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Tripawd Talk: All About Integrative Vet Medicine with Dr. Henry Pasternak

If you’ve ever wondered how integrative vet medicine can help your Tripawd hero, today’s your lucky day! In this episode of Tripawd Talk Radio, we get into all the specifics of “alternative” medicine with Los Angeles-based holistic veterinarian Dr. Henry Pasternak, DVM CVA.

Whether you call it “holistic,” “alternative,” or by the currently preferred description of “integrative” veterinary care, it’s a type of medicine that blends the best of western and eastern treatments for a healthier pet. Because of it, we have more treatment choices than ever when it comes to caring for our dogs, cats, and other animals.

L.A.-based Dr. Pasternak has been at the forefront of integrative veterinary medicine for decades, and kindly shares his approach to integrative veterinary care with us today on Tripawd Talk Radio Episode 120.

Watch Dr. Pasternak and Learn About Integrative Veterinary Medicine on YouTube

Download the Tripawd Talk Podcast

And you can also get into the details below in a complete transcript of our interview with Dr. Pasternak!

Tripawd Talk Radio Episode 120 Transcript

[0:00:40] TRIPAWDS: Welcome back to Tripawd Talk Radio. This is episode number 120 and we’re talking all about integrative veterinary medicine. What is it? What treatments are used? And what conditions do they address? And how can these alternatives to Western medicine help our three-legged friends, especially when it comes to a cancer diagnosis? Well, we had the honor of chatting with DR. PASTERNAK who answers all these questions and more.

  • Dr. Pasternak has been practicing integrative veterinary medicine for more than 34 years. He was first certified in veterinary acupuncture in 1989. And he’s been keeping current with holistic treatments ever since.
  • He even wrote the book on the subject in Healing Pets with Nature’s Miracle Cures, which discusses in great detail how holistic and conventional medicine can work together effectively.
  • We talk about how acupuncture helps dogs with arthritis and the importance of nutrition and herbs to both heal and help prevent disease.
  • With many tripawds diagnosed with some form of cancer, we spend a lot of time discussing immunity.
  • And we talk about other holistic approaches, including fecal transplants and ozone treatment. Yeah, we cover a lot of fascinating stuff here.

So on with the show. Dr. Pasternak, welcome. Thank you for joining us today.

[0:02:15] TRIPAWDS: I’d love to start with just knowing what integrative medicine is, some listeners may not know. So what is integrative veterinary care?

It’s – basically integrative medicine, whether a human doctor or veterinary doctor, and it’s integrating both Western medicine together with the Eastern philosophy of various natural approaches to diseases and health, and try to prevent diseases, for the most part, because you’re limited with just the Western forms of treatments.

Dr. Henry Pasternak DVM CVA

Many times there is no treatments, or the treatments are sometimes maybe worse than the disease itself and don’t work anyway. So it’s good to be integrative, where you can have the best of both worlds.

[0:03:07] TRIPAWDS: And Western being traditional, like prescribed, just prescribed medication and Eastern…

[0:03:15] DR. PASTERNAK: Yeah.

[0:03:15] TRIPAWDS: …being more “alternative”.

[0:03:17] DR. PASTERNAK: More – and many times for, you know, if you have an infection now, sure, you’re going to want to use an antibiotic in the acute situations that Western treatments seem to work really well.

Eastern, or the holistic aspect is to try to prevent diseases long term, and work along long term so that not only prevent diseases but you can actually treat many diseases long term, holistically as well.

[0:03:48] TRIPAWDS: Was there a certain patient or a situation that got you interested in this type of medicine? Because you come from a traditional background, why did you decide to get into this type of practice?

[0:04:01] DR. PASTERNAK: Well, pretty much all veterinarians come from a traditional Western, and because that’s all they pretty much teach in veterinary school.

Well, a few years in, I graduated from University of Missouri, 1986. And after a few years doing strictly Western medicine, I enrolled in an acupuncture course, International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, and started with the acupuncture and the getting more involved with herbs, and nutrition, and a lot of other holistic oriented approaches to medicine.

I find it – and a lot of people actually expect that when they come to see me, because when they come to see me, they’ve already been through a lot of Western treatments.

[0:04:55] And every day, probably half my clients that I see are brand new clients that have been through a lot of Western treatments for various diseases, you know, could be a disc problem, or cancer, or chronic infections and so forth.

I try to integrate, if I need to use the Western medicine, I’ll do that too, and/or try to integrate other things, nutrition, herbs, and other aspects of natural medicines.

Dr. Henry Pasternak DVM CVA

In fact, some are not even called natural anymore. They’re using in mainstream medicines, such as fecal transplants, which they’re starting to do more in humans for cancers, where they used to use it just for really bad colitises where they could not – where people are going to die of the bacterial infections and they use that to save their lives as one aspect of it.

[0:05:54] But – and that’s one thing of many things. So it’s good to know– make sure you get a good diagnosis of what the problem is. You know, you rely on X-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, CAT scans, whatever it is to get a good diagnosis to see which is the best approach to integrate things in. And what are the things to work in the acute situations, which are many times, it could be a Western drug of some sort, and/or other herbs for long term, and nutrition, of course, is really important as well.

[0:06:34] TRIPAWDS: That is a really forward thinking approach that you started doing a long time ago. What made you decide to do it?

[0:07:05] DR. PASTERNAK: Yeah, and I took the acupuncture course in 1989. So it was way back then, but they were actually doing it, I think in the 1970s. And then it got more popular and… so, but there’s a lot of other things.

I do acupuncture probably every day on various problems. Most of the time they come in for discs or things related to arthritides, whether it’s a disc problem, arthritis in the elbows, or hips, or knees, whatever.

[0:07:38] And I’ve also done it for animals that have seizure problems, too. So I use it for those, those problems. I usually don’t use it as much for cancers unless somebody wants me to do it. But so I usually use it for the arthritides and neurologic problems, whether in the back, and/or in the brain, things like that. So, we’ll add that to that, for that. And along with other aspects of whatever else I’ll add to it holistically.

[0:08:12] TRIPAWDS: Why is it that there’s still a lot of skepticism in the veterinary community about integrative medicine?

[0:08:38] DR. PASTERNAK: The scientific community, they don’t spend a lot of time or a lot of money, I should say, with a lot of these treatments because you can’t patent them. You can’t patent herbs.

And so it’s very difficult, unless you have – but remember, a lot of the Western drugs that we use too, were not OK, didn’t even go through the FDA for dogs. A lot of the antibiotics were OK for humans and not for dogs. Some of the – there’s drugs for nausea, and other drugs that were mainly used in humans, then they use it on animals off-labels. So there’s a lot, and pretty much most of the cancer drugs are all off-label. They’re for humans and people just anecdotally use them in animals, in dogs and cats. So…

Dr. Henry Pasternak DVM CVA

[0:09:41] But I think it’s becoming more and more popular, because people are asking more, more of it. Today I had an owner for the dogs who came in today for acupuncture because the dogs, he has real pain, problem in the back and little disc problem there.

She went to veterinarian a couple of times and some of the drugs – they didn’t just took some x-rays and dog had – they didn’t like the side effects the dog had on the drugs. We did acupuncture on the dog and integrated some, some herbs for the dogs too that will not have side effects as well and in pain help also.

[0:10:87] TRIPAWDS: You’ve mentioned acupuncture and herbs a couple of times. Are there other common holistic treatments that you’re providing and what conditions do these address?

[0:10:26] DR. PASTERNAK: Yeah. So, I do fecal transplants is one thing that I add. And nutrition and fecal transplants I do for a lot of different things, such as chronic infections, for the immune-related. I’ll also add it to cancers to help boost the immune system, the microbiome is really important. And they actually recently in last year, so added it for humans for actual – for cancers.

[0:10:59] But I also use it for, I’ve had a lot of dogs that, for example, had chronic allergies and chronic skin infections that no antibiotic worked for. And they were resistant, they had MRSA, staph bacteria, they were resistant to all antibiotics, and 85% to 90% of those dogs got better integrating herbs, nutrition, and fecal transplants as well. So I added that.

Dr. Henry Pasternak, DVM CVA

[0:11:32] I also do, many times I’ll do rectal ozone treatments, and that I pretty much use it only for, mainly for cancers. Though I’ve heard some – one veterinarian says she used it for a lot of other things too, for arthritides and many other things. But I pretty much use that for cancers, rectal ozone, so.

Along with nutrition, which I feel is really important as well, to get the, for example, if they’re on – if they have cancers, they should not have any carbohydrates or very minimal. And of course, get them off of all the grains and rice and beans and everything else. And mainly more of a ketogenic type diet of meats and fats, organ meats, and so forth.

Some people also even for cancers will even, maybe do some intermittent fasting, where they’ll have a window of eating, six-hour feeding, and maybe an 18-hour fast. Because many times when you feed the animal, you also feed the cancer as well. So an intermittent fasting of six hours on, 18 hours off, maybe also opportunistic to some of the animals, depending how, you know, if it doesn’t stress them out. Sometimes if they’re stressed out then, you know, spread out a little bit. So we do a lot of that too, and along with whatever herbs.

Dr. Henry Pasternak, DVM CVA

[0:13:18] And sometimes I’ll use some off-label type drugs such as one drug that I’ve used in the past couple of years is called rapamycin and downregulates mTOR and upregulates autophagy. So and rapamycin I use for a lot of different diseases.

The reason it works in so many diseases is that many diseases have a similar basic problem of inflammation and they create a lot of these, what people, some people called garbage or zombie cells and other senescent type cells and rapamycin stimulates autophagy to get rid of these bad cells that should have been gotten out a long time ago.

[0:14:22] And this is the human or animal. All cell, all living organisms pretty much have this mTOR which they discovered through rapamycin which is an extract from certain Streptomyces bacteria that is discovered in the 1960s in Easter Island, the only place in the whole world.

Then they started doing more and more research on it and found out that, wow, this is, there’s something unique about it. And because of rapamycin back in the ‘90s, they discovered that this mTOR pathway now under normal, healthy situation, person or an animal, if it’s in balance with the other metabolic pathways.

But when it’s off balance, it gets over regulated. So rapamycin downregulated, it doesn’t get rid of it, you can’t get rid of it, you’d die if you did. But down regulated to a more normal level and upregulates autophagy to just get rid of these garbage cells and proteins in the body.

[0:15:32] So – and I think rapamycin, some people feel it also has like a restrictive, some calorie restrictive type behavior too, so downregulating it, because many diseases will have an upregulation of the mTOR.

Cancers, autoimmune diseases, heart diseases, many other inflammatory diseases in your brain or spinal cord, autoimmune diseases, so many diseases, diabetes and other ones.

And that’s one reason Metformin may work in humans because it downregulates the mTOR. But Metformin also has side effects, which really, rapamycin is really the gold standard for healthspan and lifespan. It’s really no – people really have not seen any side effects of it when they use it accordingly.

[0:16:31] So, many of the researchers that do research of rapamycin take it themselves. Usually they’ll take it once a week themselves, because they see a lot of upside to it with no negative sides.

It’s also an immune modulator as well, may have – it’s actually was OK for several cancers in humans too, I think recently. So rapamycin is sort of not totally a magic bullet, but it’s as close as you get to it.

And you, along with other aspects, I think it has a large upside to it. So I use it in a lot of different diseases, cancers, and many other degenerative diseases, as well.

[0:17:14] TRIPAWDS: What other conditions might acupuncture be applied?

[0:17:22] DR. PASTERNAK: Any arthritides, I use it a lot of back disc degenerative problems there to help the energy flow in. And quite interesting experiences animals that I thought would never walk, walk. And it’s pretty amazing. I see that all the time.

I’ve had animals that people decided not to have surgery on, back surgery, and went to this and, you know, the surgeon would say, “Well, if you don’t do surgery, then you might as well put the animal to sleep because they’re not going to – the dog will never walk again.” And within X amount of time, sometimes a few days or a few weeks, the dog starts walking without the surgery.

Dr. Henry Pasternak, DVM CVA

[0:18:10] And of course, it’s very expensive. MRIs alone can run somewhere around $5,000, and a surgery, back surgery alone can run at least 10,000. And with hospitalization and other things can run 15 or more thousand dollars. And this is non-invasive, along with whatever other things, modalities are used, but the acupuncture, very inexpensive – relatively inexpensive. And most of the time, it does help.

[0:18:58] TRIPAWDS: Are the approaches that you use different for different types of limb cancers? And if so, how are they – how do they differ?

Well, if there’s bone, the most painful thing in veterinary medicine is bone cancer. It is the most painful thing anywhere, more painful than a broken leg, it is most inflammatory thing. So for those dogs with bone cancer, to get rid of the pain, they have to amputate the leg. There’s no way around that. What they have to try to hopefully – and dogs will do well on three legs. They’ll do well on three legs.

Dr. Henry Pasternak, DVM CVA

[0:19:39] What we have to do is build up the dog, the immune system with various modalities to help prevent metastases to the chest and other areas. So – and dogs will be happy without the pain. Most dogs do very well on three legs. They’ll be happy to sleep well, and so forth and so on. So, we’ll do whatever other various things, and we’ll add herbs, and of course nutrition, and many times we’ll do fecal transplants and rectal ozone treatments and variety of things like that. So the holistic there, pretty much the only western treatment for that is that leg amputation.

[0:20:31] There are some people will opt for a chemotherapy, and I’ve never – too, and I’ve never recommended chemotherapy before that, because I don’t think it’ll work. And I don’t think it’ll save anybody. And many dogs can get sick on chemotherapy as well. I do recommend chemotherapy for – and I have done a modified chemotherapy myself for some cancers, such as the lymphoma and a leukemia classes, that usually will help some, for many of those, it may or may not cure him, it may help them initially, and so forth. But so in those classes, it may help chemotherapy, but not for, I don’t recommend it for the bone cancers.

[0:21:14] You asked me about other cancers. For example, splenic hemangiosarcomas is another one. Those – and as any – sarcoma class of cancers tend to metastasize to far areas, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma and other sarcomas tend to metastasize to the blood. And also, they may also piggyback many times on the white blood cells, and be, and can metastasize that way as well.

[0:21:45] So for example, in hemangiosarcoma, we rarely – we’ll take out the spleen, because to the naked eye, you cannot tell – statistically 75% of the spleens that we take out are actually hemangiosarcoma, and 20%, 25%, maybe just splenic cyst, but they all look the same to the naked eye.

They all rupture and you can die very quickly from either one, and then you send it off to the pathologist and hoping to get a splenic cyst. But the majority of time you get a splenic hemangiosarcoma, and hope that that whatever you’ll do will extend the life.

The average lifespan many times could be just several months, anywhere two to four months before metastases comes from splenic hemangiosarcoma. But I’ve seen dogs live anywhere from six months to three-and-a-half years before they’ve got a metastasis.

Dr. Henry Pasternak, DVM CVA

But some dogs can die, statistically after you remove the spleen. At least 25% of the dogs, 25% to 30% of them may die of sending a blood clot within a couple of weeks after you do the surgery. So you always have to warn people, that may happen in the next couple of weeks. So, it’s a bad cancer, but you do the best you can and so forth. Yeah.

[0:23:16] TRIPAWDS: How many people do you see that look at what’s required of them, whether it’s, you know, regular maintenance, or fasting, or supplements 10 times a day, do you think people are shocked by the amount of work that it takes to do something like this?

[0:23:44] DR. PASTERNAK: Some are and some have to do it, you know, the best thing to try to do is try to prevent diseases. And so when I see many dogs for whatever problem, assuming let’s say it’s, they come in for chronic skin infection and chronic allergies, I try to talk to them about also the many of the raw food diets too, both frozen, freeze dried, raw butter, of course.

Many times when they come in with a puppy, I talked to them about trying to integrate into their regular whatever conventional dog food with the raw food diets as a preventative.

[0:24:25] It doesn’t have to necessarily be always 100%. And many dogs, again, it couldn’t be very big and it could be very expensive. But if they can do you know 50% of the diet is a raw food diet as a preventative, that may help them in the long run.

Many of my clients have done that with chronic allergy and say, “Yes, since I got the dog on the raw foods, my dog hasn’t been as scratching as bad and so forth and so on.”

[0:24:51] And, you know, a lot of the conventional, they may go to a dermatologist who have been there and hasn’t helped that much. They’ve given you know, a lamb diet or some other diet that doesn’t, that did not help them. Or a low protein, or low – a protein type diet that a one protein. Those diets have not helped them either.

I think you need to build the immune system up. And that helps in the long run for a lot of diseases. You have to balance the immune system, the diet.

Dr. Heenry Pasternak, DVM CVA

[0:25:33] TRIPAWDS: I love that you educate people about the importance of preventing cancer in the first place. And I can’t let you go without mentioning, you have a book available, right, that people can get?

[0:25:46] DR. PASTERNAK: It’s called Healing Pets with Nature’s Natural Cures that looks something like this. I published it, self-published it in 2001. But they may still be able to get copies at Amazon. Very good, it talks a lot of herbs in there and talks about raw, raw meats and raw food diets. And so it’s very good. It’s a good starting book. Yes.

[0:26:15] TRIPAWDS: Do you do any long distance consulting?

[0:26:23] DR. PASTERNAK: Sometimes I do. Sometimes people call me and we do that. Yes.

[0:26:34] TRIPAWDS: I want to say thank you so much for being here.

We appreciate this. And we’ll get the word out to our community that you’re out there and that this is an option if you’re looking at different ways to help your dog or your cat fight disease.

[0:26:49] DR. PASTERNAK: Yes, yes, I’ll be happy to. I’ll be happy to.

[0:26:57] TRIPAWDS: And there you have it, integrative veterinary medicine, fascinating stuff, indeed. Many thanks for everything the good doctor is doing to blend holistic treatment with traditional Western medicine at Pasternak Veterinary Center in West Los Angeles, California. If you’re in the area, check out the clinic. And if you have any interest in holistic treatment for your pets, check out their many resources at pasternakvetcenter.com.

[0:27:20] As always, we’d love to hear about your pet’s holistic treatments, or any questions you might have. So send us a message or join the discussion at tripawds.com.

[End of transcript]

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