published Friday, June 15th, 2012

SmallBiz: Vet brings full-body approach to animal medicine

• Name: Chattanooga Holistic Animal Institute

• Location: 918 E. Main St.

• Contact information: 423-531-8899,

• Products and services: General medicine and holistic treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, laser therapy and nutrition therapy for pets.

• Age: One month

• Startup investment: About $500,000

• Holistic approach: Owner and veterinarian Colleen Smith treats pets with many of the same medications and practices as a typical vet, but she also makes whole-body examinations of animals to ensure they are living healthy lives instead of just managing symptoms of bigger problems. For example, if a dog had heart problems, she would give it the heart medicine it needed but also create a diet plan to cut out fats, or clean the pet's teeth to remove potentially harmful bacteria. "You're finding the root causes of the disease," she said. "I think it's better medicine."

• Widespread audience: Patients at Smith's practice come from all across the region, some as far away as Alabama. She said she is the only practice in the region dealing in holistic treatments.

• Biggest hurdle: Funding. It took Smith two years of planning to get the business started. Smith even put off her marriage for two years because single women have an easier time getting certain loans. She and her fiance finally will tie the knot after the veterinary clinic has its grand opening in a week. "If there's any food left over, it's going to the wedding," she said.

• Goals: In the coming years, Smith hopes to add a pet boarding operation, a rehabilitation center and possibly open a second office in a different market.

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