For many, animals are an integral part of our world, providing companionship and even health benefits for those that let them into our lives. The presence of a pet can reduce blood pressure, alleviate depression and certainly ease despair and loneliness. But when animals get sick, they have no voice to tell us. And unlike humans, animals cannot choose between traditional medicine and alternative care, such as natural healing and acupuncture. That’s where Dr. Colleen Smith’s new Southside clinic enters the picture.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Smith says. “Many new clients are saying they have been looking for a holistic vet for years, and knew I was on Signal Mountain but couldn’t make the drive.”
Smith’s Chattanooga Holistic Animal Institute had its soft opening in May, following with an official opening on June 22. Inside, the new clinic’s pet massage therapy room, and well-stocked shelves of homeopathic pet foods clearly indicate an alternative approach to veterinary medicine.
The clinic offers veterinary acupuncture, chiropractic, nutrition therapy, laser therapy, green grooming, awake dental procedures, digital X-ray, vaccinations and vaccine titers, general medicine, canine massage therapy and nutritional supplements.
“Most of our appointments right now are for acupuncture, chiropractic and nutrition consultations,” Smith says.
While some may view the practice as unorthodox, Smith says the effectiveness of these treatments is sometimes apparent quickly.
“We had a sweet Schnauzer that couldn’t walk on her hind legs,” she says. “She had been treated with many medications, and even had a MRI to figure out what was wrong with her. After a few treatments with acupuncture and chiropractic therapy, she was not only walking, but running short distances down the owner’s driveway.”
Holistic veterinary medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses care of the whole animal—body, mind, and spirit—very much the same approach taken with humans.
“The practice of holistic veterinary medicine integrates conventional and complementary therapies to promote optimal health, and prevent and treat disease by addressing contributing factors,” Smith explains. “Each animal is seen as a unique individual, rather than an example of a particular disease.
“Disease is understood to be the result of physical, emotional, social and environmental imbalance. Healing, therefore, takes place naturally when these aspects of life are brought into proper balance.”
Growing up in Virginia, Smith wanted to be a doctor. Earning an undergraduate degree in biology at Virginia Tech, she worked for 10 years as an environmental chemist testing soil and water before deciding to go veterinary school. Attending Ross University on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts (where she and other students braved ailments such as Dengue Fever), she completed her coursework and, after her clinical studies at Auburn, earned her veterinary medicine degree.
It was Atlanta after that. There Smith began to learn about holistic veterinary medicine and acupuncture at the Loving Touch Animal Center. She’s been a veterinarian now for eight years and also teaches veterinary acupuncture therapy.
The natural, chiropractic and acupuncture treatments offered at the clinic work for dogs, cats and horses and can treat a variety of symptoms and sicknesses. Smith and her team also offer laser therapy, Chinese herbal medicines, massage therapy and dietary treatments.
It is often said that holistic medicine is not as harsh as western medicines and very few side effects occur—in humans or animals—but it may not be for everyone.
“If you are happy with your pet and its veterinary care, that’s great,” Smith says. “But if you are not, or you want another alternative, it will never hurt to come in try the holistic approach.”
The clinic is located at 918 E. Main. For more information, visit its website at chattanoogaholisticvet.com or call (423) 531-8899.