When it comes to their dogs and cats, many pet parents are turning more and more to holistic and integrative medicine. We sat down with David Fong, DVM, to learn more about these treatments, what conditions they address, and what he would tell a skeptical pet owner. Thanks, Dr. Fong!
1. What do you do at SFVS? How long have you been working at the hospital?
I am responsible for heading and managing the Holistic Department at SFVS. I have been at the hospital for just over two years now.
2. How did you know you wanted to practice on this holistic side of veterinary care, instead of the more “Western” side?
I had been practicing veterinary medicine for 20 years before turning to holistic medicine, such as acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal formulas, food therapy and Chinese Medicine.
I had severe arthritis, which almost crippled me. While on Western medication and treatment, I started experiencing many side effects such as nausea, dizziness, nose bleeds and double vision. I first started with changing my diet, and then using different therapies. So as I started to recover, I changed the way I took care of myself—which led me into using alternative ways for my patients.
One modality led to another until I had learned many therapies to use other than Western medications. I still use the Western diagnostics but my approach to treatment is more integrative.
3. What conditions respond the best to holistic/integrative medicine?
We treat many conditions ranging from arthritis to cancer therapy and everything in between. We have been successful in supporting cancer patients who are either going through chemotherapy or those who choose not to use chemotherapy. We have a large demand for relieving pain from arthritis, post-surgical patients and spinal injuries. We successfully treat renal failure, skin diseases and many unresolved gastrointestinal problems … just to list a few.
By using an integrative approach, we have helped many patients who otherwise have not been given much hope.
4. What changes have you seen in holistic medicine, from when you started practicing till now?
I have seen more research being done both in the United States and overseas, proving (or not proving) the validity of different therapies such as acupuncture and its relationship to neuro-anatomy.
The usage of herbs and herbal formulas in many Western diseases, especially on the human side of medicine, are being looked at and tried.
I have also seen more open-mindedness and acceptability from younger medical doctors and veterinarians.
5. Do you work with the other doctors and specialists at SFVS?
Yes. We always offer care to all the in-house patients and suggest different treatments that will help them with their ongoing after-care and maintenance to prevent repeated occurrences.
6. Give an example of a pet that might get care from both you and another non-holistic doctor.
In Chinese Medicine, we treat symptoms and diseases as patterns, so different patterns can encompass many different diseases. Our main objective is to correct the deficiencies and help support the body to help itself.
We work very closely with oncology veterinarians because of the tremendous support that is needed as patients go through chemotherapy or surgery. Integrative medicine has given a more quality outcome and life for these precious companions.
If we can give back to the body to help itself, that in turn will help other Western treatments be more successful.
7. What do you say to those people who are skeptical of whether holistic modalities work? Those who think prescription drugs and surgery are the only way to go?
This is a very hard question to answer because it is difficult to change these thoughts and beliefs with verbal statements. It is far more effective for clients to experience the benefits rather than be told of the successes.
I have many clients who have had this frame of mind and at the same time wanted to help their pets live a more quality life that sometimes drugs and surgery can’t provide. As they sought out and tried different modalities, they became more open to therapies that are non-invasive and more supporting—such as food therapy, acupuncture and herbal formulas. The success of their pets is what changed their minds.
8. What do you enjoy doing outside of your veterinary practice, when you have free time?
My interests have always been finding new activities and exploring the many different places and events that one can find in San Francisco. I am learning dragon boat racing, taiko drumming and different ballroom dance routines. And, of course, there’s my ongoing battle with my golf game. I have challenged myself to eat at every restaurant in San Francisco and have only gotten through 5% … and thousands of dollars in the hole.