About Dr. Kevin Fenton
Background and Philosophy:
I graduated from the University of Bologna, the oldest veterinary school in the world, in 1982. Going to vet school in Europe was at times both exhilarating and overwhelming. I worked with vets in Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, England and Spain. I saw multiple approaches to both the art and the science of veterinary medicine.
Along the way I learned Italian, French and Spanish, dabbled in international rugby and perfected my cooking skills...my bond with animals is very deep and it defines who I am as a person. I truly feel that our relationship with animals enlightens and transforms us. As mahatma Gandhi said: "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
My first job was in Palm Springs in a small animal practice where doctors Herman and Steve Salk taught me by example both the compassion and the wisdom needed to be a true veterinarian. The transition for a New York City boy educated in Italy to practicing veterinary medicine in Palm Springs was, to say the least, quite a journey.
A year later I started an equine internship at the University of Tennessee and wondered how southern folks might view a city boy from the south Bronx who wanted to be a horse vet! They were incredibly gracious and gave me a great foundation in both the knowledge of veterinary medicine and the judgment of how best to use it in the interests of my patients.
From there I took an equine position in northern California and in 1986 I decided to start my own equine practice which was a pretty scary notion... it began in Indio at the polo fields and branched out into both sport and family horse practice from the Coachella valley to the high desert and into Garner Valley.
At that same time, in order to be sure I could pay the bills, for my neophyte horse practice I took a position at the animal emergency clinic in 1000 Palms... Dr. Jenkins, a wise old horse vet himself, who as the pioneer of the only emergency clinic, in the valley, in need of a vet to work god-forsaken hours, convinced me that I needed a steady check and they sure could use some help. I have always been interested in emergency medicine and it prepared me well for whatever creature and crisis would come through the door.
Oh I almost forgot...because I wasn't busy enough between the polo fields and the emergency clinic I worked one day a week at 'Living Free”, the animal sanctuary in Mountain Center.
In 1991 with John McConnell we opened All Creatures’ Veterinary Care. Our first patient was a little Chihuahua. And like the name says we did it all. Juggled both the horse practice and the clinic and did a pretty damned good job if I do say so myself. Made me proud. Married Maria an amazing woman that same year...talk about 2 life altering moments!! And soon thereafter the most life altering moment...Marco Sean Fenton. and holy mackerel... someone who still felt like a kid had a kid....and then another... Melissa known as 'melissama bellissima' came next...and though I lived to work at my calling, my passion being a vet...some changes needed to be made so I could share in the lives of my two legged amazing creatures.
And time moved on...the clinic became bigger and busier and we ministered to many creatures and the people attached to them. I was always proud of our clinical skills and our ability to put our patients back together while we never lost the compassion and empathy that made us all who we were. Add an amazing staff that more than once opened my eyes and taught me many things.
In 2006 sold the practice to VCA and we became VCA All Creatures Animal Hospital. I have remained as chief of staff and have always felt they got a helluva deal because I still feel the clinic is mine and my heart and soul go into it every day, I am so much more than an 'employee'. Nothing has changed inside. outside there's a big beautiful building, my write offs are gone, I now pay for my dog food but we all feel all creatures is still ours and our heart runs through it.
So that's the odyssey I took but something started to gnaw at me...
It was in about 1988 that I became very frustrated and concerned with the limits of conventional veterinary medicine. I felt that I was a pretty good veterinarian with a set of skills that had been perfected through study and practice. I enjoyed the challenges of emergency medicine and put a lot of very sick creatures back together again. Horses hit by cars, laid open by fences, down and struggling with colic...dogs and cats with everything wrong you could name. bloated cows, dog mauled sheep, gored antelope, a fence jumping zebra who came up short, got cut and then got the name 'Fenton', a C-section on a tortoise, and a couple of snakes with pneumonia. Took care of a lot of tendons and suspensories, injected a lot of joints, ran IV fluids to a lot of horses, 'un-lamed' a lot of lame horses, and unable to change some...treated my share of snakebites, delivered my share of babies both small and large.
But the thing that bothered me was the fact that there were a lot of diseases and chronic issues that I couldn't change. I could save their lives and cobble them back together but the quality of their lives and the comfort of their days weren’t there. The diseases of old age set in and we only could do so much and we wanted and we needed to do more...but how? Drugs could take us just so far...and I’m thankful for that. I am amazed and in awe of what our technological medicine can do. If I’m hit by a bus thank god for MRI's and ventilators, cardiac surgeons and cancer specialists. But what concerned me was what we can do afterwards to improve the plight of our patients and enhance their comfort and longevity.
Being a child of the 60's I had been always fascinated with eastern philosophy and wondered about the possibility of acupuncture being something to look into.
Ironically that year IVAS (the international veterinary acupuncture society) was putting on a one year course in San Diego. So I took the course as what I called an 'optimistic skeptic'...half-way through the course someone heard I was doing acupuncture and brought in a paralyzed Labrador. I told the man I was just learning and might not be able to do anything. He said this was his dog's last hope. The next step was euthanasia. Talk about pressure...well that dog was able to walk again!
And at first, not being a glass half full kind of person, I thought oh it was probably going to happen anyway. But the more I thought about it the more I realized there must be something to this stuff. And so acupuncture became another tool in my tool box.
I remember a pretty famous polo player and trainer whose parents were both horse vets and involved in polo. He was definitely a character, an excellent horseman and a pretty good layman vet. He thought I was nuts with this acupuncture. One day his wife, also an excellent horse trainer, brought by one of her husband’s best playing horses. He had said that something was just not right. No lameness, no injury, no signs of illness. just ADR (ain't doin' right). she asked me to look at him. her husband didn't know. i performed a lameness exam and everything looked normal. so we tried some needles. well a few days later he comes by and tells me she's a different horse. Something changed and she's playing so well and he's wondrin' what I did. And I told him. The Mexican grooms started calling me a 'brujo'...a witch doctor.
Certainly acupuncture cannot cure everything and with some horses there were minimal changes but I would have to say that the majority of my patients, be they dogs or horses, improve. Several cats have improved and have aged very gracefully. An iguana with a broken back and unable to defecate returned to function.
I think acupuncture holds great promise in chronic degenerative diseases like hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc disease and spinal problems that prevent walking. Elder horses and those not performing as they should can also be helped.
It is certainly something to be considered when a conventional approach cannot resolve health issues. Once again it's another tool.
So from that first step and from that point on I would tell my clients that I was "schizophrenic'. I used conventional treatments, joint injections and banamine, but that I also used thin little needles that made some people think I was crazy. I use the best of both worlds to help my patients.
The journey into acupuncture opened up new paths, new modalities and new tools for therapy. It was a logical step to investigate chiropractic and the possibility of spinal manipulation as a therapeutic option in acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries. After all, one of the longest acupuncture meridians, the bladder meridian runs on either side of the spinal column and has both local and distant impacts on health and wellbeing. Why couldn't back manipulations in those same areas alter the back spasms and pain that compress the many nerves that control flexibility, unhindered movement and thereby improve performance?
I combine massage therapy with essential oils, chiropractic and acupuncture. They complement each other and are truly an example of integrative medicine, synergistically enhancing the best of all three therapies.
And as I took the less traveled integrative road I came to homeopathy. I truly feel that homeopathy holds the most promise for the long term health and well-being for both us
And the creatures that we share this planet with. Homeopathy offers us a way that is so simplistic and fundamental to change and better our health. As I’ve said above there is certainly a place for drugs but they carry with themselves some heavy burdens and side-effects that often can cause significant health issues in and of themselves. Conventional medicine helps by suppressing symptoms but sadly cannot seem to cure them. The discovery and use of even more potent drugs, with the hope of curing disease, has altered both the disease producing agents and the environment within our bodies, undermining true health. Homeopathy carries no warning labels, no side effects, and allows the body to heal itself from within. Homeopathy nudges our own immune system to resolve, from within, what ails us.
Homeopathy takes into consideration all aspects of your animal’s illness, the physical and the emotional, the mental and the historical, the genetic and the environmental, the dietetic and the nutritional. It is truly a 'wholistic' medical approach, trying to understand the deeper roots of dis-ease and addressing the totality of these multiple factors. It is only with this unifying concept of disease that we can alter and relieve the issues that interfere with health. Homeopathy allows the innate immune response of the animals system to throw out from within the agents that produce dis-ease. In doing that homeopathy can cure and resolve disease instead of suppressing symptoms and palliating the disease process.
And so now you have seen the evolution of Kevin, the veterinarian and the person. The journey and the evolution continue...we are all an act in progress. And so now on my road, like the ark, I am departing onto a new sea. I have joked that I left traditional horse practice to spend time with my children as they grew, to share with my wife the work of family raising (though she does so much more than me.. and makes it look easy)...the joke is that now i have to pay for them and their education, among other things. I have missed my time with horses. In their own ancient way they have helped me and reaffirmed in me who I am and how to do what I do. And I thank them for that.