Holistic Pet Veterinarian Practices

If you've decided to choose a different pet veterinarian for your dog or cat, you may have questions about holistic pet veterinarian practices. What does holistic mean? Is a holistic veterinarian a real veterinarian? The elements of a holistic pet veterinarian practice will be explained here.

Holistic Approach

The term "holistic" is used when considering a whole being, instead of the being's individual parts. In holistic medicine, the whole individual is assessed, rather than just the symptoms of the individual's medical complaint. For instance, if a dog comes to the veterinarian with a runny nose, coughing and itchy skin, a traditional medical approach would be to prescribe antihistamines to treat suspected allergies. The holistic approach to this situation would be to assess the dog's entire life, from diet to living environment to emotional state, to understand the underlying causes of the symptoms. At that point, an integrated strategy would be designed to address each of the contributing factors to the condition.


Veterinarians must go through many years of post-graduate academic work and training to receive a diploma from an accredited veterinary college. Following graduation, individuals must pass the mandatory state and federal examinations to earn a license which qualifies them to practice veterinary medicine in a particular state. For a veterinarian to be certified to practice in a holistic modality, such as homeopathic medicine, acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine, she must complete further coursework specific to the modality and demonstrate knowledge by experience in individual cases. Any veterinarian can refer to herself as holistic even if she has had no formal training, but follows a holistic approach to medicine. Many conventional vets are willing to look beyond traditional medicine and use an integrative approach. Treating animals is considerably different than treating humans, so seek someone professionally trained in veterinary medicine, rather than a human practitioner who also has knowledge of animals, to treat your pet.

The Holistic Practice

A holistic veterinary practice will look exactly like a normal veterinarian's office. Since a holistic vet must first be licensed as a conventional veterinarian, the same diagnostic and treatment equipment is used. This is called complimentary veterinary medicine. That is, the conventional and holistic approaches to diagnosis and treatment complement, or add to, each other. In a holistic practice a room might be set aside for only those patients being treated holistically, thus incorporating the different modalities in one quiet, convenient location. You may notice the presence of aromatherapy in the room and the absence of an examination table, but the addition of a chiropractic table. The room might also feature natural lighting and soft furniture. All of these accommodations are intended to project a calm, stress-free environment so that your pet can feel more at ease and the veterinarian can get a better understanding of the condition of your pet.

As holistic veterinary medicine gains a larger following among pet owners, more vets will become proficient in this specialty. Advances in veterinary medicine equal those in human medicine, and new and better approaches to keeping your pet healthy are becoming readily available.