Ten years ago, Dr. Erica Hawker’s cat developed a chronic bladder condition that was, by the standards of modern veterinary medicine, untreatable. Conventional medications and therapies were having no effect and her kitty’s condition was deteriorating so quickly that it seemed euthanasia was the only humane solution.

At the eleventh hour, Hawker spoke with her colleague, Dr. Erin Bannink, a veterinary oncologist who was having amazing successes in improving her patient’s quality of life with veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Hawker, a skeptic at the time, decided to give it a shot. Bannink started Hawker’s cat on a course of acupuncture and prescribed an herbal formula called Si Miao San. Within 2 weeks her cat’s condition had improved and, since then, the condition has not returned.

Auspicious Beginnings

After competing her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2001, Hawker began practicing veterinary medicine at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital, while still keeping an eye on the non-traditional therapy that had made such an impact on her own pet.

In 2009, she began studying Holistic Veterinary Medicine with Dr. Steve Marsden, DVM, the director of The National College of Natural Medicine and one of the chief educators of veterinarians worldwide in the use of complementary and alternative therapies. In addition to her training with Marsden, she also began studying at the College of Integrative Veterinary Therapy, an online institution specializing in evidence-based natural medicine.

Today, Hawker is not only a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Michigan Veterinarian Association, but of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association as well, and remains committed to her practice at Union Lake.

While Dr. Hawker does not practice veterinary acupuncture, she is a practicing Chinese herbalist and feels that many pet owners are missing out on potentially successful therapies for their pets when they think of “medicine” as only one thing.  And she would know.

Quality and Quantity

Since beginning her practice of holistic veterinary medicine, Hawker has seen amazing successes in improving the quality of life and extending the survival times of both oncology patients, as well as patients suffering from a range of other chronic conditions, including bone tumors and intestinal cancers, chronic bladder conditions (including bladder stones), ear, nose and throat tumors, anxiety, dermatological issues (as a replacement for steroids), and more.

The foundation of Dr. Hawker’s work is as an herbalist, creating and prescribing oral formulas (tinctures) just as a pharmacist would formulate a modern drug. In addition to the tinctures, salves and ointments (for dermatology conditions) are also on the menu, as are herbal supplements, antioxidants, and nutritional counseling. Hawker does what any practicing herbalist does: borrow from the traditions and science of the Earth to create natural solutions to her patients heath problems that are both evidence based and in-synch with traditional wisdom.

Quality and Communication

While Hawker’s practices are based in the natural world, she cannot stress enough that the remedies she prescribes are still medicine and, because of that, quality and communication are essential to both their success and your pet’s health. As with any medication, the potential for negative interactions is present with holistic medicine.

“Therefore,” says Hawker, “it is imperative that you communicate any use of herbal medications you are using, whether it’s under medical supervision or not, with your pet’s veterinarian,” to ensure that there will not be any unintended side effects.

Likewise, Hawker is adamant that those using holistic medications are confident in their source. “Buying off the Internet is risky at best,” says Hawker, “the potential for contamination of the product is high and it’s best to deal only with reputable, licensed distributors and local naturopaths.”

Opening Minds

Ultimately, Hawker wishes more pet owners were open to the potential of holistic veterinary medicine and it saddens her to see pet’s suffer simply because their owners don’t understand what her work entails.

“There is evidence-based research that holistic medicine works, but many people are quick to dismiss it because the studies are not funded by pharmaceutical companies,” she says, “the research is there if people would just do it.”

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Hawker’s work, or feel your pet could benefit from her practice, please do not hesitate to call us for an appointment. Dr. Hawker would be glad to meet with you and discuss her practices and how it may benefit your pet. We would also be glad to refer you to a local veterinary acupuncturist, should you be interested.