Holistic veterinarians are different from conventional veterinarians. Animal health care in general is split. There are conventional vets, holistic vets and, more recently, integrative vets. While many principles are shared among practices, methodologies are often quite different.
Traditional veterinary practice (conventional) is much like what Western medicine is for humans. The focus is aimed at determining what the problem is and then trying to solve it.
While a traditional veterinarian is a professional with your pet’s best interest at heart, he or she is sometimes at a loss as to how to best solve a chronic or undetermined condition. Western medicine is based primarily in pharmacological medicine. Many times a conventional veterinarian will look to prescribe medication that may silence symptoms but not resolve the underlying problem.
Conventional veterinary medicine has become increasingly advanced and a wide array of techniques and options are now available to the average pet owner. Ultrasound, x-ray, MRI, chemotherapy, blood transfusion, and physical therapy are commonly used and, as many of us know, tend to run up the bill.
Holistic veterinarians practice Eastern thought in that the body is treated as an individual and as a whole. While two different patients may present similar symptoms, their respective treatments may be as quite dissimilar. In addition, holistic vet practice is centered on keeping the pet healthy overall to prevent issues from starting. When a chronic issue surfaces, holistic veterinarians are likely to look for herbal supplements, whole food diets, complementary and alternative therapies like acupuncture.
Diseases are seen as a natural course of life and not necessarily something to ‘solve.’ Moreover, health and disease are viewed as a natural rhythm of life and fully inter-related
In the book titled The Veterinarians’ Guide to Natural Remedies for Cats, Dr. Mark Haverkos tells author Martin Zucker a story from when he was a medical student that helped shaped his future in holistic veterinary practice.
He had a conversation with Frank Fool’s Crow who was a respected Sioux medicine man. Unfortunately, due to language barriers, they had trouble fully communicating. He says, “I wanted to know how he treated urinary infections with herbs. The translator didn’t do a good job in explaining what the urinary tract was. In the back and forth between us, I referred to ‘making water.’ The meaning now became clearer to the medicine man, but he had been around for too long to make a generality.”
Dr. Haverkos was surprised to hear the older man reply, “Whose water? Yours? Mine? A cat’s? Which cat?” In other words, in order to treat a problem, we have to know the individual. “With that one comment the significance of individual treatment dawned on me, and I think I became a much less arrogant medical student.”
Dr. Marty Goldstein, practicing holistic veterinarian and author, says that holistic medicine is about finding the root cause of a problem and treating from there, not simply treating the symptom. “As an example, if we see an animal who developed symptoms of chronic colitis after receiving unnecessary vaccines, we don’t give antibiotics and steroids to mask the symptom of bloody diarrhea. Instead, we’ll use acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal remedies, vitamin/mineral supplementation and other non-toxic, alternative options to restore metabolic balance and true health,” he says on his website, DrMarty.com.
An integrative approach is one that combines conventional veterinary practice and holistic veterinary practice. The veterinarian has studied traditional medicine, but he or she recognizes that holistic medicine is a valuable addition and in some cases may be the best course of action for a patient. This type of veterinarian realizes that conventional and holistic medicine can complement one another.
An integrative approach is the most open-minded approach. This type of veterinarian can look to all available options as viable for the patient and does not approach the situation from just one perspective.