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Why I Became Certified in Veterinary Eastern Food Therapy, and How It Changed the Way I Practice Veterinary Medicine

I am beyond excited to announce that I have been training for my certification in Veterinary Eastern Food Therapy for the past 5 months! In vet school, I learned a Western medicine approach to veterinary care. But in recent years, I’ve worked closely with Side by Side Pet, leading me to discover a more holistic veterinary care approach. Feeding our furbabies healthy pet food is always the ultimate goal, and my new journey into Eastern Food Therapy for pets is going to take that idea to the next level!

My Journey as a Small Animal Vet

I have been a practicing small animal vet for 15 years. Having graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, I am trained in small animal western medicine. I have owned and run a successful small animal hospital, Victoria Park Animal Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, for 10 years where I evaluate and treat hundreds of pet patients a week. I am passionate about treating and caring for cats and dogs as well as helping my pet parents with the human-pet bond.

Nothing is more rewarding to me than helping your pets live long, healthy, and loved lives.

I am in awe of the incredible advances in veterinary medicine over the course of my career. In addition to better quality medicine as a whole, specialty veterinary medicine is so advanced and new treatment options for pet parents are extensive. Your pets can now be referred to oncologists for advanced cancer treatments, veterinary surgeon specialists, internal medicine specialists, dermatologists, and even veterinary behaviorists for anxiety and fear disorders! The options for keeping our pets happy and healthy are astounding. It’s an exciting time to be a small animal vet!

In addition to Western-based veterinary medicine advances, Traditional Chinese Eastern Medicine practices have taken off. I am seeing more and more veterinarians becoming trained and certified in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) and open practices specializing in holistic animal care utilizing acupuncture, natural herbs, and Eastern Food Therapy to manage and treat patients.

Adding Holistic Pet Care to My Practice

After years of practicing solely Western-based small animal medicine, I wanted to offer something more – something even better for my pets.

So I recently enrolled in the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine through the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and began my studies. I could not be happier with the course and everything I have learned. With my additional training, I feel more confident than ever in providing the best options and care for my pet patients.eastern food therapy training

My Path to Veterinary Eastern Food Therapy

So today, I want to discuss my new training, how it has changed and improved the way in which I practice veterinary medicine, and how it can help your pet live their longest, healthiest, and best life.

Why Did I Become Certified in Veterinary Eastern Food Therapy?

As I mentioned, treatment options and advancement in veterinary medicine over the course of my career has been incredible. In addition to accessibility and advancements in Western-based specialty veterinary medicine, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine has entered the conversation in the Western world.

With more veterinarians in my local area becoming certified and practicing TCVM, I discovered that patients being treated by me AND a specialist in TCVM were doing better. I came to believe that a combination of Western- and Eastern-based veterinary medicine might provide my patients with better health, wellness, treatment options, preventative care, and a longer life span.

Specifically, I became interested in what my patients were eating and the results of different diets on disease, preventative care, and wellness. I came to see that healthy pet food is the foundation for our pets’ overall health and well being.

You are what you eat! And the same goes for our furbabies. They need healthy pet food to maintain overall health and wellness.

I was increasingly unhappy with the quality of pet food options available. And I was even more frustrated with constant recalls and health concerns linked to major pet foods on the market. What we feed our pets has a direct connection to their overall health and wellness. So I used that knowledge to research healthier ways to nourish our pets.

I found Side by Side Pet and was intrigued by their take on healing foods for dogs. Their traditional Chinese Eastern Food Therapy approach really spoke to my new passion for healing with whole foods.

At that point, I knew I needed to combine my Western training as a veterinarian, my passion for healthy, high quality nutrition, and my newfound belief in traditional Chinese Eastern Food Therapy to provide my pet patients with the best and healthiest life possible.

I wanted better for my own pets and my pet patients. Certification in Veterinary Eastern Food Therapy is a big step toward that goal!

So what is Veterinary Eastern Food Therapy?

Food Therapy is one of the four branches making up TCVM. It is the use of diet to treat and prevent imbalance within the body. Food therapy utilizes knowledge of the energetics of food ingredients to tailor diets for individual animals.

Essentially, in Eastern Food Therapy, we see what’s happening externally as a manifestation of an imbalance within the pet’s body. We can restore balance with whole foods to nourish, replenish, and soothe the body from the inside out.

Based on the imbalances in your pet’s body, Eastern Food Therapy categorizes your pet as either warm, neutral, or cool.

How Has This Training Changed the Way I Practice Veterinary Medicine?

Traditional Western medicine focuses on the specific organ or body system that presents with disease to create a treatment plan. From a Western standpoint, if a pet presents with vomiting, diarrhea, and refusal to eat, I would focus on the gastrointestinal tract. I would perform a thorough physical examination, probably concentrating on abdominal pain, bloating, and defection patterns of gastrointestinal disease. My diagnosis may lean toward food indiscretion, possible foreign body, or pancreatitis. I would focus diagnostics on the gastrointestinal tract.

In Eastern-based medicine, every organ, body function, and system is connected. For the previous example, I would assess all body functions that may contribute to vomiting to discover an imbalance. In my physical examination, I would also evaluate the color and moisture of the tongue, the feel and strength of the pulses, as well as the overall personality and demeanor of the pet. I would consider the season, the living environment, as well the diet the pet eats to gain a complete assessment. All of this information would give me a better understanding of the pet’s body as a whole and what may be contributing to disease. I would base my diagnostics on the entire body and any imbalances, not just the gastrointestinal tract.

With my new training, I now have the best of both worlds!

I use my new Eastern-based medical training to come up with a pattern diagnosis. I then couple that discovery with my Western-based background. A total body assessment narrows down an exact diagnosis to find a treatment plan involving BOTH Eastern and Western practices.

So in the case of our vomiting patient, I diagnosed the pet with pancreatitis. My Western-trained mind started the pet on broad-spectrum antibiotics, acid inhibitors, anti-vomiting medication, and a bland diet. My Eastern-based training diagnoses Spleen Qi (energy) deficiency in this case. I would recommend treatments to replenish the energy. Treatments may include healing whole foods such as oats, quinoa, yams, and Chinese herbs.

My training in Eastern-based medicine and food therapy has broadened the way in which I diagnose and treat my patients. I now have more complete and better treatment options for my patients.

So How Do I Start My Pet on an Eastern Food Therapy Diet?

As a small animal vet, my interest and passion for Veterinary Eastern Food Therapy really began when I was looking for a higher quality food to recommend for my pet patients. About 3 years ago, my research led me to start carrying Side by Side Pet Food in my animal hospital. And the results have been astonishing!

Side by Side Pet utilizes whole food nutrition and Eastern Food Therapy to tailor your pet’s food to their individual needs.

How amazing is that?!

Side by Side Pet Food nutrition specialists developed a unique Pet Assessment tool to help you better understand your pet. It’s the next best thing to speaking dog! And it takes the guesswork out of deciding whether your pet’s body is balanced or they’re suffering from any illness.

Simply share observations about your pet to get unique, customized food recommendations from Side by Side Pet Food.

Yup! It’s that simple.

Final Thoughts on Healthy Pet Food as a Whole

I could not be any happier with the Veterinary Eastern Food Therapy course I just completed. It has given me better ways to assess my patients, make a diagnosis, and offer treatment options.

I absolutely love the holistic approach of assessing the whole patient with less invasive treatment options and fewer side effects. However, I also respect and understand the importance of pinpointing an illness with a specific disease causing agent and the treatments Western veterinary medicine provides in those cases.

In my opinion, a Western-based approach and an Eastern-based approach each offer what the other lacks.

I believe the best medical system involves the integration of the two systems. So the strengths of one will compensate for the weaknesses of the other. The two philosophies and studies truly complement each other to create the best overall wellness, disease treatment, and ailment prevention.

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  1. Hey Dr. Birken, it’s really good to see all the innovative areas that you explored to take care of our pets we really appreciate that!