Holistic Veterinary Therapy

Since I was a child, I have always known that I would become a veterinarian. I had a fascination for fixing broken
beings. Birds, turtles, and lizards with injuries found their way to my door from the time I was in primary school. I
found gory stuff – like popping pustules, cleaning maggots out of wounds, and cane toad dissection in zoology class – of
great interest. When my brother chopped his leg open with the axe and screamed “My guts are falling out!”, somehow
this did not scare me. I knew, from biology studies at school, that this was not correct – his ‘guts’ were never in his leg. I calmly applied pressure and bandaged it, elevating it in the car while my mother drove him to the hospital and I acted like the good
eight year old nurse that I was.     My affinity with animals was the wallpaper to my existence– quite literally as I raised finger-tamed budgerigars in my bedroom. Luckily my family was supportive!
     I was exposed to holistic therapies from a young age. My father was a chiropractor and, although he eventually made
a living in other occupations, he was able to efficiently correct a sore back or neck with a well-placed and ‘magic’
adjustment. We kids used to ask him to “pick us up, and crack our backs” for that delightful popping sound that comes from a subluxation being repositioned.
     As I grew up in Hawaii I was also aware that Chinese herbal medicine and nutrition – that is ‘food as medicine’ – were
useful and obvious methods to treat diseases. Chicken soup with plenty of garlic, and sucking on vitamin C and zinc
lozenges were appropriate forms of ‘medicine‘ given to us in response to the first sign of a sore throat or sneeze. We
never went to doctors or hospitals (except for the previously mentioned axe accident) as our mother was a great cook and
practised what now might be called preventative medicine.
We were breastfed babies, had minimal vaccinations, hardly ever ate lollies or artificial colourings, and rode our push
bikes everywhere for entertainment and to get to school.
We usually had a salad sprinkled with lemon for starters and at night we ate a home-cooked meal, which consisted
of fish on Fridays.
     Live, raw food with a bitter or sour flavour is well known in naturopathy as a source of live enzymes and a means to
get the salivary glands and digestion started. Chicken soup has L-lysine, a natural antiviral amino acid, and garlic is
now documented scientifically as having antiviral properties. Our mothers and grandmothers were the best form of
medical practitioners with the ‘do no harm’ edict.
     I have been a practising veterinarian for over 30 years now.
What has been astonishing (and outrageous) to me is the increasing rate of chronic diseases such as cancer, atopic
(allergic) skin disease, arthritis and autoimmune dysfunction in younger and younger pets. These things, which I now
see daily, were not a common occurrence when I was a new graduate in the 1980s. We rarely saw the malignant cancers
and skin diseases that are now out of control in so many pet families. We did not have specialists. Instead all general
veterinarians had to tackle orthopaedic surgery, general surgery and all forms of medicine. Vaccines for parvovirus
only came out in the later part of 1979 and the regime of vaccinating with five to seven different things annually
followed. What I now understand about the harmful side effects of vaccines and the benefits of nutritional medicine
has largely been the catalyst to open a holistic veterinary practice in Greenslopes, Brisbane.

Our clinic runs remedial massage classes for animals regularly, and our lovely greyhound adoption friends happily bring their pets for a free massage! 


  •      Where have we gone wrong in our pet rearing? When I was a child we did not have bags of pet food; we shared ourdinners with our dog. We did not vaccinate every year. We washed the dog occasionally, maybe monthly, and we didn’thave a flea or tick problem. The dog was healthy.
  • What doctor would say to a mother: “All you have to do now to raise your baby is to open a bag of these crispy dry food treats and feed this exclusively for the rest of your child’s life because it is complete and has all the vitamins and nutrients your child needs. And don’t forget to vaccinate your kid every three months for every disease that he or she may possibly get.” That is what we are doing to our pets! Has society gone nuts?

     What do we do differently at my clinic? We have multiple handouts on nutritional, Western and Chinese herbal
supplements. We perform antibody titre testing instead of annual vaccinations. We use intravenous vitamin C and
herbs to support the immune function for our chronically ill and cancer patients.
     In the last 20 years of practice as a veterinarian, I have seen an increasing number of cases of cancer in our pets. It is
sad to see our loved ones succumb to the scourge of cancer. How can we prevent it and what treatment options are

How does holistic advice fit in with treatment?      Thankfully research has come a long way in the last ten
years, and there are some excellent peer reviewed articles that look at the various modalities of complementary medicine,
and at the active ingredients in these recognised herbal alternative treatments. The focus of the holistic treatment
is nutritional, energetic and metabolic; aiming to boost the immune system of the patient to enable it to ‘fight
the cancer’, or to reduce its spread, or to palliate the body and calm the inflammation associated with the cancer. Western pharmacological chemotherapy techniques focus on killing the cancer cells.
However, often these drugs are not specific to the cancer cell. Complementary therapies may also assist to reduce
the side effects of chemotherapy.
     Veterinary surgeons have extensive training in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, surgery and pharmacology. This
places them in a prime position to evaluate some of the herbal and energetic medical adjunctive therapies that
are becoming increasingly sought after by clients. Holistic veterinarians have spent time studying these extra modalities,
and can combine the best of both systems. If your pet has cancer and you are interested in pursuing all avenues, it is
recommended that you first seek professional veterinary help. Contact the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA)
http://www.ava.com.au for a list of qualified veterinary holistic practitioners. They will also be able to refer you to a medi-
cally and surgically trained oncologist (a cancer specialist who works with western drugs) and you will then be able
to make decisions based on the best possible choices that are available.
     Pet owners should look at the data linking free radical damage from environmental toxins to cancer, for their
own health and for their pet’s future health. Toxins that are causing cancer include solvents, dyes, pesticides and
herbicides. For further information read Dr Samuel Epstein’s work online at http://www.preventcancer.com. He is a leading
healthcare advisor specialising in educating the public about cancer causing agents. Dr Epstein leads a unique coalition
of independent experts in cancer prevention and public health. He was the key expert involved in the banning of
hazardous products such as the pesticides DDT, Aldrin and Chlordane. DDT was used to kill sand flies and mosquitoes
on the beaches in the 1950s. Children were allowed to play in the insecticide spray because it was thought to be safe.
     What chemicals are we allowing our pets and children to play in today?
     I am reminded of this when I see workers spraying weeds along the footpath as I drive past. Sometimes they are wearing flimsy facemasks, and often they are only wearing short sleeved shirts (even though skin is not an impervious
barrier). Then the dogs walk along the footpath and they go home and lick their paws and fur.
     Watch the weeds whither and turn yellow in two days. Watch the dogs get some form of cancer from an ‘unknown cause’
later. The chemicals in our environment are powerful hormone disruptors. We are seeing evidence of this worldwide.
     Don’t smoke, and don’t let your pet smoke (secondhand is just as bad). Avoid the nasties. Use companion planting and
more elbow grease (pull out weeds, mow the lawn more frequently, fertilise with manure). This will allow your pet
to have less contact with poisons on the front lawn.     There are lawns in Canada that are full of weeds and bear
these signs: We value our kids more than our lawns, chemical free lawn. I recommend that everyone gets back to using safe,
non-toxic products. We don’t need to expose our delicate bodies to dioxins in shampoos, solvents in sheep dips, and the petrochemicals used to clean the house and yard.
     Buy organic meat and vegetables, if possible, for your pet. Choose your treats carefully, looking for no additives, dyes,
and preservatives (except vitamin E), and ensure dry foods have no food colouring or chemical additives. Busy people
that haven’t got the time to shop and cook meals may consider using Hill’s N/D or Eukanuba Response Formula,is Give Your Dog a Bone by Dr Ian Billinghurst. “I began to realise,” writes Dr Billinghurst, “that most of the disease problems
we vets see are caused by only one thing – poor nutrition.”
     Diet advice sheets are also available from your holistic vet. If lifestyle necessitates buying prepared foods, choose
those high in minerals, good quality meat protein (not textured vegetable protein, hydrolysed protein, or soya) and vegetables, without chemical additives and colourants. See http://www.animalwellness.com.au  for some diet advice for treating various health concerns in your pet.

  Remember: Food is Medicine!

Artificial colourings are NOT food. They are often poisons and many are carcinogens (known to cause cancer).
     In particular, note that red dye is bad. It causes inflammation and allergic reactions in many patients.  Avoid munchies that are full of red dye, which represents a possible intake
of nitrosamines. Nitrites are used as preservatives and for the red colour they produce in meat.

Why is this poison present in food?  Its about marketing and the food business is only concerned about selling more product, not about your or your pet’s health.  Owners choose this colouring because it is associated in their mind with freshness, but dogs don’t care about the colour of their food! It is also suspected that nitrites can combine with amines in the stomach to form N-nitroso compounds. These compounds are known carcinogens and have been associated with cancer of the oral cavity, urinary bladder, oesophagus, stomach and brain.
     Don’t feed luncheon meats, ham and other cured or smokey flavoured foods to your pets. Feed the right type of treats
such as dried liver, homemade dried fruit/vege chips or meat strips, or just small bits of a good quality, additive-free, dry food.
     Obtain foods that contain natural antioxidants, trace minerals and essential fatty acids. Some diets, which are known to
increase the risk of cancer, are high in animal fats, preservatives and chemicals, and low in antioxidants. Animals require the minimum calories needed for their lifestyle and 45 minerals, 12 essential amino acids, 16 vitamins
and three essential fatty acids (being omega 3, 6 and 9).The quality of the food is important to maintain optimum
immune function.
     Our foods are depleted in minerals due to the age of Australian soils and the present farming practice of only fertilising
the soils with Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium (NPK). As a result we all need to supplement our diets daily if we
are not eating produce that was grown on supplemented soil.Organic food is, however, slightly higher in trace minerals.
     A natural, wholesome diet for our pets should include a diet rich in minerals, antioxidants and raw fresh enzyme materials.
It should be free from preservatives, additives, colourants, herbicides and pesticides. Dogs and cats fed a natural and
balanced diet are often healthier than those fed cooked and processed supermarket, preserved and coloured foods.
     A good book to understand the concepts of feeding raw foods is Give Your Dog a Bone by Dr Ian Billinghurst. “I began to
realise,” writes Dr Billinghurst, “that most of the disease problems we vets see are caused by only one thing – poor nutrition.”
     Diet advice sheets are also available from your holistic vet.

If lifestyle necessitates buying prepared foods, choose those high in minerals, good quality meat protein (not textured vegetable protein, hydrolysed protein, or soya) and vegetables, without chemical additives and colourants.
     Acupuncture has been found to reduce the size of tumours through stimulating the ‘controlling’ organ. For example, if there is a stomach tumour the liver meridian end point can be stimulated to help control the stomach. The good
news is that many cases of cancer have regressed or gone into remission with holistic therapies. We can’t always get
complete remission, but it helps to get in early and to treat pets with multiple nutritional therapies. Those patients often have a better prognosis (probable outcome) and better palliation.

     Many of my clients – in fact most of them – want to and/or do use herbal and nutritional support themselves, or refer family
members to see us, once they see the results achieved with their dogs.
I encourage them to find a nutritional integrative doctor. We have a list of these doctors at our clinic.

     Educational tools to share with general practitioners include referring to the text book: Natural Compounds in Cancer Therapy, which is an excellent textbook for researching the nutritional and herbal medicine associated with cancer therapy. It cites over three dozen carefully selected natural compounds. It is available from http://www.ompress.com.

Note: If your pet has cancer:

 always seek professional veterinary
advice first, then you may wish to consider the following:
• Avoid toxins & harmful chemicals: do not use lawn herbicides
• Feed some raw pulped veggies daily
• Supplement with an antioxidant in tablet form
• Give your pet colloidal minerals
• Supplement with Japanese and Chinese mushrooms
• Give your pet Omega 3 oil
• Include shark cartilage in your pet’s diet
• Give your pet Essiac and appropriate Chinese herbal formulae
• Offer food rich in Vitamin B17
• Ask your vet about high doses of vitamin C intravenously

Aged care has been a focus

Mum: the most precious thing I’ve ever lost. Mum passed away after a long battle with secondary complications following a severe stroke.  I had many encounters with medical mis diagnosis and poor care while 

Nursing Home Blues

Nursing home blues

by Elaine Cebuliak Image

Nursing home blues



It was a Lavender afternoon.  Mild, soft and ambiguous.  Not quite the

pastel  blue of depression, or the bright  azure tones of summer,  or

the royal blue of navy patriotism. It was a bland Autumn day, a

cummulous clouded afternoon that  no longer contained the reds or

yellows of the enthusiasm of active, sunny youth.


No, today was decidedly a dilute purple.  The colour that says to the

observer “I am not a threat, I am innocuous”.  The colour that blends

well with silvers and greys.  It is the colour that defines  the walls

of the(euphemistically called)  retirement  home, from the reception

to the nurses  desk.   The paint tones belong to one of the

decorator’s varied attempts to calm the spirit of those who enter this



 Lavender is the fading spirit of the refined elderly.  It is the

colour that my mother wears.   It is also the scent that elegantly

covers  the stale urine smells of the nursing home that discarded

family members find themselves in.


Ah, to be a famous poet or an artist of some distinctive flare.  No

one is likely to critically analyse your carbon footprint or your

reason for existence in this planet in years to come.  You would not

need to justify your relativity theorem, or put up with endless

debates about accreditation, scientific relevance,  or have to make

endless policy adjustments to please the crowds. You just were. What

mark have you left?   At least you would have made a difference with

your time on earth, in a relatively nondestructive sense of being.

Some aesthetes would have appreciated you.  What is the best way to

move forward, in life’s greater scheme of good?


The insignificance of many people’s lives in their sunset years seems

like an unappreciated flower, left to wither in the melting pot

cupboard where vases are closeted away from the bustle of modern day

lives.  Accountants, lawyers, teachers and even ministers hurry away

on their buck chasing finer agenda with a chronology that forgets that

they once had (and still have) a mother or father or aunty or uncle or

grandparent locked away in some nursing home waiting for the other

side of the closet door to crack open a little to let some light in.


I ponder these thoughts as I wheel my paralysed mother up a capricious

curve that clearly was not designed to be wheel chair friendly.  Where

were the town planners when they designed these shopping centres?

Obviously they never had to struggle with ridiculously

under-engineered moebius stripped tread and low traction plegic

mobiles.   Disabled signs tease and placate the politicians and

council workers, but bear no true meaning to the reality. They taunt

plegics into believing that some real thought has gone into the

process of their needs.


Mum lets out a sigh as if the weight of having lived past 90 years is

oppressive.  The fog of the stroke clouds her mind, as she struggles

to find the words that used to flow so freely.  Are you cold dear? She

says with great concern.


No, I reply, I am fine. A slight smile comes across my dour facade.

Mum will always be a mum. Her concern for her offspring is tantamount

to Presidential care for the country, she will defend their rights and

balance the budget always willing to give up her time for others.


I am sorry I am so much trouble for you, she says.


DeNada, I think the small sacrifices I make are very few compared to

the years Mum had in carrying, diapering , feeding and couriering me.

Mum its ok, no problem, I say.


Where would you like to go today?


Anyplace you want to take me, she says.


How about the park? She remembers, as well as I, that the slate laid

some 30 years ago in parts of the path is flaking making those said

tyres difficult to push through. We’ll just go along the asphalt and

be careful. Mum is afraid of falling out of her wheel chair and not

being able to be picked up and put back in. Her balance is fragile.


We could go to sushi after.  Or maybe her favourite – Chinese

smorgasbord.  Chicken and almonds. Although her glass like teeth can’t

handle the almonds anymore.


Let’s go to the movies, I say. “Mao’s Last Dancer” is on, and mum used

to be a patron of the arts.


So off we trundle in the maxi taxi that has done over a million

kilometres, and good old Joni –the yellow taxi- gets us there with



As we drop the hydraulic lift and back out of the van there is a

distinctive odiferous wave. I think I passed wind, says mum.  OK,

shall we go to the loo? I say.


Take me back to the nursing home says mum


OH, but we just got here.


We should go back, says mum


Thank goodness there is a bag of adult nappies and cleaning supplies I

have collected for such an occasion. Off we go to the wheelchair

cramped ablution quarters,  narrowly missing the sink and barely able

to turn the wheelchair around. We must roll the dial to lie it flat

and get the back down to turn the wheelchair into a change table.

There are no hydraulic lifts in these public facilities, so if one is

confined to a wheelchair and unable to transfer to a toilet one needs

to be exceptionally prepared and have back up staff to get one’s basic

needs met.


The wheelchair has a dial on the side to wind down the back, and the

legs come up with a forward pull. Thank goodness my back is still

strong and I can reach and bend. Now it is simply a matter of baby

care, one leg up at a time and massive amounts of toilet paper latter

and we are away.  Luckily I am not squeamish, as human faeces dribble

down the leg that needs care.  No worse than cage cleaning at our

veterinary surgery, I think quietly, as I pull layers of toilet paper

of the unforgiving roll.


That job accomplished and chair rightfully returned to the standard

angle, we proceed backwards through the narrow “wheelchair” friendly

door.  Some kind sympathetic man holds the door open so we can

disentangle ourselves from its self closing action.


Hopscotch film distributors comes up on the screen.  Is that the name

of the movie, says mum in her less than inaudible voice. Shhhh says

the unidentifiable neighbours in the movie theatre. Mum, you have to

whisper and be quiet in here, I say, soto voice.


Oh, she says, once a preschool teacher in command of 25 or so

rambunctious trainable and noisy 4-5 year old beings.


This is a long movie, she says, forgetting that whispering was the denovo mode.


That was colourful, and a good movie she says back in her room.


Yes, I say, as I change her clothes back at the nursing home while

waiting for the staff to answer their buzzer.  Sometimes they come,

sometimes they don’t, says mum.


They are busy, I say.


Usually they are pretty good when they see me come in. Years of

introductions and a proud mum bragging about her progeny probably

helped. Others are not so lucky. On some days there are no signatures

in the entry book kept out by the front door to register incoming



In the last few months mums neighbours on either side have died. One,

Dougie, had an exceptionally quirky smile which he used to great

effect whenever mum passed by, I used to tease her that this was her

boyfriend. I think she liked him, she said he was probably a ladies

man previously.  Another across the aisle Edna gave up her ghost

probably due to systemically infected cellulitis, she had had enough

of the pain.  Before her dermal wounds saw the other side, she would

sing and laugh at the slightest occasion. Their beds had no time to

get cold, the human production conveyor belt churns steadily and

brings another tragic stroke victim wheeled in.  The waiting lists for

care are long, and Santa doesn’t wait for Christmas.  One needs to be

thankful that an opportunity for placement arises, because there is

little respite in some situations. Not enough families around to care.

Too busy chasing the almighty dollar. Too spread out across the



Its a joy when the grandkids run amok in the nursing home. It’s very

rare to see children in this time zone.  Kids are probably scared off

by the smells, I think.  Some reminiscence of normality, of

perpetuating generational purpose would be nice. The old ones smile

when they see happy puppies jumping around.


Pets as therapy dogs and peoples pets on leashes would also produce

some jocularity. Its not common here. We manage to sneak in our Kelpie

on occasion, who sits under the bed in bewildered fashion wondering

when her “Grandma” will get out of bed.


It would be nice to have a nursing home dog, a small doll like

creature that always smiles that could live there.   I guess its just

another chore for the overworked staff, and maybe a hygiene problem,

or some people are allergic or afraid of them.


Why don’t we do a painting mum? I’ll do one when I get home, her

perseverance kicks in.


Mum that may not happen, so why don’t we just do one now. No she says.

Don’t want to. Will do one when I get back to the new house. She says.

The house dad bought with her money that she will never get to live



Ok, how about we read a magazine and do some of the word puzzles. We

manage to get through 3 of them before she has had enough. The nursing

staff still haven’t come to help toilet her and put her to bed. Shall

we brush your teeth (or what is remaining of them, I think). Ok


Staff must be on their break.


I hear buzzers going off up the hall. There is a rancid smell of urine

wafting through the corridors this evening.


Mum, do you want a drink of water? I realise that unless she is

regularly reminded to drink, she forgets to drink.  Her lips look like

parchment. I get her some fresh water from the dispenser up the hall.

Still no sign of staff.  I push the call button again.


Are you staying down tonight? She asks.


I have to work tomorrow so I might drive back soon, I say.



Thank you for coming and for everything you do for me, she says. I

really like it when you visit. I am sorry I am so much trouble.



Somehow that makes it all worthwhile.


You are no trouble mom, you are my mother, I say.


I kiss her on the forehead and walk away looking for some staff to

help hoist her to bed and change her diaper.  They do not like to put

her on the toilet at this time because it is double handling to get

her back to bed, and they are understaffed.


It was a pleasant visit, and I drive away with thoughts of mom’s life

as it is,” Mom’s last dance” in the nursing home.


With love, your daughter.