What Is a Holistic Veterinarian? How a Holistic Vet May Be Different from a "Regular" Vet

BY | September 27 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
What Is a Holistic Veterinarian?

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Holistic veterinarians are becoming more and more popular, but what the practice means is still perhaps a bit misunderstood. Find out more here about the different ways these vets choose to run their practices and treat their patients.

The theory of holism is not a new one, but its mainstream expansion to animal care is a bit more recent. Holistic medicine, in general, is relatively new to western cultures, so you may be wondering what your expectations should be if and when you bring your pet to a holistic veterinarian.

What Does “Holistic” Mean?

The practice of holism is very simple: it treats the body as a whole. A holistic doctor attempts to treat the condition with natural remedies rather than the symptoms of the condition. In human terms, for example, a holistic doctor treating a case of heartburn may recommend diet changes instead of an antacid.

A holistic practitioner will take a look at everything going on with their patient, including their emotional well-being. In holistic vet care, medications may be part of the treatment they ultimately prescribe, but a holistic doctor is also likely to suggest an overall lifestyle adjustment to deal with persistent issues.

Moreover, holistic veterinary medicine can help in pain management, safeguarding your lovely pets from expensive and harmful drugs. 

Vets' first choice is raw pet food. In the past few years, the popularity of raw food diets has increased dramatically among pet parents. Raw food can include raw meat, bones, fruits, and vegetables. 

Pet owners willingly give raw cat food and raw dog food to their pets because they are natural and don’t contain any additives, thereby supporting the principles of holistic medicines. This type of pet food diet has a range of benefits, including healthier skin, shinier coats, cleaner teeth, higher energy levels, better mood, and others. 

What Holistic Medicine Isn’t

“Holistic medicine” is not necessarily synonymous with homeopathic or naturopathic medicine or with disciplines like chiropractic or acupuncture. However, all of these methods and applications may be part of holistic diagnosis and treatment.  

Traditional western medicines and techniques and/or nutritional strategies may also be employed as part of holistic treatment. Many holistic veterinarians are “integrative,” meaning they apply a combination of disciplines.

What Happens at a Holistic Vet?

A visit to the holistic vet is a lot like a visit to a “regular” vet. They’ll examine your pet and discuss any issues you may be having. Depending on the issues your pet is dealing with, they may ask you to bring in a stool or urine sample.

They may take blood from your pet, check teeth and gums, and look in your pet’s ears and eyes. They’re likely to feel your pet’s body to ascertain muscle mass, check for water retention, feel for bloat or gas, and check for any unusual lumps or bumps.

The primary differences you’ll experience may or may not include the following:

  • Many holistic vets do away with stainless steel tables in the exam room and instead prefer to see pets on the floor or on a comfortable pet bed.
  • You should be prepared to answer questions about your vet that veer away from the physical and touch on the emotional.
  • You should prepare to spend a bit more time talking with a holistic vet than you may with a traditional vet.
  • A holistic vet’s treatment recommendations may require some effort from you that you’re not used to. For example, adding herbs or homeopathic remedies to your dog’s food, exercising your pet more, or changing their diet.

What Should My Expectations Be?

Holistic medicine has been known to produce overwhelmingly positive results. In some cases, holistic medicine has saved the lives of pets in situations where traditional veterinarians ran out of options. That said, holistic medicine is not a hocus pocus, and its practitioners are not magicians.

Holistic medicine, while often turned to as a very last resort, is, in reality, most effective when it’s employed prophylactically or preventatively.

Pet parents who take a lifelong interest in their dog’s lifestyle -- including an exercise regimen, diet, and the pet’s overall wellness -- tend to run into fewer health problems in the long run. By gently treating small maladies throughout a pet’s life, you’re more likely to stave off serious illness in old age.

These wellness principles are the principle of holism. Moreover, holistic medicine is a great way to help your pet have a long, healthy, happy life. Much of the animal’s well-being depends on the vet’s ability to detect disease patterns. A holistic vet is well-versed in detecting different issues with signs of the body and behavior.  

Furthermore, food is an essential component of holistic medicine. Holistic vets tend to recommend foods like wet pet foods. Many studies have shown that pets have a higher proclivity toward wet cat food and wet dog food. This is because the nutrient profiles of these foods are quite similar to their natural diets. 

What Are Some Examples of Holistic Veterinary Treatments?

Some traditional vets can turn quickly to invasive curative methodologies like surgery. Holistic vets are less likely to go this route as a first option. Holism alone may not be enough to cure your pet’s problem.

However, an integrative approach tends to work more quickly and reduce healing time overall. A few examples of successful treatments include:

  • Holistic vets can successfully employ homo-toxicology in the case of certain skin conditions -- the expulsion of various toxins through the use of liquid homeopathic remedies.
  • Holistic methodologies can be employed alongside traditional cancer treatments to help a pet achieve some comfort, and maintain a standard of living, while they’re undergoing chemo or radiation.
  • Chinese herbs are often used with success to resolve issues of incontinence in both cats and dogs.
  • Some holistic vets have successfully used acupuncture as an alternative to spinal surgery and knee surgery. Even dogs who have experienced some paralysis have recovered fully through the use of homeopathic remedies, Chinese herbs, and acupuncture, alongside muscle relaxers and steroid injections.

Furthermore, your vet can refer you to choose brands that are popular for their minimally processed and human-grade ingredients. These brands are the storehouse of pet food and fresh dog food to cater to the needs of pet parents and pets. 

The stores have Hill’s Science Diet cat food and Science Diet dog food that provides essential sources of glucosamine and chondroitin to improve joint health. Also, these science-based diets are a way to support healthy weight in your pets. They are rich in omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins, and other essential nutrients to provide healthier skin and a shinier coat. 

Do Holistic Vets Need Special Certification?

Special licenses or accreditations are not required to make the “holistic” claim. Many vets will claim to use a holistic or integrative approach without any formal training. This isn’t always the cause for alarm.

Holism, as mentioned above, incorporates many disciplines and is more of a philosophy than a practice. Many holistic principles can be self-taught. Some can be learned through apprenticeships with practitioners. So, it’s possible that your unlicensed holistic veterinarian is perfectly capable (as long as they are licensed as a veterinarian!).

That said, there are licenses and accreditations for specific disciplines, including acupuncture, homeopathy, and traditional Chinese medicine. To find out if your local holistic vet has specific credentials, visit the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture and search for your vet.

Top 5 Reasons to Take Your Pet to Their Annual Vet Visit

Some pet parents may wonder if the annual vet visit is really worth the time and the cost. The short answer? Yes. Your pet’s annual vet visit plays a big role in maintaining their overall health and can go a long way in preventing and treating diseases before they become serious or expensive.

So, what are the top 5 reasons to take your pet to an annual vet visit? Let’s take a look.

1. A Thorough Once-Over

Your pet’s annual vet visit gives your veterinarian an opportunity to thoroughly examine your pet, from head to paw. Many pets hide symptoms of illness and injury (cats especially are famous for staying quiet when they’re unwell), but your veterinarian knows what to look for and how. 

Your vet will feel your pet’s body, coat, and skin, check their ears, nose, mouth, and eyes, and listen to their heart and lungs. They will also take your pet’s temperature, weigh them, and may carry out blood tests. A thorough once-over not only allows your vet to make sure that all parts are in working order but also gives your vet a chance to detect problems before they become serious or costly to treat. 

2. Vaccination Boosters

Vaccines keep pets protected from certain diseases, and after your pet’s initial doses, they may require boosters to keep the vaccines effective. Most pets require 2-4 boosters per year and receive them at their annual vet visit; if you slack on making an appointment, you are putting your pal at risk. Don’t wait!

3. Heartworm Test and Fecal Exam

These are two important tests that your pet will undergo at the annual vet visit. The heartworm test is a blood test that checks for heartworm disease, which is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by parasitic worms. A fecal exam checks for gastrointestinal parasites that could harm your pet (and, in some cases, you) if left untreated.  

Moreover, holistic vets prefer an integrated approach and may also suggest using Selamectin for heartworm treatment along with some preventive measures that can be taken easily at home. 

4. Flea Test and Treatment

Fleas are tiny wingless insects that live on an animal's coat, feeding on its blood. They are nocturnal and hide in cracks in the floor or furniture during the day.

While some animals may scratch and bite at their skin after a blood meal, others will not. Signs of infestation include anemia, hair loss, skin irritation, and allergic reactions. In some cases of allergy to fleas in pets (atopy), dogs are extremely itchy with hypersensitive skin - which can lead to ear infections because they're constantly scratching themselves on furniture, etc., leading to fluid build-up in their ears. 

If your pet is diagnosed with fleas, then your vet may recommend using Revolution for cats and Revolution for dogs, along with regular check-ups and some precautions.  

5. Additional Services

Some pets may require additional services at their annual vet visit, such as dental cleaning if your vet notices signs of dental disease or allergy testing if you mention that your pet has been itching, scratching, or rubbing their face. The annual vet visit is the perfect time to cover all the bases and take care of outstanding issues.

6. Opportunity to Ask Questions

Maybe you've been wondering if your cat sleeps too much or if your dog’s food is right for them. While you should always contact your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health or habits, many pet parents wait when the question doesn't seem pressing.

The annual vet visit is a great time to bring in a list of questions and talk to your veterinarian candidly about your pet’s routines, behaviors, and nutrition. You might end up with answers that can help your pet live a happier, healthier life.

What are you waiting for? Contact your veterinarian now to schedule your furry friend’s next appointment. And if you want to save 25% on vet visits, sign up for PetPlusFind out more at PetPlus.com.

Use a vet finder to find the right veterinarian for your pet.
More on Vets and Vet Visits

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What Happens During Your Cat's Examination
10 Must-Ask Questions at Senior Dogs Vet Visits

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