Do You Need a Holistic Vet? Here’s What They Can Offer
Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about holistic veterinarians is that their treatments aren’t based on hard science.
What do most people think about holistic veterinarians? “That they do not address western approaches, that they are ‘woo woo’, and that they put down all western medication or surgery protocols,” says Dr. Tiffany Margolin, DVM, CVA, a practicing veterinarian specializing in pet nutrition and holistic medicine.
That, of course, is far from the truth. In fact, many holistic veterinarians actually run integrated practices, which means they combine traditional and alternative therapies to treat pets.
What Makes Holistic Vets Different
If you ask a holistic vet to pick one thing that makes them different than “regular” vets, they’ll generally tell you the same thing: holistic medicine is all about the big picture. “We look at the WHOLE animal, which includes lifestyle, mental well-being, diet, as well as medical issues,” says Judy Morgan, DVM, who runs two integrative veterinary practices that combine holistic medicine with traditional Western techniques. “Rather than suppressing symptoms with medications, our goal is to get the body to heal itself from within, so we don’t just give a pill that will be a quick fix or a medication that has to be used chronically.”
While western medicines (both human and animal) focus on treating the symptoms of a disease, holistic medicine looks at what’s beyond the obvious. “Truly ‘holistic’ medicine is defined by addressing the root of the pet’s symptoms, and treating both to eradicate the pathology and to strengthen the body’s natural means of fighting it and preventing further disease,” explains Margolin.
What Can a Holistic Vet Offer
Many holistic vets offer a range of treatments that vary depending on the animal. This means that two pets with the same disease might be treated differently in order to get the best results. “We try to achieve health that will be long-lasting,” says Morgan. “Cold laser and acupuncture can decrease pain without using drugs that may have side effects, and ACL tears can be treated without surgery many times.”
Holistic veterinarian care is also often used when the pet has already been treated with traditional therapies and ran out of options. “I have a little Cocker Spaniel patient that is 14 years old. Four years ago the University veterinary school treated her twice with chemotherapy and radiation for mast cell tumors, but the tumors kept coming back and were unresponsive and she was sent home to die,” Morgan says. “With diet, herbs, and nutraceutical therapy, I am happy to say the tumors have gotten smaller and the dog has had four more years of high quality life.”
Holistic Modalities and Options
Because not every holistic vet is the same, you’ll find that the treatment options vary greatly among practitioners. “I think there are as many therapies as there are holistic veterinarians,” says Morgan. “For instance, I love food therapy so that is my main focus, but I also use acupuncture, herbs, chiropractic, cold laser, glandular therapy, prolotherapy, and a little homeopathy.”
According to Margolin, you can also find holistic vets offering additional modalities, including nutritional supplements, myofascial release, allergy testing and treatment that centers around hyposensitization, essential oil therapy, IV Vitamin C therapy, and other chelation therapies and ozone therapies.
Position on Vaccines
There’s no standard position on vaccination among holistic vets. Instead, it varies from vet to vet. “My approach is to recommend first year vaccination followed by vaccination titers where we can do so,” says Margolin. “A couple of vaccinations cannot be titered, but these present less problems when given individually.”
In addition, many holistic vets waive vaccinations on senior and ill pets. “I think a truly holistic veterinarian is going to opt for minimal vaccinations, preferring to run blood titers instead,” says Morgan. “Most of my pets are rescues, so they usually get vaccinated with the rescue group as adults and I have no choice in that; I still titer every year. They have never needed boosters.”