One of the biggest ongoing trends in the pet wellness industry is holistic veterinary medicine. As people have started placing a higher priority on living healthy lifestyles and improving their well-being, they are also wanting the same for their pets. Pet owners are opting for holistic approaches to pet care which uses some combination of conventional medicine and various holistic modalities.
With this is mind, it is important to gain a foundational understanding of exactly what each method—conventional and holistic—entails. Interested in learning more about conventional and holistic pet care for your furry friend?
Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of what you should know about both!
Conventional Veterinary Care
Conventional medicine—also referred to as allopathic, orthodox, biomedicine, mainstream, or Western medicine—is essentially a practice through which veterinarians rely on traditional medical treatments and protocols to diagnose and treat any ailment or disease that your beloved pet may be facing. It is a method that centers itself on the use of drugs, radiation, surgery, and other pharmaceutical medications as a means of treating the immediate problem and alleviating the symptoms associated with your pet’s illness.
Before any of these treatment options are offered, conventional vets will typically perform a series of diagnostic and lab tests. These tests help them in making a definitive diagnosis on exactly what is causing your pet’s condition. Upon diagnosing the illness or disease, conventional vets will then focus on using one of the treatment options listed above that is most suited to reducing your pet’s symptoms. Some examples of the type of diagnostic tests that conventional vets utilize to aid them include: x-rays, urine tests, blood work, and ultrasounds.
As pet owners, I’m sure that none of this may come as a surprise. Conventional medicine is one of the most commonly used treatments in most vet clinics and animal hospitals, and when taking your pets to the vet—especially in situations where your furry friend is suffering from a disease or ailment—it is very likely that they may have experienced one of these treatments.
In terms of the effectiveness of conventional medicine, there is no denying that it can be a source of great relief for your pet—and in most cases, it is even life-saving. Generally speaking, conventional medicine is best for acute illnesses and injuries that happen suddenly and require urgent or short-term care based on the symptoms. It is likely one of the most effective ways for your pet to get immediate medical attention in cases of emergency.
Concerns Regarding Conventional Veterinary Care
The problem with conventional veterinary pet care is that it often simply treats and suppresses your pet’s symptoms without actually trying to seek out the root, underlying causes of the illness or disease. Yes—the use of drugs or pharmaceutical medication can provide your pet with quick relief, but what about pets that are battling chronic illnesses and disorders? For pet parents whose dog or cat may have a chronic condition or a more serious disease, like allergies or cancer, this method alone will not really help in effectively healing their health and improving their quality of life. In most cases, it can sometimes lead to your pet having to be on medication indefinitely. As opposed to simply masking their symptoms through the use of drugs—which only treats the surface level of your pet’s symptoms, you may find that they actually might require a more specialized/individualized treatment plan that can restore their overall health and wellbeing as a whole.
Other concerns of conventional veterinary pet care is that it is too expensive and may over-medicate our pets when there’s a possibility that other methods or treatments can be used. Therefore, a lot of pet owners have been seeking out alternative methods of pet care that will not only make their pets happy, but allow for them to enjoy a prolonged, healthier life—leading to the rise of a new and explosive trend: Holistic Pet Wellness.
Holistic Veterinary Care
Holistic medicine—also referred to as integrative care, alternative medicine, and Eastern medicine—is a natural approach to pet care that considers a pet’s overall health, combining both conventional and alternative methods of medicines. It is a form of care that takes a more preventative approach to healing by placing a focus point on your pet as a whole—body, mind, and spirit—in order to achieve higher levels of wellness and bring your pet’s body back into a more balanced state. Through natural treatments, holistic medicine promotes healthy lifestyle changes. According to The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), not only is holistic veterinary medicine described as being gentle and minimally invasive, but it aims to find and eliminate the root causes of a disease or illness, rather than focusing on just treating the symptoms. It also characterizes the idea of holistic thinking as being centered on “love, empathy, and respect”, which as pet owners, I’m sure is comforting to hear. Though holistic veterinary pet care is not generally accepted or considered to be a component of mainstream practice, it is still performed by some practitioners and is also seeing a rise in interest from pet owners who are looking for alternative veterinary care to make sure their pets are happy, healthy, and living their lives to the fullest!
One of the aspects of holistic medicine is the belief that each individual part of your pet’s being is connected and influences the other, which in turn can have an impact on their overall health. With this idea being the central focus of holistic pet care, holistic veterinarians recognize how important it is to construct personalized methods of treatment for your pet that is specifically tailored to each of their needs. This is because it helps holistic vets create a lifestyle that can help establish and maintain your pet’s overall health and wellbeing, which is what we all want for our furry companions. The methods that holistic veterinarians will commonly use to treat your pet includes: acupuncture, herbal remedies, nutritional therapy, chiropractic care and massage, homeopathy, laser therapy, and more.
Before developing these treatment plans, holistic veterinarians tend to take a deeper look for any possible triggers that might be causing the symptoms of your pet’s disease or illness. For instance, holistic veterinarians will look into your pet’s genetics, stress levels, nutritional needs, as well as family relationships. Lifestyle and environmental factors that could potentially be influencing their health is also taken into account. Even further, holistic vets will also look at your pet’s habits and behaviors, such as the type of food that they eat and the activities that they do on a daily basis.
Let’s take a look at some forms of holistic medicines that can benefit your pet!
Holistic Treatment Options
Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine that has been around for many years. It is a practice that involves inserting thin needles—with or without the use of electric current or therapeutic laser— into specific areas of the body, known as acupuncture points, where nerves and blood vessels meet. It is a method that aims to help the body heal by correcting any energy imbalances in the body. Aside from treating pain, there are various benefits it can produce for your pet. Not only can it improve blood circulation, but it can also reduce anxiety in pets as well. Acupuncture needles can also stimulate nerve function, relieve muscle spasms, reduce nausea, and release endorphins to reduce inflammation. Examples of diseases that can be treated with acupuncture include arthritis, diarrhea, and joint disease.
Low Level Laser Therapy
Laser therapy encourages healing by using a deep-penetrating light—at different frequencies—to stimulate cell regeneration. This method can benefit your furry friend by helping to improve nerve functions and wound healing, as well as reducing pain and inflammation caused by conditions like arthritis, chronic ear infections, and more.
Nutritional therapy essentially focuses on your pet’s diet. Holistic veterinarians will typically examine the types of food that your dog is eating and then work with you to determine the type of diet that is best for the health condition being treated. These diets should include a balance of vitamins, minerals, protein, and other nutritional components. A healthy and well-balanced nutrition is pivotal when it comes to overall health and wellbeing. With a change in diet, nutritional therapy can help your pet in terms of allergies, digestive problems, and more.
Herbal medicine uses herbs and plant remedies to treat your pet and is said to be one of the oldest forms of medicine that has been practiced for thousands of years. It can be useful in treating a plethora of conditions your pet may be facing such as arthritis, joint disease, and asthma. It can also reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Though herbal medicine can cause side effects for your pet such as vomiting or fatigue, it is far fewer than those resulting from conventional medicine involving pharmaceuticals. Ayurvedic herbs hailing from India and traditional Chinese herbs are examples of the type of herbs commonly used in this method.
Choosing Between Holistic and Conventional
For the most part, holistic veterinary care is beneficial in treating your furry friend, and should even be considered as essential. For one, there is a wide range of treatment options to be chosen from by holistic veterinarians that can help your pet—especially those with chronic illnesses where using conventional medicine by itself won’t help. Other benefits of holistic medicine is that it strengthens your pet’s immune system, is a good method for better pain management, can reduce pet care costs, and can potentially reduce—or eliminate—any of the side effects your pet can receive from medications. Holistic medicine also improves the overall happiness and wellbeing of your pet, which is always a major benefit. We love when our pets are happy and healthy! Therefore, for some pet owners, this is a route they may consider choosing.
However, that does not mean conventional medicine should be completely disregarded in favor of holistic medicine. Mentioned earlier, conventional medicine is very effective when it comes to treating your pet in cases of emergency since your pet is given immediate attention. Not to mention, the diagnostic tools that are used by veterinarians in this practice are not only sophisticated, but are highly important when it comes to detecting and identifying illnesses and diseases early.
Instead, pet owners should combine conventional medicine with holistic medicine, that way their pet can use the best of both practices when it comes to restoring their health, including having more options to choose from whenever they are sick. Despite the differences, all veterinarians who practice each of these methods have the same goal: promoting animal health by providing your loving pet with the utmost care.
*This post is intended for informational purposes only. Always seek out professional veterinary help and advice for any inquiries you may have.