By Dana Trumbull
When speaking with Dr. Eva DeCozio, DVM, Medical Director at VCA Animal Hospital, 17 N. Mountain Rd., Apache Junction, the conversation moves fluidly between animals and humans. It can be difficult to track which she is talking about until eventually one realizes – it doesn’t really matter. Our conversation is about the use of alternative medicine in the treatment of animal illnesses, and the philosophy is much the same whether you are speaking of humans or their pets: an integrated approach can often yield the best results.
“We’re not replacing conventional medicine,” DeCozio explains. “We’re giving people the option of adding something natural into the health care plan. It’s all about the quality of life: trying to fix what’s broken and not just put band-aids on it. The ultimate goal is to make the pet better – whatever it takes.”
DeCozio had been out of veterinary school about 8 years, when she had a young dog brought in with bad hips. The dog was 4 years old, but he could hardly walk. The normal treatment in western medicine would be to put him on anti-inflammatories for the rest of his life. The medication, however, doesn’t fix the hips; its purpose is to make the pain and inflammation manageable. Meanwhile, the side effect of long term anti-inflammatory medication includes potential kidney and liver damage, so in the effort to improve the quality of life, the treatment could potentially cut the animal’s life short.
“I thought to myself, ‘Is this the answer? For every problem: here’s a pill? I’ve got to give my patients an alternative,” reminisced DeCozio. “So, I started a veterinary acupuncture course. It was a pretty intensive course that included Chinese medicine, and now I am certified as a veterinary acupuncturist. So acupuncture was how I segued into alternative medicine.”
That was 16 years ago. Now DeCozio sees “amazing” results with arthritis, neuropathies, seizures, back pain and more. “The research is there now, documenting the effectiveness of alternative medicine for animals, and I’ve personally seen so many success stories that it just makes me a believer in alternative medicine.
“For instance, we had a little dog from the shelter that was on death’s door. He had a heart murmur, he had bad kidneys, he was bald and had developed Cushings disease. I treated him with herbs over time. We got rid of the heart murmur, we normalized his kidneys, and his hair all grew back.”
In addition to acupuncture, DeCozio has her board certification in traditional Chinese herbal medicine and works with stem cell therapy, Plasma Rich Platelet therapies (PRP), orthopedic manipulations (chiropractic), cold laser and diet modification.
“People are becoming more aware of their own health and what they’re putting in their bodies and what the potential side effects are,” concluded DeCozio, “and they’re becoming more concerned about their pets in the same way.”
The alternative practice is often more affordable, as well. “If pet owners come in, and they’re saying, ‘Look, I can’t afford chemotherapy; I can’t afford radiation or the stereotactic radiosurgery that costs $11,000,’ I will suggest, ‘I want to try [alternative therapy].’ But for severe bleeding, or a fractured leg or Valley Fever; yes, we will respond with western medicine. We can add something to that to help support and strengthen the immune system, but we still treat conventionally.”
For more information about alternative medicine for veterinary care, contact VCA Animal Hospital, 480-984-2114 or go to: vcahospitals.com.
Photo above: Dr. Eva DeCozio performs surgery to remove a fist-sized tumor from a small dog. With an approach that integrates traditional western medicine and alternative therapies, herbal medicines will be used in follow-up care to support recovery.