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Natural Awakenings South Central Pennsylvania

Integrative Medicine for Pets

Jan 01, 2017 08:52PM ● By Kate Morgan

Dr. Linda Stern, left, with staff & feline friends

At Healing Creatures Animal Hospital, in Camp Hill, Dr. Linda T. Stern works to ensure her four-legged patients lead healthy, balanced lives. Stern, who began her practice with a focus on cats and birds, now treats animals of all kinds, including reptiles, provided they aren’t venomous. She has always had an acute awareness of the effects of environmental chemicals and understands that pharmaceuticals are not always the answer.

“I’ve never felt that a drug is the solution to complete healing,” says Stern. “It’s not that you never need a drug, but you also need the support of your organs functioning at their best in order to heal. That’s true with animals, as well. I always try to look at whether I can work with the animal’s immune system to help heal the body. I consider myself integrated—if you break a leg, you’re not going to treat it holistically—but do I really need to give so many pain meds, or can I work with acupuncture for pain management or use food to help manage the pain?”

Stern says that while modern pharmaceuticals are sometimes necessary to treat a pet’s maladies, it’s important to be conscious of how many chemicals are introduced to an animal’s diet, environment and body. “How much can you use chemicals before they have an accumulative effect? I’m not saying it’s a direct result, but I’m seeing a lot of cancer and metabolic disease in younger and younger animals,” she says. “It’s worth asking if that’s because of over-vaccination or overuse of preventatives.”

Stern, who holds a master’s degree in animal nutrition and immunology, also helps her clients develop diet plans for their pets that provide necessary vitamins and minerals often missing from big-name food brands.

“Most commercial food is not balanced,” she says. “I do a lot of vitamin D testing and find deficiencies. I see a lot more orthopedic issues. One explanation is the organ meats that contain the nutrients animals need are not being used in the food. I do blood work to see where the deficiencies are, and I do a lot of whole food supplementation to correct those imbalances.”

Stern also sees the importance of treating an animal’s mental health. She is trained in Chinese medicine and often uses those skills to determine the root cause of a pet’s anxiety or behavioral issues.

While many busy veterinarians may only have a few minutes to spend with each patient, Stern makes it a point to dedicate as much time as necessary to each animal in her office. “If someone comes to me for a holistic consultation, they’re with me for 45 minutes to an hour, maybe even longer,” she says. “I’m there for as long as the client needs me. It’s really about education. I’m educating the public with what’s out there and what works, and making pets happier and healthier, even if that means doing things a little bit outside the box.”

Healing Creatures Animal Hospital is located at 3300 Hartzdale Dr., Ste. 108, in Camp Hill. For more information, call 717-730-3755 or visit

Kate Morgan is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

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