Just like people have a choice in healthcare, today’s pet owner has the option to choose holistic veterinary medicine (HVM) instead of, or in conjunction with, conventional veterinary medical care. This article provides an overview of HVM, helping you determine if this type of care is the right choice for you and your pet.
What is Holistic Veterinary Medicine?
By holistic we mean taking into account the whole picture of the patient (your pet) and not simply the symptoms presented at the time of your visit. When your pet is in the care of a holistic vet, the doctor’s aim is to identify and treat the “root cause” of illness, not just alleviate symptoms. They will accomplish this using traditional animal medicine practices plus approaches and treatments from their specialization in holistic animal medicine.
Conventional Veterinarian’s Philosophy of Practice
The conventional veterinarian identifies symptoms of disease and asks, “How do I make these symptoms go away so the pet can be more comfortable?” The doctor dispenses medicines or other treatments to manage the symptoms.
Philosophy of practice: If there are no symptoms, there is no more disease.
Holistic Veterinarian’s Philosophy of Practice
The holistic veterinarian identifies symptoms of disease and asks, “Why is this pet having these symptoms, in this, or these, organ systems, at this time?”
Philosophy of practice: going to the source of the symptoms in order to provide lasting recovery and optimal wellbeing.
Like a medical detective, the holistic vet wants to uncover the root cause of the disease process, not just get rid of symptoms. If the root cause is not addressed, symptoms may return in the same or different organ system.
Education and Training
All veterinarians must have the same foundation of education in order to practice medicine:
- Completion of a four-year college degree (usually in a science such as biology)
- Completion of veterinary medical school
- Passing score on the NAVLE (North American Veterinary Licensing Examination)
- Depending on the state, there may be additional clinical competency tests and/or state jurisprudence exam requirements to be met
- Completion of a state required licensure forms and payment of licensure fees
- Many vets will have a post-doctoral specialization just like a “people doctor”
During the course of their training and practice of animal medicine, a veterinarian may have experienced the benefits of holistic medicine for themselves or become curious about how holistic therapies could benefit animals. Thus begins the additional coursework, practical training, and certification in holistic medicine for pets.
An important distinction: In addition to the above requirements, holistic veterinarians must have successfully completed a certifying exam to refer to themselves as a holistic vet.
Inside a Visit with a Holistic Veterinarian
During your pet’s visit with a holistic veterinarian, the doctor will embark on an inquiry to discover why your pet is ill. They will:
- take a history of the illness, from before symptoms started to the present
- evaluate the disease pattern (how have symptoms changed over time)
- inquire about the animals daily routine, including physical activity
- take fecal samples and blood work for lab tests
- assess the pet’s diet and fluid intake, and elimination behavior
- ask about the pet’s living environment and daily routine
- inquire about the relationship with the pet owner and other animals
Treatment Techniques in Holistic Veterinary Medicine
HVM modalities do vary; some common approaches to treatment may include:
- Acupuncture, Acupressure
- Botanical (herbal) medicines
- Behavioral Interventions
- Environmental Interventions
- Chiropractic Treatment
- Food Intolerance Testing
- Dietary Interventions
- Nutritional Testing & Dietary Supplements
- Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation
- Laser Therapy
When Should I Choose Holistic Vet Care?
Choosing a holistic veterinarian is a personal choice. For some pet owners, HVM is a choice made after conventional treatment has been unsuccessful. For others, holistic veterinary healthcare is the first and only choice for their cat or dog.
The most important step you can take for your beloved pet’s care — conventional or holistic — is to do your homework: research treatments you’re not familiar with, ask questions, and get second opinions when needed. Your pet deserves safe, reliable medical care.
Important: In a medical emergency, go directly to an emergency animal hospital.
Schedule a risk-free 15-minute initial consultation with any of our clinicians.
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association: https://www.ahvma.org
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation: https://www.ahvmf.org
DailyPaws.com “What are Holistic Veterinarians and When Should You Visit One?” retrieved online 08 July 2021: https://www.dailypaws.com/living-with-pets/veterinarian/holistic-vet