing. That kind of thing just tells me that I deserve the pat on the shoulder I feel I am getting from above when this happens. I think this is what keeps me going, and I believe that, when this works, then everything else will also come in place, including all those unpleasant materialistic things nobody can afford to ignore either...
("Where are you going?")
|A few small tips and general advice|
|Ending suffering before misery|
I never charge for euthanasia, whether it is an "old" client of mine or someone I never saw before.
I feel we owe it to our animals that we make sure they exit from this world in a decent manner. I do not want anyone to feel the slightest temptation whatsoever to try and apply some of those horrible and disgusting methods I have seen used when people don't think or don't care.
And sometimes, it is the opposite: some people cannot let go - they fear their own grief more than the animal's continued suffering. But that is simply not fair to the animal - keeping it in misery, in order to avoid taking responsibility!
And then there are the sad cases where the owner has spent so much money on trying to save the animal that the finances simply cannot carry one more burden...
This is not a situation where money should control the way things are handled. The true expenses for the vet are insignificant - a very small fraction of the standard fee for a consultation. But the difference for the owner could mean the difference between terrible suffering and a respectful goodbye. The ethics in this are important to me, as this is but one small contribution I can give back to society in return for the privilege of the education I got.