By Sandra G. Malhotra

When Willy was two months old and cute as a button, we started seeing a conventional vet close to home. They took great care of him when he had parasites and when he took a leap of faith out of the car window one day. (Why he thought he could fly is still a mystery.)

However, I became quite alarmed after Willy reacted badly to the distemper/hepatitis/parvovirus (DHP) vaccination at three months of age. He was awake and whining all night and wanted to go outside many times. It was a sleepless night because he was clearly in a state of distress. Fortunately, by the next morning, it passed and he seemed fine. I felt like we dodged a bullet.

Then it came time for the third DHP vaccination at four months of age and I wanted to discuss alternatives because I did not want to put Willy through that again. What if his reaction was worse this time? I wanted to know if we could do a titer test to see if he had sufficient antibodies and immunity, or skip the vaccination altogether. The only answer I received from the conventional vet was that the third DHP vaccination must be done to finish the series. And not only that, I was reminded again that a couple of non-core vaccinations must also be done, in addition to year-round heartworm treatment. Since “non-compliant” might as well be my middle name, I refused everything and left, knowing that there must be a better way.

I loved the level of care and attention the conventional vet practice provided to Willy. They treated us like family, but unfortunately they were still firmly planted in the western paradigm with a reliance on vaccinations and prescription medications only. I had enough of the pressure and wanted another opinion. After all, I question the conventional western approach for myself, so why wouldn’t I do it for Willy also? After a Google search, I was thrilled to find holistic vet named Dr. David McCluggage at Chaparral Animal Health Center in Longmont, Colorado. WOO-HOO!

After our first visit with Willy, I knew that Dr. Dave was the vet for us. He spent one hour getting to know me, explaining his philosophy, examining Willy, and answering any questions that I had. He also handled my concern about vaccinations beautifully. He explained that the could remove the hepatitis component of the DHP vaccine and give only the distemper and parvovirus portions, supported by a homeopathic treatment that would help the doggie detox after being vaccinated. Dr. Dave felt that Willy’s bad reaction was likely due to the hepatitis part of the DHP combination, so we discussed the pros and cons and decided that the risk of canine hepatitis in Colorado is very low, and likely non-existent. We proceeded with the DP vaccination and homeopathic treatment and Willy was just fine. I researched the risk of canine hepatitis more, and am still very comfortable with this decision [1].

We also discussed the year-round heartworm treatment that the conventional vet pushed. As far as I could tell, heartworm medications are generally safe, but a constant dose of a toxin is still undesirable to me. I researched this topic enough to feel that this was overkill for full-time residents of Colorado. As holistic veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker explains [2], “In order for heartworm disease to take hold, a precise sequence of events must occur involving the right climate, the right temperature for the right amount of time, the right species and sex of mosquito, and your dog’s less-than-optimal immune system function.”

She continued [2], “During the time the heartworm larvae are developing from L1 to L3 inside an infected mosquito, which is approximately a two-week period, the temperature must not dip below 57°F at any point in time. If it does, the maturation cycle is halted. According to a Washington State University heartworm report from 2006, full development of the larvae requires the equivalent of a steady 24-hour daily temperature in excess of 64°F (18°C) for approximately one month.”

So I ask my fellow residents of Colorado, how many months of the year is the temperature above 64°F for one entire month? Right. It stands to reason that heartworm medication may not be needed in the winter months, and perhaps not in early spring or late fall. I was so relieved to hear Dr. Dave say that he agreed. He said that my best options were to give the heartworm meds only during the summer, or not at all since the probability of the precise series of events occurring in Colorado is very low. He did not preach, but let me decide what would be best for our furry family member.

Dr. Dave’s holistic approach to pet care is like a breath of fresh air. He is a fully trained veterinarian who uses western medicine when needed. However, he also combines conventional approaches with homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, western and Chinese herbs, nutraceutical medicine, and physical therapies when appropriate. He likes to teach pet parents how to maintain their pet’s health and stresses the development of a strong immune system, good exercise, and high quality food.

What I find really commendable is that Dr. Dave is always thinking about providing his pet patients the best environment for their bodies to heal and stay healthy. He wants to understand the stress of any treatment vs. the benefit. For example, early on in his career, he began questioning the need for so many vaccinations. He now uses titer tests to confirm immunity and avoids repeating vaccines that the animal does not need. He also questions long hospital stays for animals because that is a stressful environment that is not conducive to healing. That holds true for us humans, too, right? Instead, Dr. Dave sends pets home as soon as possible along with detailed home care instructions. That makes so much sense!

Importantly, Dr. Dave questions giving pharmaceutical drugs that aren’t necessary, or many drugs at once, because of what he calls “other effects” — those effects that don’t just occur on the side, but occur quite often and can be quite serious. His approach is to treat life-threatening problems with drugs and let the body heal the less serious problems. If drugs are prescribed, he’ll recommend a maximum of two at a time, whereas conventional vets can prescribe seven or eight drugs at a time. He’s also very careful about prescribing strong antibiotics because those kill good gut flora. He will use milder antibiotics when necessary, and does not see MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus superbug) in his practice as a result.

I am so happy with the care that Willy is receiving at Chaparral Animal Health Center that I had to share our experience with Regenerate readers! I hope that more veterinarians will follow Dr. Dave’s lead. If you would like to visit Dr. Dave with your pet companion, you can learn more at reach them at 303-702-1986 or




Sandra G. Malhotra is the Owner, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Regenerate Magazine. She is just a little bit passionate about health and wellness being our birthright.