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Dr. Ashley Geoghegan: When Integration Is Key 

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As Eastern medicine becomes more commonplace in local healthcare, so too it has a place in veterinary medicine.

DrGmandgFeb2016REGBy combining methods of Eastern and Western medicine, Dr. Ashley Geoghegan, also known as Dr. G, takes an integrative approach to veterinary care at her practice, VetNaturally with Dr. G. “The true definition of integrative is when you use Western and Eastern to best support the patient, doing it the most natural way you can,” she says.

Dr. G has nurtured an interest in animals from a young age, including nursing back to health a starving newborn kitten tossed to the side of the road in a box — Cloud, who would be her first pet and live to 19 years old. This was just one of many animal-related experiences Dr. G can point to as an inspiration for attending LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

“There wasn’t a picture or moment when an animal wasn’t filling my space or my time, and I just loved them innately,” Dr. G says. “I do think being a vet is a calling for sure — the ones who are good at what they do. It was always my passion, always my calling and I never didn’t know that in my heart.”

After graduation, Dr. G served in the Army, traveling the world, while treating dogs in and out of combat, mainly acute and temporary conditions. But when she returned home and started her own mobile vet practice, she realized that the traditional veterinary medicine she learned in school was not serving many of her patients over the long term, particularly those with chronic illnesses like arthritis or repeated infections.

When Dr. G’s husband was battling cancer, she and her family began making proactive healthy choices that trended away from traditional Western medicine, favoring instead Eastern medical practices and a healthy diet. The question was, could the patients she saw at her veterinary practice also benefit from a more holistic approach?

“This divide between how I was practicing and how I was living became huge,” Dr. G says. “I just said to myself, ‘I can’t go to work and do this and then be at home and feel the rituals in my life are like that. I have to reflect it in my practice too, or I’m not going to be very fulfilled in my work.’ So I went back and retrained.”

Dr. G formally trained at the Chi Institute under the guidance of renowned holistic veterinarian, Dr. Huisheng Xie. This training, combined with her previous training in Western medicine, enabled Dr. G to develop an integrative approach that brings the best of both worlds together to care for her patients. Dr. G now focuses on Eastern approaches like acupuncture, Chinese herbs and Tui Na massage therapy, and she is a certified veterinary food therapist, employing Western medicine only when absolutely necessary.

With a traditional Western approach, a pet with arthritis will be treated with medications to alleviate pain and stiffness, but this doesn’t necessarily fix the root of the problem.

Instead, Dr. G employs “3,500 years of medical providence” to link arthritis with an insulted kidney meridian. Dr. G then treats the kidney channel, such as through acupuncture and diet, to “balance the body,” she says, so the pet doesn’t have to become dependent on medications, which can further insult any kidney issues.

Dr. G is currently one of few local integrative medicine veterinarians—though that can be a blanket term, she says—with her collection of specializations. She currently runs VetNaturally with Dr. G out of Mandeville Animal Hospital, but she will also soon be located on the South Shore, where she hopes to continue educating pet owners — and other veterinarians — about the benefits of Eastern medicine.

“Integrative medicine has been around for a very long time, but only most recently has it been in the mainstream of what people know for their pets,” Dr. G says. “It is our hope and our goal that in 20 years, we’ll be talking about this not like it’s something new and different, but to where every client should have it.”