Everything You Need to Know About Holistic Vets vs. Conventional Vets

Veterinarian examination room, digital xray on monitor screen
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Veterinarians are doctors that are licensed to practice medicine on animals of all species. All veterinarians receive training to work on all species of animals while in school and are exposed primarily to conventional treatment options. But some veterinarians opt to take a different approach to treating animals and choose to practice holistic medicine. It is important for pet owners to understand that conventional medicine is likely the most effective way for your pet to get immediate medical attention, and it's also important to know how holistic and conventional veterinarians are different before choosing a provider for their pet.

What Is a Conventional Veterinarian?

Traditional medical treatments and protocols involving medications and surgery are referred to as being a part of Western, allopathic, mainstream, orthodox, biomedicine, or conventional medicine. Conventional veterinarians practice this mainstream type of medicine and recommend using pharmaceuticals, surgery, and radiation to treat various diseases. This type of medicine is what is typically found in most animal hospitals and the most proven and science-backed option.

Conventional veterinarians recommend vaccinating pets for diseases, using antibiotics for infections, steroids, pain killers, and anti-inflammatories for pain and inflammation, and surgery to correct or correct issues in a pet.

What Is a Holistic Veterinarian?

Unlike a conventional veterinarian, holistic veterinarians utilize treatments such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic practice, and homeopathy in their treatment plans. Holistic veterinarians have traditionally been thought of as only using treatment plans that avoid drugs, surgery, and other conventional therapies. Holistic veterinarians typically have the same training as conventional veterinarians but have sought to learn other modes of treatment that may not be considered main stream. They typically incorporate multi-modal, whole body approaches to treatment and may utilize more alternative methods to help a pet than a conventional veterinarian might pursue.

Many holistic veterinarians avoid vaccines and medications. A holistic approach to veterinary medicine is gradually being incorporated into many conventional treatments sometimes making the line between conventional and holistic medicine blurry.

Holistic Veterinary Treatment Options

Some holistic treatment options are now widely accepted by conventional veterinarians, especially after studies have shown benefit to the pet, such as incorporating acupuncture for chronic pain reduction. Other treatments are not as welcomed into traditional medicine due to a lack of evidence that are helpful.Some holistic or integrative treatment options that pet owners might see include:

It is important to remember that holistic treatments are not replacements for traditional medicine. Medications, vaccinations, surgery, and other conventional treatment options may still be necessary for a pet. Homeopathy is not as effective as surgery and supplements do not replace vaccines.

What Type of Veterinarian Is Right For Your Pet?

Conventional medicine has been incorporating more and more holistic medicine techniques in recent years. Vaccinations and other conventional treatments are still important for pet health and healing. Multi-modal treatment plans often include both conventional and holistic treatment options so the distinction between types of veterinarians is getting harder to recognize in many cases.

If your conventional veterinarian does not practice any holistic medicine, you may consider consulting with a holistic veterinarian for specific complementary treatment options. Holistic medicine cannot replace vaccinations and other forms of conventional medicine but it may offer adjunctive therapy options to pets who aren't responding to traditional treatment or cannot tolerate some drugs or therapies. Sometimes conventional medicine, such as surgery, is the only way to address a pet's problem. Every pet and every situation is different.

Potential Dangers of Holistic Treatment Options

Ignoring evidence-based options can be very dangerous to pet owners and their pets if a pet owner chooses to completely avoid conventional medicine. For example, vaccinations are proven to be an effective means of disease prevention and should not be ignored despite the fact that many strictly holistic veterinarians may not offer them. This is particularly true in the case of rabies vaccines since rabies may be passed from pets to humans and is considered fatal to both. Completely avoiding the use of proven medications and surgeries to treat illness can be very harmful to a pet. Some of these options may fall under the umbrella of holistic medicine, but no matter the type of treatment, it is important to use evidence-based therapies to help give your pet the best care possible.

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  1. What is Holistic Veterinary Care? Exploring This Open-Minded Approach? St. George's University.

  2. Memon, M A et al. Integrative veterinary medical education and consensus guidelines for an integrative veterinary medicine curriculum within veterinary collegesOpen veterinary journal vol. 6,1 (2016): 44-56. doi:10.4314/ovj.v6i1.7