By Dr. Delia Macdonald

As an integrative veterinarian the four big issues I treat are mostly “iatrogenically” caused. Iatrogenic is a big word we learn in medical school that means “caused by medical examination or treatment.”

Some common iatrogenically caused issues are:

  1. Early spaying and neutering: When you take the reproductive organs out of an animal before puberty, this can contribute to musculoskeletal disease as well as an increased risk of endocrine disease (such as Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism and Addison’s disease), obesity and an increased risk of certain cancers. It is important to control the unwanted pet population, however if you have the option to wait until sexual maturity before “fixing” your pet, you may want to consider it.


  1. Poor quality nutrition: The pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar behemoth that has poor regulation and oversight. To complicate matters, veterinarians, unfortunately, get limited training in small animal nutrition. In my four years of medical school I received one lecture on “small animal nutrition.” It was given to me by a researcher at a large, well-known pet food company. I was then given four years of free dog food from this same company! And lastly, we vets get paid to sell these “prescription” diets in our clinics. I strongly believe this is a conflict of interest for our clients and patients!Commercial pet foods are an advent of post-WWII America. For thousands of years before “pet foods,” our animals ate leftovers or scraps from their human companions.  Interestingly, Bluey (the world’s oldest known dog) lived to be 29. Born in 1910 this Australian cattle dog herded sheep most of his life and died in 1939. This breed typically lives to be 12 to 15 years old nowadays.  It leads me to ask, “what are we doing differently now that causes our pets to have shorter life spans rather than longer?”As vets we need to question our knowledge, or lack thereof when it comes to nutrition. Remember, an overweight pet (or person) can still be malnourished!


  1. Over-vaccination: Discuss the benefits of risks and benefits of vaccinations with your vet. We need to be responsible with these products as over-vaccination can and does have negative consequences. Vets typically start vaccinations too early (while maternal antibodies are potentially present and may neutralize the vaccination.) Also, we tend to give too many vaccines too close together. Lastly, we veterinarians can and should educate our clients about titer testing rather than routinely/yearly vaccination for the core disease such as parvo and distemper. My own dog has not received a core vaccination for over five years and his blood work shows that he is STILL protected against parvo, distemper and canine adenovirus-1 (AKA – infections canine hepatitis virus).


  1. Long-term medications: Chronic inflammation, auto-immune disease, allergies, heart disease and endocrine diseases can lead many veterinarians to place pets on long term medications. Almost all of these conditions can be improved by diet change, supplements and Chinese herbs. At least we should be supporting these animals by adding back in the nutrients that medications can leach from the body. Here is a list of commonly used drugs and the nutrients they deplete as reported by the Drug-induced Nutrient Depletion handbook (humans.)


Type of Drug                           Nutrients depleted

Antacids:                                      B12, Folic Acid, Vit D, Calcium, Iron, Zinc
Antibiotics:                                   B vitamins, Good intestinal flora, Calcium, Zinc, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc
Anti-depressants:                       B12, Co-Q10
Anti-Inflammatories:                 C and D, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Zinc
Cardiovascular drugs:               B6, Co-Q10, Melatonin
Diuretics:                                      Vitamins B1, B6, C, Co-Q10, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Zinc, Sodium


Look for high-quality products that you or your health care provider has researched, so these vital nutrients can be added back into your pet’s diet.

In closing, have a good working relationship with the person or persons providing your veterinary care. If you don’t understand a protocol, ask questions. If you aren’t satisfied with the help you are receiving, consider working with an integrative practitioner. The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association has a listing of licensed vets that practice integrative medicine.

Dr. Delia

 Dr Delia Macdonald is an integrative veterinarian that hails from Prescott AZ. She earned her veterinary degree at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado and pursued secondary training in acupuncture,Tui Na and Chinese herbal medicine. She is the owner of Harmony Holistic Veterinary care where she practices veterinary acupuncture, Chinese medicine, food therapy and integrative veterinary care.

Dr. Delia treats a wide range of medical issues such as cancer, auto-immune disease, allergies, pain disorders and neurological disease (to name a few.) She lives with her husband, two children, and an ever changing menagerie of animals.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.