What Is a Holistic Veterinarian, and How to Find the Right One for Your Pet?
Natural remedies such as food, herbal medicine, and acupuncture aren't just for humans. They are treatments for your dog, cat, or guinea pig, too, and they come from a holistic veterinarian, who uses a combination or conventional medicine and natural remedies to treat your pets' ailments.
But holistic veterinarians do more than use natural remedies. "A holistic veterinarian is looking at the pet as a whole, where everything is connected, versus just treating symptoms," explains holistic veterinarian Dr. Katie Woodley, DVM. They're concerned with sousing out the root cause of a problem, she says, and then treating that underlying issue—not just reducing its symptoms. For example, if your pet has an allergy, a conventional veterinarian might treat the problem with steroids, but the problem could return as soon as steroids are no longer administered, Dr. Woodley says. But a holistic veterinarian would look for the root cause of the allergic reaction—such food or environment—and seek to resolve the issue in a way that does not come back, she says.
There's nothing wrong with conventional medicine, of course. Both conventional and holistic "methods have their strengths and weaknesses," says Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, owner of Montclair Veterinary Care and Rover health expert, who practices integrative medicine, which is a combination of both methods.
Both conventional and holistic veterinarians receive the same conventional medicine training, but holistic veterinarians further their education through the study of practices such as food therapy, herbal medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, and more, Dr. Woodley explains. Pet parents might seek a holistic veterinarian for a number of reasons, Dr. Richter says: They might prefer a holistic philosophy for their own healthcare, and want their pet to experience the same. Or, he says, they've tried conventional medicine and haven't seen the results they ideally want. A pet that's in pain, for example, may not improve with medication—but a holistic veterinarian could try acupuncture, supplements, or herbal medicine to aid other medications, Dr. Woodley says.
Other unique treatments and services holistic veterinarians may offer could include chiropractic care, ozone therapy, or homotoxicology, says Dr. Richter, who adds that "some [treatments] are more scientifically based than others and what specific therapies are offered by a holistic veterinarian varies greatly based on their education, experience, and personal philosophy."
To find the best holistic veterinarian for you—and for your pet's needs—Dr. Richter recommends going to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association's website, where you can search for holistic veterinarians in their area. There, you'll also be able to see what unique certifications a veterinarian has—so, for example, if you think your pet needs acupuncture, you can filter the results to find holistic veterinarians that provide acupuncture service in your area, Dr. Woodley says. It's always smart to check reviews too, she adds, "to see if other people have found them helpful for the care of their pet." Perusing their website and social media might help you get a sense of their philosophy, she says, and help you to determine "if it resonates with you as a pet parent."