What are Holistic Veterinarians?

Holistic veterinarians are becoming more and more prevalent in the pet world. Holism is not a new theory and moving it into the mainstream of animal care is more recent. The practice of holism has a straightforward definition: it treats the body as a whole. A vet who is a holistic practitioner will consider everything that is going on with their patient, which includes the emotional well-being as well. A holistic doctor may suggest a change in the overall lifestyle instead of only medication.

Types of Veterinarians

There are three types of veterinary care: integrative, conventional and holistic care. While many of the principles are shared by all three, holistic and integrative vets have methodologies that are different.

An integrative vet will combine both the conventional and holistic approach to veterinary medicine. This type of vet will use traditional medicine but recognizes the value in holistic medicine. They acknowledge that both types support animal wellness. The vet will use both conventional and alternative treatments for your pet. They will most likely be a member of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.

The vet who uses the traditional or conventional approach determines what the problem is and then tries to solve it. It’s solved by addressing the symptoms. They usually use synthetic steroids and antibiotic medicine. This does not always solve underlying or undetermined conditions. Some medications may quiet symptoms but not solve the problem. 

Holistic veterinary medicine realizes that a balanced immune system is a necessary healing force in your pet’s body. When the immunity factor is supported, disease may be delayed or even prevented. A vet who is in holistic practice conducts comprehensive physical exams. This includes asking questions about your pet’s behavior, diet and dietary history, past and recent medical history. The vet will also ask questions about your pet’s environment, any emotional stress and other contributing factors.

A holistic vet treats your pet’s body as a biological whole by considering how the systems are interconnected. This type of care is focused on finding the root cause and then treating the disease not treating the symptoms.

When You Visit a Holistic Veterinarian

A holistic vet’s visit is very similar to a regular vet’s visit. Your pet will be examined, and you’ll discuss any problems. The vet may ask you to bring a urine or stool sample depending on the issue. The vet will check your pet’s teeth and guns, could take a blood sample and check out your pet’s eyes and ears. The vet will run their hands over your pet’s body to check for unusual bumps or lumps, muscle mass, or water retention, and feel for gas or bloat.

The differences from conventicle veterinarians may be that there won’t be any stainless steel examination tables. They prefer to see their patients on the floor or in a pet bed. The vet will ask questions that deal with the emotional aspects of your pet. You will spend a lot of time talking to a holistic veterinarian.

Treatment may be different and will require some doing on your part. You may need to add herbs or homeopathic remedies to their diet, or excise your pet more often.

Some Common Therapies Used

Some of the standard therapies used in holistic medicine are:

  1. Acupuncture: This method works by inserting needles to stimulate specific points on your pet’s body. It’s used to speed healing and alleviate pain and has been used to treat everything from arthritis to diarrhea. Acupuncture is traditional Chinese medicine.
  2.  Homeopathy: The thought behind this type of alternative medicine is that whatever is the cause of the problem can be the solution also. This means your pet takes a small dose of whatever is causing the symptoms to help cure the problem.
  3.  Chiropractic: This treatment is used for pain management and musculoskeletal problems by using manual therapy or spinal manipulation on your pet.
  4. Chinese medicine: This type of medication uses herbal therapies, food therapy, hands-on treatment such as qigong and Tui na and acupuncture.

How Do You Become a Holistic Veterinarian?

Becoming a holistic vet is more than hanging out a shingle and waiting for patients. There are steps that are taken to become a certified holistic vet:

  • Bachelor’s degree: Not all degree programs to be a vet require a bachelor’s degree. The four-year degree program will satisfy these requirements if taken in Bachelor of Science in Biology or Animal Science.
  • Entrance exams: A veterinary graduate school requires a Medical College Admission Test or a Graduate Record Exam for admission. The GRE scores applicants on the quantitative reasoning abilities or verbal abilities. The MCAT, which is a multiple-choice exam, has topics which include the biological sciences, verbal reasoning, physical sciences, and writing.
  • DVM degree: Programs which are accredited DVN programs include subjects such as large and small animal medicine, physiology, anatomy, toxicology, and pharmacology. Plus, internship and residency are a must. There is hands-on training in areas of oncology, anesthesiology, cardiology, internal medicine, surgery, and theriogenology.
  • State licensure: Every state in the US requires that individuals must hold a state license to have worked as a vet. These licensing requirements are based on work experience and education. Plus, all the states require all vets to take the North America Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). This license is administered by the National Board of Veterinary Medicine Examiners and is conducted twice a year.
  • Certification: This step separates a holistic veterinarian from a general one. A holistic vet can take a certification program through the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy. This course teaches homeopathic techniques to veterinarians who are general practitioners. The program is 100-125 hours of training which teaches about alternative medical methods like homeopathic remedies, nutritional science, and whole-animal diagnosis and the treatment.

When choosing a vet and the treatment for your pet, explore all the options. Decide for yourself if the holistic medicine is right for you and for your pet.