Do Animals Self Medicate?

Self Medicating animals

If one has not been living under a rock for the past few years and has read anything related to human or animal health the same “buzz words” appear again and again. Words such as holistic, herbal, organic, gluten free, low carbohydrates, vegan, and vegetarian are everywhere.

I have been a veterinarian for nineteen years. I practice Integrative medicine which combines traditional and cutting edge medicine with time proven natural methods such as nutraceuticals, herbs and acupuncture. Through the integrative approach I have achieved excellent results.

The following is a partial, but fascinating list of animals in nature who self -medicate with plants and insects:

Some lizards are believed to respond to a bite by a venomous snake by eating a certain root to counter venom.
Baboons in Ethiopia eat the leaves of a plant to combat an intestinal parasite.
Fruit flies lay eggs in plants containing high ethanol levels when they detect there offspring may be infected by a parasite.
Red and green macaws, along with many animals, eat clay to aid in digestion and to kill bacteria.
Female spider monkeys in Brazil add plants to their diet to increase or decrease their fertility.
Pregnant lemurs nibble on tamarind and fig leaves and bark to aid in milk production.
Pregnant elephants in Kenya eat the leaves of some trees to induce delivery.
And there is a variety of reasons why our pets eat grass! They could be eating grass to improve their digestion, to treat intestinal worms, or to fulfill some unmet nutritional need. Of course, there is always the possibility that your pet may simply like grass. Of course if there is vomiting or your pet seems sick a veterinarian should be seen.

Scientists researching self- medicating animals are convinced that humans can learn from animals especially in finding new medications. Much of early medicine likely came from medicine men watching animals self- medicate. While antibiotics, technology and other advances in equipment have revolutionized medicine, these have only been available in the last 60 years. So, what we think of as modern medicine is barely 200 years old. People lived healthy lives long before that and had existing health care systems which relied on herbal medicines, foods and body manipulations for treatment and prevention of disease. Only in the United States has modern medicine completely replaced older forms of medicine. The World Health Organization recently indicated that 80% of the World’s population relies on herbal medications and acupuncture to complement cutting edge mainstream medicine, Is nothing new….just watch the animals!

Andrew Frishman, DVM practices at:
Progressive Animal Hospital
149 Route 202 & Lovell St,
Somers, NY 10589
(914) 248-6220






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Things You Probably Dont Know About Your Veterinarian.


I have been a practicing small animal veterinarian for the past 16 years.   Being a veterinarian is a “calling”, a way of life, to call what I do a “job” doesn’t do my profession justice.

On any given day my heart will soar with elation after doing a C-section and delivering healthy puppies, just to have my heart “torn out” watching a family say good bye to there long time furry friend that has incurable cancer.

When people hear that I am a veterinarian they think of Puppies and kittens and how lovely everyday must be.

My calling comes with the awesome responsibility of caring for the health and well being of small animals.

I spend many sleepless nights,  making sure the pets I see, get the best medical care.

I want the general public to understand the kind of questions I am forced to answer on a daily basis.

Ask yourself…how would you would respond to each scenario?

A)  A Lethargic, vomiting dog comes in….”Doc, I know you want to do a blood, and Urine Test, to check for toxins, and organ function, but I don’t want you to do the X-ray ….even though my dog may have swallowed something that could perforate his intestine. …….money is tight right now for me.

B) An X-ray of a dogs back reveals a slipped spinal disc. This condition causes pressure on the nerves and weakness in the limbs…the owner declines pain medication and anti-inflammatories..because her friend told her “That Olive oil and Tea Tree oil rubbed onto the back” is just as effective (and less toxic) then my Therapy.

C) A client wants to have her healthy 3 year old dog euthanized because it is scratching her young child.

D) I successfully save a cats life by doing emergency surgery to relieve a bladder blockage in a cat…..the cats owner calls the following day angry that the nails were not trimmed “Well enough”.

Things you should know:

1.  We Lose Sleep Over Your Pets

Your Visit is just the “Cover of the Book”. Veterinarians do not “turn off” caring about our patients when we leave the hospital.  I cannot count how many nights over the last the last 15  years that I have stayed awake at night worrying about a cat being able to pee without pain or a dog diagnosed with cancer. My Wife can’t tell you how many vacation days I have stopped by the clinic “just to check” on a patient or see “one appointment”.     I consider being a veterinarian my vocation, and I admit to being challenged by the balance of my professional and personal time.  All the dedicated vets with whom I am acquainted face similar dilemmas.

2. We Know More Than Dr. Google

Many veterinarians are a bit nerdy and introverted.  We “get” animals.  People?  Not so much. We don’t hide our surprise very well when you are super wrong about diagnosing your slightly plump, two year-old cat’s liver shunt after she threw up twice yesterday-because you read all about it on the internet.  Sometimes, a hairball is just a hairball. There’s a really good chance that we know what we are talking about, but successful veterinarians learn to share their passion for veterinary medicine with their clients.  We want to help you use the internet to find good information concerning topics like nutrition and digestive health in cats.  We hope to gain your respect by combining our enthusiasm for your pet’s well-being with the latest medical knowledge and some really neat surgical skills. Trust is the most important component of the  relationship between Pet owners,  your vet, and your pet.

3.  We are speaking for your pet.

We have trained our entire lives to provide the best care for your pet.    A good veterinarian makes diagnostic and treatment plans based on what is best for your pet.      I feel like I am the voice of your pet.   If your pet could talk he would want me to ask you  for the diagnostics and treatments plans that I offer in order, to return to optimum health.

4.  We have a unique bond with your animal. 

Throughout life everyone develops different relationships with different people.   Some examples of relationships are,  the student-teacher relationship, the coach-athlete relationship,  and the parent-child relationship.  I think that you would agree that the parent-child relationship is much deeper, then the relationship between a child’s teacher, coach, or mentor.   The relationship between veterinarian and an animal patient, is as deep as any parent-child relationship.    We have dedicated our lives to optimum wellness for your pet, and our decisions can often be the difference between life in death of a beloved pet.  Like a parent to a child,  a veterinarian feels deeply responsible for your pet,  our tests and treatments are always in the best interest of your animal.

5.  We Hate Discussing Money

Veterinarians became doctors to heal sick animals .  Nobody told us when we were saving baby kittens that we would have to charge for our services someday.  Nobody told us that a digital x-ray machine would cost eighty grand or that clients would judge the expertise of our hospital by owning this kind of high-tech equipment.  Advances in veterinary medicine allow us to offer terrific treatments, and we get very excited about telling you what we can do.  Unfortunately, all of this great care does have a cost.  A good veterinarian will give you a solid estimate of fees for service and then be willing to have a frank discussion about what is reasonable for you and your pet.  “Here’s a pet peeve: owners who don’t want to pay for diagnostic tests but then cop an attitude because you don’t know what’s wrong with the animal. Since you wouldn’t let me do the blood work or X-rays, how the heck do you expect me to know?”

6.  Sometimes Money Does Not Matter

We are here to advocate for those who cannot speak .  If true pain and suffering are present, all the money in the world may not save a pet’s life or cure her disease. The day may come when we need to be open and honest and tell you that the loving choice to make for your dog or cat is euthanasia.  We hate talking about it and we hate doing it.  Your pet’s life is precious to us, whether we have known you for five minutes or seventeen years.  Because it is all about the animals, we say those tough words and we do what we can to guide you through those tough times.

7. Veterinarian KNOW they have the most important job in the world

Every time we help a pet, we help a person.  The classic example is the 80-year-old grandma who has nothing in life but her cat. She’s a widow with very limited social contact, and the cat is what connects her to life. So when we help her cat, she’s really the one we’re helping.

Every time I save a life, every time I fix a patient, that makes everything worth it. And I love it when a client says, ‘I wish my physician would treat me as nice as you treat my pets.

Andrew Frishman DVM

Progressive Animal Hospital

149 Route 202 and Lovell Street.

Somers NY 10589

(914) 248-6220

New clients mention this article for a discount on your first exam.



Phil Zeltzman, DVM, a traveling veterinary surgeon

Dr. Collen  DVM ” The Poop from the Waiting Room”

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How to Find a Veterinarian You can Trust.


There are important qualities to look for in finding a reputable Veterinarian you can trust.

1) Staff–  The staff in a Veterinary hospital is like a family. They spend countless hours together. They enjoy the heart warming enjoyment of creating health in your pets and they feel the devastating loss when euthanizing peoples cherished pets.  The Veterinarian is the leader of the staff, imparting integrity, humor, and a sense of purpose.  As a pet owner one can instantly get the sense if the Veterinary staff is happy and content with their Jobs.  Ask yourself,  Does the staff have a sense of pride and respect for the Veterinarian and facility?  Do they make you feel welcome and give you the personal attention you deserve?

2) Examination–    Does your Veterinarian take a thorough history, and find out the history leading up to your visit?  Does your Veterinarian put his/her hands on your pet?  Do you feel your Veterinarian takes his time and gives a full “head to tail examination”.   Does your Veterinarian address the reason for your visit,  as well as other health issues?

3) Diagnostics–  This is a sensitive subject, for  Clients, and Veterinarians.  Diagnostic tests are essential to understanding the health or illness of your pet.   In a “perfect world” every pet would be receive what I call the “core diagnostic tests” when they visit the office.  Core Diagnostic tests consist of a blood test, urine test, and an x-ray.

There are hundreds of additional tests that can be run based on your given pets presenting illness.  Choosing the appropriate tests to arrive at a speedy diagnosis will keeping your expenses down.   It is important to find a Veterinarian with many years of “real world” clinical experience, to know the quickest, least expensive way to diagnose your pets health.

A good, trustworthy Veterinarian understands that pet owners have a budget they are willing to spend on their pet.  Eventually diagnostic tests and treatment can be cost prohibitive.   A great Veterinarian will arrive at an accurate diagnosis without exhausting your bank account, leaving finances for the treatment and medication of your loving pet.

4) Treatment–   Your Veterinarian should be trained in Integrative Veterinary Medicine.  A new movement today in medicine is t0 incorporate modern, main stream, Western medicine, with the best of other, natural forms of healing into a single more expansive, Integrative Medical System. This is based upon the concept that there is only one medicine, medicine that helps patients recover from injury and disease.  Practitioners of Integrative Medicine combine the best of traditional medicine (modern pharmaceuticals)  with alternative forms of healing (herbs and acupuncture)  to treat their patients based upon what problem the patient is suffering from.  The goal is not only to treat the symptoms but the underlying root imbalance causing the illness.

Traditional medicine, the medicine taught by modern, Western medical schools, is great for diagnosing and treating acute disease.  On the other hand, it is not always the best at preventing and treating disease.  Certainly, judicious use of vaccinations has helped protect against diseases of early life; but, short of this, modern medicine has not yet embraced methods to keep most diseases from happening, particularly chronic diseases like auto-immune disorders and cancer.  Only now are diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements being considered as part of  total health and physicians are beginning to encourage patients to seek help from less “traditional” medical systems.

5) Hospital Set up /Management – Privately Owned vs Corporate

There is a movement in today’s economy for many Veterinary hospitals to be owned by large off site corporations, as apposed to the privately owned veterinary hospital, in which the owner is on site.

To use an example,  there are many restaurants in your town….some are small “Mom and Pops” privately owned restaurants in addition every town has corporately owned restaurant “chains” like “Applebees”, and “Fridays”.
Benefits of Privately (owned) Veterinary Practice:

General practice Veterinarians- have a well rounded “real world education”.  With advances in technology, and the  internet,  general practitioners are able to do  high end diagnostic test and imaging (once reserved for corporate, specialty hospitals).    In multi-doctor corporate practices each doctor specializes or is “pigeon holed” into doing specific jobs limiting their real world knowledge and clinical experience.  In privately owned practices Veterinarians  can be very laid-back and practices can maintain a more relaxed, family-like atmosphere. Decision making can be straightforward and there are no standard protocols that need to be followed.

Corporate owned Practices:

Pet owners  can expect to have much less autonomy in a corporate system and there may be more red tape involved in getting even simple requests filled.                                    Corporations may find it difficult to relate to hourly staff.  It can be frustrating to balance the needs of the staff and the needs of the organization.   As a result, there is often large “turnovers” in staff.
Since the corporations own many veterinary clinics and are the big-dollar earners, the needs of the individually owned clinics may be second, third or fourth down the line in importance.

6) Cost– Relatively speaking, Veterinary health care is a great deal!  The cost of veterinary care has actually risen very little over the past 20-30 years, especially when compared to the cost of human care or any other service.  Your Veterinary bill is a reflection of the cost of maintaining suitable facilities equipment and support personnel to provide the level of care that is expected in animal medicine today.

Veterinarians can only make their clients aware of available products and services and guide them regarding the most important health options for their pet.  Ultimately, it is up to each pet owner to make the final decision.  Veterinarians are willing to go the extra mile for pet owners, but expenses have to be covered.  This includes salaries for assistants, costly equipment such as x-ray, ultrasound, drugs and anesthesia, and of course the expense of professional services.

I believe that all veterinarians should be “upfront ” with their charges.   My clients always appreciate receiving a written treatment plan with the cost associated to the treatments,  prior to receiving medical care.

Payment plans  and pet insurance should be offered and available.

7) Specialists: A trustworthy vet,  should have access, and be willing to refer, to veterinary specialists, as needed,  for complicated surgeries or cases.

At Progressive Animal Hospital, the total involvement extends not only to your pet but,  the entire family.  The extra caring and meticulous attention to detail reflect our commitment to providing an exceptional standard of quality service.

A. Frishman DVM

Somers NY

Progressive Animal Hospital.

914 248-6220

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Ever Try Drinking a Glass of Water When Your Not Thirsty?


Natural Medicine is all about finding and creating a balance in the body in order to achieve optimal health.  When there is an imbalance in the body an individual gets sick.  In natural medicine  the body can have two different general  types of imbalances, either an excess (too much) imbalance, or a deficient (too little)  imbalance.

The easiest way to understand this is to think about when you get thirsty.  Intuitively your body knows that it needs to consume water to restore optimal balance/ health. After drinking the appropriate amount of water you feel satiated, and stop drinking.  Now imagine drinking a cup of water when your not thirsty.  You probably could do it, but it would be difficult.  You would have and “excess” of water in your body and feel “out of balance”.

How do you know if you are out of balance??  or not in optimal health??  An experience natural health practitioner is able to ask you questions, look at your tongue, feel your pulse, and look at diagnostic blood test/X-rays from your regular doctor and determine what type of imbalance you have. A good natural health practitioner has years of intensive training,and clinical experience to diagnose your imbalance and determine if acupuncture, herbal therapy, massage, and/or chiropractic, is appropriate to restore optimal health.

As a veterinarian, all the same principles apply to treating my animal patients.  Years of training have allowed me to determine if there is an imbalance in your pet, and prescribe the best treatment plan using acupuncture, herbal, and food therapy.

It is frustrating to me when I hear people self prescribing herbal therapies to both their pets, and themselves,without a thorough evaluation / exam with a trained professional.

To just pick up some “natural supplement/herbs” at a health food store because “you heard it was good for a certain illness (ie urinary tract infections or anxiety), is not truly understanding the delicate balance your body has.   By taking the wrong natural supplement, it can be like “drinking a glass of water, when your not thirsty” or adding something to your body it does not need.  Take the time to seek out a good holistic Veterinarian or human holistic doctor and find out if how to restore balance to you, or your pets body

Andrew Frishman DVM

(914) 248-6220

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How Does My House and My Cell Phone Relate to My Pets Health?


As a chill in the air begins to set in this Fall season, many people become acutely aware of their environment.    Home owners begin adjusting their thermostats and make sure their boilers are in working order.     If the home is too hot and ventilation is poor this will cause residents to become uncomfortable.  If the home is too cold and drafty this will also lead to irritability. The goal of a home heating system is to provide a comfortable, balanced environment.  A healthy comfortable home is an obvious necessity to every home owner, it goes without question.

Another device that everyone is familiar with is the cell phone.   In order for a cell phone to work efficiently the battery, or power source, must be functioning.   The cell phone will not get any reception if it is not within range of a cell tower or the correct bandwidth.  There are some days we wrestle with our cell phones in order to get them to function and not to “drop calls” or poop out and loose power.

Our home environment and our cell phone maintenance has become an intuitive part of our daily life.  If only we were all so aware of the balance that needs to be maintained in our pets’ bodies in order for them to lead healthy lives.

Natural medicine is based on the understanding that balance is essential for our pets’ body to function to its potential.  Just like our homes, our pets’ body has an internal ” heating and cooling system” to help maintain a balance, to achieve optimal health.  Just like our cell phones our pets body has an internal energy source (similar to a battery) that supplies them with energy.  The energy in our pets’ body has to flow or be aligned correctly, like the reception on a cell phone, in order for our pets to be healthy.

Imbalance is the essence, or underlying cause, of all disease.  The beauty of natural medicine is recognizing and treating the imbalance to arrive at a state of optimal health.  Natural medicine doesn’t just treat the symptoms, such as aches and pains, but finds the underlying imbalance to cure things permanently.

The other day I saw “Chauncy”, a  7 year old, Wheaton Terrier.  He had been stiff, in pain  and extremely weak in his hind limbs, for several weeks.  The owner had been giving anti-inflammatory medication with no improvement of symptoms.   On examination, Chauncy’s tongue was pale/ purple in color, the ears, and back were cool to the touch.
All of the diagnostic tests such as blood work and x-rays were negative for any abnormalities.    Natural medicine had a perfect explanation for Chauncy’s  ailment.

Just like a house in Fall/Winter with a weak boiler/heat source  Chauncy’s body was “Damp and Cold”.

Chauncy suffered from “Damp / Cold Arthritis”  Chauncy was treated with an oral herbal formula that was warming, and was given Acupuncture at points to help stimulate internal heat and circulation.  The owner was instructed to apply warm herbal compresses to the back two times a day.

Needless to say today Chauncy has made a full recovery.    His owner says ” he is running around like he is a puppy again” with no pain or mobility issues.

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Where Are the Cheerleaders?

As a child growing up in Westchester I was active in sports.  I played throughout grade school, High school, even at the college level.  Anyone who has played sports competitively know one must be dedicated, and committed to perfecting ones skills.  Practices are often grueling and time consuming.  When ” game day” comes all your time and training becomes second nature and you just perform.   One of the most satisfying aspects of sports competition is the cheers of encouragement I used to hear from the fans, team mates, and  cheerleaders.  If I played well, colleagues and friends use to stop me and congratulate me on my performance.

Veterinary education is one of the hardest academic degrees to obtain.  Being a practicing veterinarian  requires 110% dedication.   You must commit every ounce of energy to gaining cutting edge skills, and education, in order to be the best veterinarian.  My education and training didn’t stop when I finished Veterinary school. I went on to become certified in Acupuncture and herbal therapy.  All Practicing Veterinarians are still  required to complete continuing education and hands on surgery labs.   There is countless hours of studying and traveling to sharpen my skills and knowledge.  With my constant academic training, and lifelong commitment to veterinary medicine,  I know that I am a skilled and competent veterinarian.

Even after all the training and success I have had,  sometimes it would be nice to have a cheer,  or even a round of applause (every once and a while )confirming all my hard work!!

“Sampson” was a 8 year old, male,  Siamese cat that presented to me at my clinic, for weight loss and inappettance.  On examination, we discovered a yellow color, of the gums, and the whites of “Sampsons:” eyes.  The medical name for this condition is called, “Icterus”.

There are a variety of causes for innappetance and Icterus in a middle aged cat.  Using my experience and judgement. We ran blood and urine test and determined the illness to be localized to Sampson liver.      The next step was to determine if the liver illness  was the result of an infection, cancer, or a metabolic imbalance.  Diagnostic imaging was performed.  A plain film x ray revealed normal size and shape of liver. The next step was to perform a sensitive imaging test called an ultrasound.  An abdominal ultrasound uses a sensitive hand held probe to scan all of the abdominal organs and intestine external and internal architecture.  Based on the ultrasound I determined a highly sensitive, and diagnostic, non invasive procedure, called an ultrasound guided needle biopsy needed to be preformed.  The exact location of the biopsy was carefully chosen and the needle biopsy was performed with precision, under anesthesia.  The tissue sample was sent to the lab and evaluated by a pathologist to reveal a condition known as a “fatty liver”.

The quickest way to cure this condition is by aggressive feeding, including medication , and herbal supplements and acupuncture.  Due to the fact that Sampson was not eating an  esophageal feeding tube was placed in his neck.  The tube must be placed with surgical care and precision.
Working with animals, and their owners  in today’s technologically advanced society can sometimes be challenging.  I find that people are used to instant results.  With the internet the world seems to be at your fingertips.  If a computer or I-pod breaks it is dropped off and usually fixed in a day or two.   I often have to remind my people to have patience. In nature things take time.  If one sets a broken bone it takes months to heal.  If you plant a seed it takes weeks, before it blooms into a flower.

“Sampsons” owners became frustrated with the lengthy time and effort it took for Sampson to make a full recovery.     Despite the owners impatiences “Sampson”made a gradual improvement, over 4 weeks, with medical care, and tube feeding.

At the end of the day, I take pride in the fact that all of my training and education paid off. I can see the appreciation in “Sampson’s” eyes….although I am still wishing I could hear some cheers of encouragement from the cheerleaders!!

Andrew Frishman DVM

Progressive Animal Hospital

(914) 248-6220

Somers, NY

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What Does the Tooth Fairy have to do with Natural Medicine??


“Oh.. natural medicine and herbs yes,  I believe in that” is a common response I hear from my clients when I elect to treat their pets chronic conditions with herbal remedies.

…Oh yes I believe in that…   It reminds me of the kind of response one would expect from a child when asked if they believe in  “Tooth Fairy” or Santa Claus.” …

I am always happy when clients are open minded enough to consider a safe, proven, mild,  time tested  natural therapy.   At the same time it is shocking how many pet owners express that they feel they are taking a mythical “leap of faith” into herbal medicine.

While antibiotics, computers and other advances in equipment have revolutionized medicine, these have only been available in the last 60 years.  So, what we think of as modern medicine is barely 200 years old.  People lived healthy lives long before that and had existing health care systems which relied on herbal medicines, foods and body manipulations for treatment and prevention of disease. Only in the United States has modern medicine completely replaced older forms of medicine.  The World Health Organization recently indicated that 80% of the World’s population relies on herbal medications as part of their primary health care.

As far as I am concerned there is only one kind of medicine, proven medicine.  Whether it is a mainstream pharmaceutical or a natural supplement, it is essential that each therapy has valid clinical research showing its safety and efficacy.

Turmeric is a commonly used natural supplement I use in my veterinary hospital.  Its bright yellow spicy taste is familiar to lovers of Indian food. During the last two decades, the use of Turmeric as a treatment for digestive and liver problems has been largely confirmed by research.  The herb has also been shown to inhibit blood-clotting, relieve inflammatory conditions , lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and shrink tumors.
I have taken care of several dogs that have been diagnosed with cancer.  In addition to diet, and mainstream medications, Turmeric was given.  None of these animals were cured of their cancer, but all of them thrived, and outlived the expected survival times.

These sound like outlandish and outrageous claims for a single supplement.    I always encourage individuals to be skeptical , I don’t want you to take my word for it!

Do your own research, educate yourself about herbs…”Google”  Turmeric, or even better , go to the highly respected ” National Institute of health ” website (for the most up to date information):

Understand a thorough medical evaluation, including an exam, blood work, and diagnostic imaging, is essential prior to using herbal medicine.   Educate yourself, you don’t need to believe in the tooth fairy to know herbal medicine is effective.

Andrew Frishman DVM

Progressive Animal Hospital

(914) 248-6220

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