Local Holistic Vet Goes the Extra Mile

May 28, 2012 by Marla Burns

South Walton locals know we have some excellent choices of doctors who treat our pets. My husband and I have learned that Dr. Margaret Fowler of Panama City Beach is a welcome alternative to traditional veterinary care.  

Dr. Fowler has practiced western veterinary medicine since 1981, after graduating first in her veterinary class with numerous honors and awards of excellence.  In 1997 she became the Director of Veterinary Services at ZooWorld in Panama City Beach, an award-winning small zoo where she integrates holistic care with western veterinary medicine for the many different kinds of animals living there. 

She practices small animal, exotic, zoo and equine medicine at her clinic, and has been voted ‘Best Veterinarian’, several times by the readers of the local newspaper. Her holistic practice has been named "Best of Panama City Beach" several times.  If that’s not enough to impress, she is also a published author in the prestigious American Journal of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. Six of her case studies have been presented at the annual Chi Institute Conference in TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine), alternately held in China and the United States.

We discovered Dr. Fowler after we visited our traditional western medicine veterinarian, when our dog was visibly distressed. During that visit we were advised to give up on our beloved 15-year-old Lab/Chow mix dog. We were told she was “old and probably has cancer”.  Giving up was not an option for us. We decided to take a leap of faith and try a different method of treatment.

After reviewing her impressive and intriguing credentials, we sought out Dr. Fowler and scheduled our first visit. That was over two years ago, and through Dr. Fowler’s care, we were able to extend our furry family member’s life, and greatly improve the quality of that life as well.

We were thrilled to learn she makes house calls and recently visited with "the doc", in our living room. She told us that the majority of her clients live in South Walton, and though most of her clients come to her South Lagoon Drive location in Panama City Beach, she does drive west to SoWal. She’s had clients come from as far as Tallahassee and Pensacola.

“One of the things I’d like to do is just thank this area for being so open minded and being so supportive. And the veterinarians in this area are very good about referring patients. And that’s a big step because it’s not in the mainstream of veterinary medicine. It’s becoming much more accepted in human medicine. Veterinary medicine is lagging behind a little bit. But, I do get a lot of referrals from this area and I’m very appreciative of that.”

Dr. Fowler’s ultimate goal is for our pets and animals to live longer, happier, and pain free lives. She specializes in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, which focuses on health maintenance, illness prevention, and non-invasive treatment through its four branches:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chinese botanical (herbal) medicine
  • Nutritional (food) therapy
  • Tui-Na bodywork massage, bone and joint manipulations (the Chinese version of massage, bodywork, and chiropractic, which benefits both pets and performance animals)

Dr. Fowler is the only veterinarian in Northwest Florida certified by the Chi Institute and the China National Society of TCVM. Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) has been practiced in China for over 3,000 years. TCVM looks at the whole patient, including personality, diet, home, heredity, and other factors to understand the basis of a medical disorder.

Dr. Fowler conducts a thorough, detailed history, physical examination, and personality evaluation of your animal and then determines the appropriate treatment, based on her findings. With our dog, we discovered that, for example, she was “Yin deficient”.

The main reason she panted so much and preferred to sleep on a hard tile floor, instead of a cushy bed, was in a large part due to the foods we were feeding her.  Her diet reacted with heat producing neurotransmitters in her brain, thereby creating a “cooling deficiency” or “Yin deficiency” in our dog, making her hot.

“You can put them on a cooling diet. Those diets generally aren’t available commercially, so they’re home cooked foods,” Dr. Fowler told us.

She changed our dog’s diet, and gave us a menu of good, healthy options to feed her, some cooling Chinese herbs, and a wealth of good information to address our concerns and put our dog back on the path to better health.

Some of the doctor’s specialties are treating dogs with cancer and dogs with obesity issues.

“I’ll put them on a home cooked, low-carb diet, and balance it out with vitamins and minerals.  I’ll actually make a recipe up for them. One of my biggest things about diets is dogs were never meant to eat cereal, dry kibble, and cats even less so, because they’re true carnivores. Dogs are carnivores, but they’re omnivores, too. They were never meant to eat corn, soy, grains like that. So, when you put them on a wholesome, whole food diet, foods that you or I might eat, their health greatly improves and you prevent a lot of health issues later in life. If you feed a dry, cereal based food, it’s easy, it does help keep their teeth clean, but you also set up for things like blood deficiencies and Yin deficiencies, which if they go on long enough, create other problems for you including, the theory in Chinese medicine is cancer.”

“Eighty percent of what I do is pain management associated with arthritis, or a blown disc in the back, something like that, a torn ACL tendon. The remaining twenty percent is things like cancer. I’ve got a lot of cancer patients, where people don’t want to do chemotherapy ‘cus of the way it makes their pets feel. Or they don’t like the idea of putting poisons in their animal. Or they are doing chemotherapy and they want to supplement it with alternative medicine. I put dogs on an anti-cancer diet, anti-cancer herb. I’ve had a couple of dogs that were both diagnosed at Auburn University, one was with a renal carcinoma or a kidney tumor that was already in kidney failure, and the other was with a liver tumor. Both of these dogs were given two months to live. Both of these people declined chemotherapy or declined surgery to remove the tumors and went to alternative medicine. And both of those dogs with acupuncture and herbal therapy, and the anti-cancer diet lived over 2 yrs., so that’s a huge win.”

In the case of obese dogs, Dr. Fowler has found that "if they eat a lot of dry food it’s much more calorie dense than canned food, which has a lot more moisture in it, or home-cooked food, which has a lot of moisture, so it does tend to set up for obesity. A lot of times the guidelines on the back of the package, that your dog or cat should eat so much food per day, is really an over estimation and when people feed according to those guidelines, they end up with a fat animal,” Dr. Fowler explained.

Another service Dr. Fowler offers is a touchy subject for some, but invaluable for others. She offers in-home end of life services.

"People are so appreciative of the fact that I will come to their home where the pet’s comfortable and they’re comfortable and that’ll be their final moments, rather than loading them up in a car and dragging them to a sterile clinic with strangers around, and where you feel like you can’t relax and be yourself and go through the grieving process. The people I do it for, send me cards and flowers, and I’m like…they lost their pet, and they’re taking the time to send me thank you cards. I got started with it because I always did that with my dogs. It is stressful, and it is emotionally draining, even for me, but the appreciation is so great and in an odd way, it’s rewarding.” Dr. Fowler provides this service when appropriate and also offers assistance in making specific final arrangements of your choice.

One thing the doctor requests of any future patients is that they not wait too long before bringing their furry family member to see her. She’d much rather catch a problem at an early, rather than later stage. Problems don’t develop overnight and the sooner the patient gets treatment, the sooner the ailment can be corrected.

Dr. Fowler can be contacted via email at, or by phone at 850-249-HERB (4372).

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