This article describes a general approach to the use of integrative therapies for infectious disease in dogs and cats. While it is beyond the scope of this piece to offer protocols for specific diseases, I will present general guidelines for where, when and how these therapies can be used to enhance the healing process, as well as improve the efficacy of conventional medical therapies.
A review of the veterinary literature on infectious disease in dogs and cats shows an extensive amount of information on causes, prevention and treatment. Early in the last century, small animal veterinary medicine focused on prevention as well as the diagnosis of dogs with distemper, hepatitis and leptospirosis, and of cats for panleukopenia, infectious peritonitis and rhinotracheitis/calici. More modern diagnostics and research have unveiled more and more infectious agents linked with specifi c new and older diseases.
Modern veterinary literature classifies infectious disease of dogs and cats in a long list, such as seen below.
Borreliosis (Lyme disease)
Canine Coronavirus Infection
Canine Parvo Disease
Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH) Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis
Borreliosis (Lyme disease)
Feline Enteric Coronavirus
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper)
Feline Infectious Anemia
Feline Viral Respiratory Disease Complex
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR)
That said, when this list of infectious diseases is reviewed in the veterinary literature for their causes, treatment and prevention, a common theme develops that is quite similar from one condition to another:
- Cause – infectious agent
- Prevention – vaccinations
- Treatment – supportive care for the target affected organ (antibiotics, fluid therapy) and symptom-oriented medication (anti-diarrhea, anti-tussive, etc).
What has been strikingly absent from much of the veterinary literature about infectious disease is how to use an integrative approach to support the immune system and the affected organs with natural therapies such as herbs, glandulars, therapeutic nutrition and deeply healing supportive modalities such as homeopathy and TCVM. The good news is this trend is now growing and conventional literature increasingly reports on the many studies for holistic modalities generated by clinician and client demand.
In conventional veterinary medicine, the underlying cause of infectious diseases is associated with specific infectious agents; however, as we know, not all animals exposed to infectious agents succumb to the disease. In healthy animals, the immune system defense (cellular and humoral), when functioning well, will fight off infectious agents before they establish themselves in the body and cause illness.
The integrative approach, therefore, is designed to support that immune surveillance mechanism by using alternative modalities, without compromising the effectiveness of conventional medical therapies. This allows us to use a selected medication to work effectively on the symptoms of the disease while simultaneously nourishing the body by offering energetic and biological remedies that can actually get to the root cause and inflammatory insult. This is necessary in order to achieve a true healing.
Here are some of the natural modalities that may be used when treating infectious disease:
CHINESE AND WESTERN HERBS
Herbal medicine is broadly defined as the use of various botanicals to achieve specific therapeutic and healing results. Both Western and Chinese herbal medicine are used in veterinary practice with great results. Herbs and herbal combinations contain numerous active ingredients that work synergistically to help promote healing without the inherent side effects associated with many medications.
For instance, a Chinese herbal combination, Bai Tou Weng Tang, which contains pulsatilla (Bai tou weng), phellodenron bark (Huang bai), coptis root (Huang lian) and ash bark (Qin pi), has strong antibacterial, antiviral and anti-parasitic properties. It also decreases gastrointestinal inflammation, and therefore helps control diarrhea and abdominal pain in dogs with parvovirus.
COMBINATION HOMEOPATHIC AND HOMOTOXICOLOGY REMEDIES
Homeopathic combinations are low-potency, symptom-oriented remedies designed to gently stimulate the body’s own healing mechanisms, reduce inflammation and move the body toward healing and homeostasis. Both homotoxicology and combination homeopathic medicines can be targeted for specific infected organs, or specific symptoms.
The administration of whole gland and/or extracts has been shown to be nutritive and have anti-inflammatory effects on the body’s glands. Besides containing vitamins, minerals, enzymes, co-factors and amino acids, they also contain intrinsic factors that are organ-specific, providing the raw materials for organ tissue repair and neutralizing the autoimmune inflammatory process occurring in that particular organ. This reduction of organ inflammation spares the organ, helps prevent the process of degeneration and disease, and promotes healing. (Goldstein 2008, Mowat 2004, 2012) If treating leptospirosis in a dog whose kidneys are compromised, for instance, a kidney glandular could be useful.
The term “neutraceutical was coined by Dr Stephen DeFelice in 1989 from the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical”. It is broadly used to describe a vast number of nutrient-based compounds that have a beneficial and healing effect on the body. One example of these compounds is quercetin, a flavonoid that has anti-histaminic properties, which can help reduce the inflammation in the upper respiratory system often associated with viral disease.
In summary, the integrative approach of administering natural and biological remedies – either in combination with medical therapy or as a free-standing protocol – is beneficial for the animal’s day-today quality of life, and for reducing underlying inflammation and enhancing the healing process, even when treating the most devastating infectious diseases.
- Tidbit, now a seven-year-old Papillion, was presented to the local veterinary clinic for “not doing well”; he was off his food, with some vomiting. He was treated symptomatically and improved somewhat, but then relapsed and was referred to the specialty clinic in July 2013. Blood examination showed slight azotemia along with an elevated ALT. Tidbit was discharged back to the family veterinarian on Famotidine and a bland diet. He continued to decline and was re-examined a week later when his blood showed a BUN 238, creatinine 8.3 and ALT of 386 with a positive diagnosis for leptospirosis.
Being nonresponsive to fluid therapy and with total renal shutdown, Tidbit was transferred to the Animal Medical Center in New York City for kidney dialysis and supportive care for the treatment of his leptospirosis. He responded well to therapy, and his kidney and liver values were tracking down in early August 2013 upon discharge, and with home therapy of oral medication for the residual issues with his liver and kidneys.
Based on the diagnosis of leptospirosis, and his secondary kidney and liver issues, Tidbit was placed on an integrative therapy program to support his organ health and function and to enhance the healing process. This integrative support included a combination homeopathic (homotoxicology) remedy that contained anti-inflammatory, liver and kidney support; a nutraceutical (Gluta DMG) for liver and immune function and support; a combination of glandulars for liver and kidney health; and a combination herbal remedy (with uva ursi, marshmallow root, gravel root and other herb extracts) to support kidney function; all along with the recommended medical therapy of antibiotics. Tidbit improved weekly and his blood was essentially back to normal by October 2013. He has remained on a program of herbal, homeopathic and gland support, and two years later is the picture of health.
- Oscar is a 14-year-old American shorthair cat who was diagnosed with FIV when he was five years of age. He developed secondary asthma as well as an immune-mediated pruritic skin condition on his face, secondary to infected teeth that required extraction. The condition started initially as recurrent upper respiratory infections, at which time Oscar tested positive for FIV. More recently, he has developed low grade azotemia.
Oscar has been maintained in remission for nine years on natural remedies including L-lysine, an amino acid with anti-viral properties; lactoferrin, which has been shown to help modulate immune function; and symptomoriented remedies such as quercetin (a natural antihistamine) to minimize allergic reactions, and plant sterols to modulate immune function and improve control of viral reactions. In addition, combination homeopathic (homotoxicology) remedies were given to help reduce inflammation, asthmatic and skin allergic episodes. Glandular support for the kidneys, lymph and splenic systems has also been administered to help maintain Oscar’s immune and renal function.
Goldstein R, Broadfoot P, Fougere B, Palmquist R, Wen J. Integrating Complementary Medicine into Veterinary Practice. Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.
Kobayashi S, Sato R, Aoki T, Omoe K, Inanami O, Hankanga C, Yamada Y, Tomizawa N, Yasuda J, Sasaki J. “Effect of bovine lactoferrin on functions of activated feline peripheral blood mononuclear cells during chronic feline immunodeficiency virus infection”. J Vet Med Sci, 2008.
Maggs DJ, Nasisse MP, Kass PH. “Efficacy of oral supplementation with L-lysine in cats latently infected with feline herpesvirus”. Am J Vet Res. 2003.
Mowat A, Pabst O. “Oral Tolerance to Food Protein”. Mucosal Immunology, 2012.
Mowat A, Parker LA, Beacock-Sharp H, Millington OR, Chirdo F. “Oral Tolerance: New Insights and Prospects for Clinical Application”. Anals of the New York Academy of Science, 2004.
Sato R, Inanami O, Tanaka Y, Takase M, Naito Y. “Oral administration of bovine lactoferrin for treatment of intractable stomatitis in feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)-positive and FIV-negative cats”. Am J Vet Res, 1996.