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What Is A Holistic Vet And Should You Schedule An Appointment?

As an advocate for your dog’s health and happiness, your decisions for her care will have a great impact on her life. You choose what to put in her bowl and how much she exercises, but even the best pup parent can’t do it all.

It’s important to have a vet you can trust and rely on. You have a lot of options, and one of those options is to choose a holistic vet. While most veterinary offices fall under the category of “conventional,” holistic vets are becoming more popular. You owe it to your dog to find out exactly what holistic means and decide if it’s something that could benefit her well-being.

holistic vet

What Exactly is a Holistic Vet?

Holistic veterinary science refers to treating the body as a whole rather than splicing health conditions into individual symptoms. Instead of treating a dog with anti-diarrhea medicine, for example, a holistic vet will look at the underlying problem causing the diarrhea. They’ll suggest a treatment plan that focuses on solving that big issue and take into account what’s happening in the dog’s entire body, not just the digestive tract. Emotional well-being, environmental changes, and overall health are all taken into account.

While the idea of holistic healing isn’t new, it still suffers from general misunderstandings. People think the word holistic is synonymous with alternative, all-natural, and unproven. While it’s true most holistic vets will suggest homeopathic or naturopathic treatments before anything else, holistic does not mean anti-medicine. A holistic vet’s goal is to find a course of treatment that is the most beneficial for overall health. If a conventional drug best meets that requirement, a holistic vet will recommend it. They will also, however, typically suggest more natural paths to support overall health as non-invasively as possible. Lifestyle changes, diet changes, and exercise plans are commonly suggested to bring about overall healing. In general, holistic vets are open-minded to all types of treatment. They prescribe based on what’s best for a patient’s comprehensive and long-term health.

More About Common Treatments

In addition to FDA-approved drugs and modern surgeries, holistic vets rely on all forms of therapies and treatments to heal their patients. They take into account everything we’ve learned from ancient techniques along with the latest advancements in veterinary science and technology. Here are a few examples of treatments a holistic vet is likely to recommend.

holistic vet

Chiropractic

Chiropractic care is a non-invasive treatment technique based on proper alignment of the spinal cord and the spine’s relationship to the nervous system. People visit the chiropractor when they’re recovering from car accidents, sports injuries, and when they’re simply feeling stiff and uncomfortable. It can be equally effective for pets.

Herbal Medicine

Before the technology of modern pharmaceuticals, people relied on natural substances like herbs, flowers, and other plants to treat specific maladies. There are countless different herbs, and each one contains different combinations of vitamins, minerals, and other components used in broad-spectrum healing. American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association lists Western herbs, Ayurverdic herbs from India, and traditional Chinese herbs as go-to treatments for everything from arthritis in senior dogs to cancer. In some cases, herbal medicines are used to allow for lower doses of pharmaceutical drugs that come with harmful side effects.

Nutritional Therapy

Holistic vets believe diet is one of the most important factors of a dog’s health. They guide pet owners on what kinds of foods are species appropriate and how to make sure dogs receive all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Health conditions can often be treated by filling in dietary gaps, and good nutrition is also used as a preventative measure to maintain long-term health.

holistic vet

What to Expect at a Holistic Vet Appointment

Like any other vet appointment, your first visit to a holistic vet will start with an overview of your dog’s health, history, and lifestyle. The vet will perform a thorough examination likely listening to your dog’s heart, inspecting her skin for  bumps and lumps, and looking into her eyes, ears, and mouth. They might also draw blood for testing or ask you to bring in a stool or urine sample. You’ll have the opportunity to talk about your concerns and ask specific questions. Overall, a visit to a holistic vet isn’t much different than to a “regular” vet.

The main difference you’ll notice is a holistic vet will ask more questions about your dog’s emotional well-being. They want a well-rounded picture of your dog’s health. That image includes any stress, fear, or anxiety she might be feeling. As a result, you’ll most likely talk to your holistic vet a lot more than you would with a traditional vet. It’ll be an open discussion where they want to know everything you can tell them about your dog. Afterward, they’ll explain their evaluation and recommendations. Any diagnosis they make will come from the same tests and knowledge any other vet would use. They’ll draw on all aspects of veterinary science and holistic healing to offer a treatment path that gently nurtures your dog’s individual health.

What Kind of Conditions Do Holistic Vets Treat

It’s impossible to list every health condition holistic vets regularly treat. Regardless of diagnosis, a holistic vet will work with a pet parent to develop a treatment plan that causes the least amount of negative side effects while improving the patient’s overall quality of life. Here are a few of the most common ailments successfully treated with holistic methods.

holistic vet

Digestive Issues

While conventional approaches to digestive issues like irritable bowel disease, colitis, and pancreatitis include a string of corticosteroid and immunosuppressive drugs to bring relief from symptoms, a holistic approach focuses on the underlying cause. Depending on a dog’s diagnosis, a holistic vet will work to resolve gastrointestinal imbalances through a custom diet. Digestive enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, and other nutrients might be suggested.

Chronic Joint Issues

Osteoarthritis is a common condition found in senior dogs, and even many younger dogs. There’s also hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia to watch out for. According to Holistic Pet Info, supplements including glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are go-to holistic treatments for canine joint pain. The goal is to improve cartilage and reduce inflammation without putting the dog in danger of drug-related side effects. Other treatments like acupuncture and massage are also good for pain relief.

Cancer

There are few things more devastating than a cancer diagnosis. When it’s your dog, deciding on a treatment path is especially difficult. Chemotherapy and radiation are usually the recommended actions, but it isn’t always an option. As with people, chemotherapy causes serious side effects in dogs, and it can often diminish a pet’s quality of life. Holistic vets offer ways to fight the disease, but they typically prioritize quality of life. Dogs Naturally lists supplements and nutritional changes as being important tools in fighting cancer. In cases where the dog is healthy enough for chemotherapy, a holistic vet will offer advice on natural substances and treatments to reduce side effects. CBD oil, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and reiki are all options.

holistic vet

Should You Schedule an Appointment?

As the person who knows your dog best, you’re the only one who can make decisions for her health. Veterinarians can give advice and recommendations, but it’s ultimately up to you. Both traditional vets and holistic vets have the same goal in mind. They each want to help your dog live a healthy life. Many pet owners turn toward holistic healing methods when they’re concerned about quality of life with chronic and long-term conditions. It’s also valued as a type of lifelong preventative healthcare.

If you’re interested in learning more abut the benefits of holistic healthcare for your pet, start with finding the right vet. Look for a holistic vet who has experience and training in specific treatments like herbal medicines, nutrition, and homeopathy. There is no special license that makes a vet a holistic vet. You want someone, however, with specialized training in addition to the required vet school. Go to your first appointment with an open mind and remember to ask questions. Your dog is relying on you to make the right decisions. Exploring all your options is the best way forward.

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Written by Amber King

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