When it’s time to seek out veterinary care for your pet, you may have more options than you realize. In addition to conventional care through a standard veterinarian that includes treatments such as pharmaceutical medications and surgery, you can consider accessing care that is holistic. This type of care looks at not just what is occurring in your pet but why and how it is happening.
Definitions and Examples
Holistic veterinary care evaluates and incorporates all aspects of your pet’s health – not just the conventional physical aspects that typical veterinarians take into account but also your pet’s nutrition, environment, genetic tendencies, stress levels, and more. It also works to prevent health problems and looks for root causes of illnesses and symptoms, rather than just treating these problems when they occur. In addition, it looks at the interconnectedness between various areas of the body to one another.
Here are some examples of holistic veterinarian care:
- A dog has a problem with his joints. Rather than simply treating that with medications, the holistic veterinarian attempts to figure out why that is occurring. He determines that the cause is a nutritional deficiency and says the dog needs high doses of certain nutritional supplements. The veterinarian also evaluates and, if necessary, treats the dog’s entire muscle and bone system.
- A cat is suffering from a digestive problem. The holistic veterinarian evaluates all aspects of her health and life and determines that the cause is high-stress levels. The vet treats this with holistic modalities, including homeopathy and essential oils, rather than with conventional treatments.
- A puppy has a skin and fur symptom. By evaluating all aspects of his history, including his genetics, the vet determines that the problem is inherited from the puppy’s ancestors. The vet treats this with holistic options, including acupuncture and herbs.
Holistic Treatments and Modalities
Holistic veterinarians use a variety of modalities to treat their patients, in addition to conventional ones such as medications and surgery. The many types of treatments include:
- Nutrition: Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Food can serve as medicine for pets, and evaluating a pet’s nutritional status determines whether he has any nutritional deficiencies that could be contributing to health problems. A holistic veterinarian suggests dietary changes based on findings.
- Nutritional supplements: Sometimes a pet has a severe nutritional deficiency that is contributing to a health problem or needs extra nutritional support to prevent illnesses. A holistic veterinarian may recommend nutritional supplements, at times in very large doses, to replenish the deficiencies.
- Massage: Similar to massage in humans, pet massage can promote healing throughout the body for various symptoms and illnesses and can promote relaxation.
- Chiropractic: Chiropractic adjustments work to correct alignment problems in spinal bones, with the intent being to rebalance nervous system problems that result from these misalignments.
- Acupuncture and acupressure: This technique originated in China and is thousands of years old. It involves stimulating various points on the body with thin needles. Sometimes, no needles are used, just pressure with fingers. This technique is called acupressure. In pets, acupuncture and acupressure can help to decrease pain and enhance overall health.
- Herbal medicine: This is another modality that has existed for thousands of years. Various Chinese, Indian, and Western herbs can be incorporated for their medicinal and nutritional benefits.
- Homeopathy: Yet another age-old modality, homeopathy works based on the principle that a diluted substance that is similar to the problem can cure the problem. This is also known as “like cures like.” Homeopathic remedies tend to treat health problems on a deep level.
- Aromatherapy: This involves plants and materials that come from plants, such as essential oils. These plants can be beneficial from a mental, emotional, and physical standpoint.
This is just a sampling of holistic veterinary techniques and treatments, with many others being available, such as laser therapy, osteopathy, sports medicine, and flower essences.
Benefits of Holistic Veterinarian Care
Holistic veterinarian care tends to be safe and effective, and is often less expensive than conventional care. It also focuses on prevention rather than just treating symptoms and diseases, so it often leads to better health and cost savings because it can prevent diseases and symptoms before they ever occur. That reduces pain and suffering and also saves money that you would have spent on health care for your pet.
Various Holistic Approaches
If you seek holistic veterinary care, you can do so in various ways. One way is an integrative approach, which involves incorporating some holistic treatments while also including conventional care. For example, you might take your pet to a conventional veterinarian for regular checkups yet consult with a holistic veterinarian for nutritional advice, or you might handle your pet’s skin condition with homeopathy and herbs.
Another approach is to completely use holistic care for all your pet’s medical needs. In this scenario, you would take your pet to a holistic veterinarian for regular checkups, preventive care, nutritional advice, and to handle any symptoms or illnesses that come up.
That said, there are times when a conventional approach might be necessary, in addition to holistic care, such as in cases of serious illnesses and infections or traumatic injuries such as broken bones.
Finding a Holistic Veterinarian
Holistic veterinary care is becoming increasingly popular and in demand, so this type of care has become more available over time. As is the case with any type of care, however, it’s not always easy to find the best care that meets your needs and those of your pet. Ask your local family and friends who have pets if they’re aware of any excellent holistic veterinary practitioners.
The American Holistic Veterinary Medication Association (AHVMA) is an excellent resource, and you can search for a holistic practitioner in your area on their website. If you're looking for a holistic practitioner and want data such as reviews, insights on past performance, and availability, check out the Vetary 'Find a Veterinarian' tab.
If you consider holistic veterinarian care for your beloved pet, you just might find the perfect alternative that helps your pet experience optimal health with minimal pain and suffering. Learn more about this unique and effective type of care by reading more and contacting a nearby holistic vet’s office to ask any questions you might have.