Alternative Medicine-Veterinarian
Turns to Holistic Approaches

Fairfield Citizen-News, March 26, 1999 by John Koziol

Last year, when his chocolate Labrador Chloe was diagnosed with a fatal condition and given a month to live, Brian Hurley turned to holistic veterinarian Marcie Fallek for help, and in doing so, joined the increasing numbers of pet owners who look to alternative ways of treating animal health problems.

"Chloe was very sick in August," Hurley explained recently when he brought the 7-year-old dog and her brother Dudley to see Fallek for a routine checkup. "She started losing a lot of weight and I noticed swelling in her front paws," he said.

Frightened by Chloe's condition, Hurley immediately took her to the family's regular veterinarian, who did blood and urine tests, on the basis of which he then referred Chloe to a specialist, who said she was experiencing kidney failure.

"I was told that once the symptoms appear, then it's beyond repair," Hurley said. The specialist gave Chloe only 28 days to live.

Over the weekend, when Hurley was considering euthanizing Chloe, a friend happened upon a newspaper article about holistic veterinary medicine and suggested Hurley give it a try. He contacted Fallek, who immediately began a homeopathic treatment, and now seven months later, Chloe appears to be in the peak of health, although Hurley kiddingly complains that while she is "back to playing ball and being very athletic," her appetite is "also back with a vengeance."

A licensed veterinarian with 15 years' experience and a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, Fallek - first in her personal life and then later in her professional life- sought to find a way of being healthy naturally, without drugs.

She experimented with acupuncture on herself to relieve pain and later when her dog developed arthritis, she again turned to the traditional Chinese therapy, eschewing the conventional protocols that would have possibly required the dog to undergo a cure more damaging than the disease.

The acupuncture, she said, helped her dog's arthritis, and, at the same time, the successof the treatment intensified Fallek's interest in the ancient technique. She studied acupuncture and when she became a veterinarian, intergrated it into her practice.

Acupuncture, according to a pamphlet from Fallek's Animal Natural Healing Center, "can be used to treat a variety of illnesses, including arthritis, disc disease, paralysis, chronic gastro-intestinal problems, kidney disease, respiratory disease and immune disorders." Acupuncture is a virtually painless procedure, the pamphlet said, and acute problems such as muscle strain or sprain may require as little as one treatment, but chronic diseases may require a series of them.

But because not all animals enjoy having needles stuck into them - a significant portion of her cat patients resisted her efforts to puncture them- and because acupuncture has limitations in that a patient may reach only a certain level of health, she also devoted herself to the study of homeopathy, and, to complete the holistic approach, nutrition.

Homeopathy "addresses your pet's mental, emotional and physical illnesses, and sees them as intimately connected. Homeopaths understand that symptoms of 'dis-ease' are attempts by the body to heal itself and use them as important clues in guiding them toward correct remedies," according to the pamphlet.

"What Einstein said is, "matter and energy are interchangeable," Fallek said, explaining how homeopathic medicine works. Taking the energy from plants, minerals or other natural substances and refining it, she said, and then introducing that refined energy into the patient, stimulates the animal's own healing process whereas many conventional drug therapies may depress and even hinder the healing process.

Homeopathy, which was the primary form of health care in the United States up until 100 years ago, Fallek said, is "enjoying a resurgence" and right now the AVMA "has recognized homeopathic and other holistic treatments" as being effective in dealing with some conditions. The National Institute of Health, she added is also studying the benefits of homeopathy for humans.

An on-call doctor who does house visits, telephone consultations and works seven days a week, Fallek draws upon her traditional veterinary training to help her understand which way to proceed with a patient's treatment. After an examination, Fallek religiously studies all the patient's medical records because "I need to know everything."

Once a prognosis is reached, treatment may include one or more of the holistic approaches, she said., adding that some solutions are very simple. "With a home-made diet, it's possible to clear up 30 percent of skin problems," she said.

Not all conditions, however can be cured by holistic medicine Fallek cautioned. Antibiotics and steroids may be required on some emergency basis or surgery for ruptured ligaments.

Once a disease has destroyed all of an organ or part of the body, such as the spine, holistic medicine will be ineffective because it requires the presence of at least some healthy tissues in the affected area in which to impart the energy to stimulate the healing process, she said.

Also, about 20 percent of her patients may not see any or only a minor improvement, but in the other 80 percent, the conditions can be ameliorated and their ultimate consequences delayed or, as with Chloe, cured, Fallek believes.

"I'm now treating a cat for cancer. The owner was told the cat would die in six weeks and that was two years ago," Fallek said., quickly adding that while the treatment did not eradicate the cancer, it improved and extended the cat's quality of life.

Fallek understands that some pet owners may be reluctant to pursue holistic treatment for their animals. "Western medicine tends to treat the symptoms, which is also affecting the immune system. With homeopathy you're re-balancing the energy in a body. I was skeptical at first, too."

Pet owners "need a certain amount of a leap of faith" to get over entrenched belief in the exlusivity and primacy of drug-oriented medicine, Fallek said, and they also need to give alternative treatment time to work.