Short for Behavior, Energy, Appetite, and Mood, BEAM represents the context of health for each patient.
It shifts the client’s focus from current symptoms to a more comprehensive view of the pet’s quality of life. Integrative veterinarians often encounter clients whose immediate goal is to quickly eliminate the current symptoms their pets are exhibiting. This is understandable with new clients, yet sometimes frustrating with those we thought had an understanding of the need to work deeply to balance the animal’s energy and restore whole and complete health, not just make symptoms disappear. We may not see these clients return to our practices until there is another acute problem, or a severe disease diagnosis such as cancer. Often, clients seek out integrative help when their animals don’t respond to conventional veterinary therapy. Clients focused solely on symptom resolution often call more frequently and need more education and reassurance.
How can we increase the number of clients who come to us at the very beginning of an energy imbalance in their pets, or who schedule regular exams and energy tune-ups? There are many ways to develop this rewarding partnership between clients and our integrative practices. Educational videos, email blast reminders, blogs, and individualized “healthy pet check” reminders are all ways to emphasize quality of life indicators throughout an animal’s life, not just towards the end of it. One powerful tool involves teaching your clients to shine the light of BEAM on their pets. This method also helps your clients decide if an acute problem warrants an emergency visit.
BEAM REFLECTS PHYSIOLOGIC HOMEOSTASIS AND QUALITY OF LIFE
Dr. Jeff Feinman, VMD, CVH of Holistic Actions for Animals Academy, created the BEAM acronym, which can easily be posted throughout the clinic, in clinic messaging, and in client discharge papers. He postulates that Behavior, Energy, Appetite, and Mood (BEAM) seem to be clinically sensitive, though not specific, reflections of physiologic homeostasis and quality of life1 (see sidebar at right). When clients and veterinarians evaluate animals with BEAM in mind, in addition to standard objective assessments, the likelihood of discovering potential problems earlier increases, allowing supportive therapies to be implemented before more serious pathologies arise. Likewise, using BEAM enhances recovery from illness and improves longevity.
In my practice, clients valued having tools to not only discern the early warning signs of imbalances, but to also evaluate how their pets were responding to therapies. When BEAM changed for the better, they felt confident about continuing treatment, and if it worsened, they were quick to reach out for help.
QUALITY OF LIFE IS MOST IMPORTANT TO CLIENTS
The Farm Animal Welfare Council’s definition of “quality of life” applies to our companion animals as well: the ability to live a full life, free of physical, mental, and emotional restrictions, such as pain, senility, and fear.2
Why is the combination of BEAM factors an effective monitor of quality of life? BEAM assessments reflect physiologic homeostasis and can indicate organ issues even when laboratory test values are normal. Since mitochondria are the cellular energy providers, studies have related their dysfunction to lowered overall energy levels.3 When energy is low, behaviors, appetite and moods often change. In addition, reports show that these subjective measures predict response to treatment.4
Improving and conserving cellular and mitochondrial energy are important for general healing, especially for animals with cancer and end-stage diseases. Though unexplained, some human patients have spontaneous remissions.5 As integrative practitioners, we also see this daily with our animal patients, and relate it to improving the balance of the energy pattern. Addressing BEAM, body conditioning, and symptoms commonly accepted as normal (hairballs, licking cement, pica, skin odors, etc.) rather than merely specific disease symptoms seems to increase these recoveries.
Most importantly, clients are with their pets every day, and when asked about BEAM changes they become much more interested in long term treatment to maintain vitality and balance. When an animal is very ill, as with cancer, evaluating BEAM daily can prompt the client to call you to possibly alter the therapies you are recommending. They can ask every person involved with the animal’s care to note changes. The biggest challenge is for clients to quantify these measures. Some can be a direct measure and others are more qualitative, on a scale of 0 to 10 (be sure to note if 10 is good or bad).
IMPLEMENTING BEAM WITH YOUR CLIENTS
Ways to encourage clients to begin using BEAM are as individual as the treatments for their pets.
• For some clients, just a few statements can help. For example: “I know you are worried about Fifi’s diarrhea, which is only moderately improved. Even more important, though, is how she is feeling overall. Has her general quality of life improved? Each day, in addition to recording how her stool is changing, be just as specific about her BEAM. Think about beaming a flashlight on her inner state of health.”
• Other clients will need to be gently pushed in several visits to shift their focus. If you inquire into each of their pets’ BEAM symptoms during every visit, most clients will begin to keep their own notes at home.
• Place a dollar value on tracking BEAM, such as: “You can save money on unnecessary office visits by evaluating BEAM. If the BEAM is good, especially if it is improving, then the worsening of his itching does not immediately necessitate an office visit or call. You can use some of the soothing skin treatments we discussed as long as the BEAM continues to be good.”
• The most important point of using BEAM may take the longest to be appreciated in some clients. “You are building health from the inside and allowing for self-healing rather than forcing symptoms to resolve with suppressive or palliative treatments.”
• Including a take-home paper with BEAM quantified at each visit gives clients a reminder of how important this tool can be for improving quality of life and longevity in their pets. Doing a Zoom class with your clients can both educate them and show how much you care.
The Holistic Actions Academy founded by Dr. Feinman continually educates members about BEAM and other ways to stay the course with holistic approaches, including routine visits to maintain balance. Clients can visit www.HolisticActions.com for more information.
Many clients are stressed when they notice that their animals are ill, especially during these times of COVID safety measures. Teaching clients a strategy to lower their fears about any worrisome symptom or sign can be very empowering. When you start an appointment with a brief conversation about BEAM, you are connecting with your clients’ emotions about their pets, and demonstrating how much you value their input. You also are increasing the chances of true health in your patients, as well as happy, committed clients.
1Feinman J. Significance of Signs, Symptoms, mTOR, and Quality of Life. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2019;56:15-19.
2Manteca X, Mainau E, Temple D. What is animal welfare? The farm animal welfare fact sheet. Farm animal welfare education centre. https://tinyurl.com/An-Welfare. June 2012. Accessed July 4, 2019.
3Myhill S, Booth NE, McLaren-Howard J. Chronic fatigue syndrome and mitochondrial dysfunction. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2009;2(1):1–16.
4Staskin DR. Age-related physiologic and pathologic changes affecting lower urinary tract function. Clin Geriatr Med. 1986;2:701–710.
5Kleef R, Jonas WB, Knogler W, Stenzinger W. Fever, cancer incidence and spontaneous remissions. Neuroimmunomodulation. 2001;9(2):55–64.