Dr. Donna Kelleher

by Neal Sivula



When did your interest in Veterinary Medicine begin?

A lot of this is in my book "The Proof is in the Poodle".  When I was thirteen I wanted to be a Vet when my horse Bill got hurt (turned out to be a foot abscess) but my Mom said I wasn't good enough in math and science (family support was generally okay despite this).  I considered it again when I was in college, after spending 1.5 years in England training to be a riding instructor, which would have been a  really tough carreer with my asthma.  I realized I was bored with sociology and psychology, basically resolved to the belief that people are way more screwed up than animals.  So I just tried a few science courses got A's and then took all my pre veterinary  courses in 1.5 years, including an accelerated inorganic chemistry class at Harvard Summer School.  It all went okay and here I am.

What led you to Holistic Medicine?

My own health concerns combined with exposure to the healing in other cultures.  My mother was an International Studies professor so we had guests from Thailand and Africa and I saw them make teas for their ailments instead of popping pills.

Did you have any mentors as you became involved in Holistic Medicine?

I had tons.  Allen Schoen was a Vet mentor.  I did an internship with him when I was in Vet school and that led to getting the Grady Young Scholarship.  I took my IVAS training while I was still a senior in Vet school. (A program they have mistakingly discontinued).  But I have herbal teachers galore!

What modalities do you practice, and where did you get your training?

IVAS in 1994, AVCA in 1998, AHG (KP Khalsa's) herbal training in 1999, NAET in 2000. But my herbal training continues all the time.  I attend mulitple herbal conferences and workshops locally.  I grow a good portion of herbs here at the farm.  I wild craft and make my own salves.

 My mission is to move away from Chinese herbs to local and Native American herbs and then teach about the conversion.  I help teach for the Jade Institute in Seattle which brings Jeremy Ross to Seattle every year.  His books on applying Chinese medicine to Western herbs are awesome even though to carry them around is risky since they are so heavy!


What is the structure of your practice (eg. Solo, group, Integrative, solely Holistic)?  How many support staff do you have?

Solo.  I wish I could find like -minded and well trained souls but its hard.  Jeff Blake (my husband) is acupuncture certified and we may both take Matt Wood's herbal school in Portland starting next year;  then he could do more with the non orthopedic internal medicine cases.  I rent two cheap small office spaces to work out of-   one in Edmonds North of Seattle and one in Bellingham   I work 2-3 days a week and then work from home too.

What is your physical practice environment?  

You can't really tell that it is a Vet practice.  There are dog beds and couches and soft coverings for the tables.  Its cool that way.

What is a normal workday like for you?

Pretty busy, with 8-13 hours sometimes with no break for lunch.  

What are your favorite tools (eg. Supplies, products, computers, etc)?  

Not really.  I use two sizes of acupuncture needles.  I have several NAET kits and a little massage tool.  I have an electroacupuncture machine in each office and a laser but I dont use it very much.  I suppose the thing I like most is my 30 gauge hypodermic needles I get from Air Tite.  Why don't all vets do injections with them?  They are tiny and I can do aquapuncture in cats without any trouble.  Judith Rae Swanson from Chicago taught me that!


What provides you with inspiration in your practice life?

The plants.  They are little miracle workers.  If they had feet and hands and tasted like hamburgers, I would not be necessary.

What are your favorite conferences?  

The International Herbal Symposium. I like AHVMA but it seems to be in places i can't get to lately or I am all out of money from IVAS and AVCA CE that I haven't been able to attend.

Are there any other things you do to be inspired professionally?

The more I meditate the better!  I do yoga and pilates and take my horses into the mountains.  The liberty horse training has been  the most amazing recent inspiration.  it is just like holistic medicine applied to horse training.  You don't force the horse,  instead you suggest or ask.  Just like herbs suggest and pharmaceudicals force. 

Do you have any other professional activities?

I make an herbal formula called "Feather Picking" for bird clinics and send it around the country. Writing my books and doing talks.  I like to make people laugh. I find it opens them up to new ideas.  I find that Vets and Doctors that can stay as open minded as possible are the best healers.  But it is hard when we spend so much money and time building our pedestal.  


How do you maintain balance between your professional activities and home life?


Very difficult and I don't do very well!  But I try to take a day off the computer every week.  I do a lot of horse activities with my rescued horses and I hope to do more of that in the future!   I only see patients 2 or 3 days a week.  This helps a lot.

What do you like to do away from the office?

The things mentioned above plus spend time in the garden.

The Future

What is the future of holistic veterinary medicine?

There will be a day when the public will demand holistic options for their pets and Vets will be forced to provide those options.  That is where we are going.  I think every clinic will have a holistic practitioner.  It is a lot of training but the public will demand it!

Do you have any advice to those just starting out?

Take a deep breath. Don't force learning.  Try to involve yourself in learning things in a fun environment.  Don't worry if there are no other Vets.  Try to let go a little of what you think you know.  Trust your intuition in all things.  I find that intuition gets so lost in our conventional training.

Are there any new developments in Medicine that excite you?

Yes!  Guido Masse (a rising star in the herbal world ) presented this amazing research!   What he taught was how eating a huge variety of herbs and berries helps protect our DNA from carcinogenic damage.  He describes the science of "plant deficit disease" and it is super, super complicated but I think the science is rapidly revealing what we all know in our hearts.