Holistic vs. Conventional Vet Care: What’s The Difference

We humans are recognizing the value of holistic health care for ourselves more and more, so why wouldn’t you consider a natural approach to health for your best buddy, too? Of course, if you’ve only ever used a conventional veterinarian, you might be wondering how a visit to a holistic veterinarian might be different.

Well, it might surprise you to find that they’re different in a number of ways, much like the differences between holistic and conventional practitioners for people. In fact, a holistic vet’s approach to diagnosing and treating disease can involve a variety of alternative therapies your conventional vet never even heard of or considered.

Let’s take a look at the differences between holistic and conventional veterinary care, so you can see why we think a holistic approach might be better for your furry friend.

Holistic vs. Conventional Vet Care: What's The Difference

1. Holistic vets consider the whole animal, its lifestyle, and its environment.

When you take your dog to a holistic vet for an ear infection, he will, of course, examine your dog’s ear. But he’ll also look at his overall health, lifestyle, and environment to see how they might be contributing to his ear infection.

On the other hand, a conventional vet will probably take a culture of the ear and prescribe some antibiotics. End of story. While this approach may clear up your dog’s current infection, it does nothing to determine what caused it in the first place. Which means there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing with the same issue again in a few weeks or months.

Food and environmental allergies, stress, swimming or bathing without properly drying the ears afterwards… These are all common contributors to chronic ear infections in dogs. Those issues aren’t going to go away just because your vet prescribed an antibiotic.

Here’s another example. When your puppy hates the crate, his stress and anxiety could contribute to diarrhea and vomiting after he eats. What he really needs is proper training to help him see his crate as a safe, cozy retreat, not a source of punishment or anxiety. Medication from a conventional vet will only provide temporary relief and you would be medicating him unnecessarily.

Getting to the underlying cause of an ailment is crucial for ensuring that your pet doesn’t have the same health issues time and time again.

2. Holistic veterinarians only turn to invasive surgery and drugs as a last resort.

When you visit your conventional veterinarian, his first recommendation will likely be drugs or invasive surgery to overcome whatever is ailing your pet. That’s because surgery and prescription medications were the primary methods of treatment he was taught in veterinary school.

Holistic vets, on the other hand, take an entirely opposite approach. They favor more natural, less invasive options as the preferred solution. That’s not to say that a holistic vet won’t recommend medication or surgery when they’re required. But they’re only recommended as a last resort, when other options aren’t working or when your dog’s life is at risk.

3. A holistic vet uses alternative treatments.

So, if holistic vets don’t recommend conventional drugs or surgery as primary treatment, how do they treat your pet’s health condition? Well, it turns out they have a variety of alternatives at their disposal!

As we’ve already mentioned, holistic treatment means treating the whole animal, rather than just symptoms. Therefore, many different alternative modalities are very useful, including nutrition therapy, herbal remedies, aromatherapy, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, lifestyle changes, and much more.

In many cases, these alternative treatments are just as effective, if not more so, than convention treatments. For example, curcumin (the active component in the spice turmeric) has been shown to reduce joint inflammation and arthritis pain just as efficiently and more safely than NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which are the go-to treatment for conventional practitioners.

Of course, the chosen alternative treatment will depend on your pet and will vary, depending on your holistic vet’s preference. So, if there’s a particular treatment you would like to try for your furry friend, do some research to locate a holistic vet in your area that offers it.

4. Holistic vets don’t promote dangerous over-vaccination.

If you’ve only ever been to a conventional vet, you’re probably quite familiar with the cycle of yearly vaccination boosters. Holistic vets believe that this cycle of over-vaccination may be harmful to your dog’s health.

In fact, you may have noticed that your conventional vet has gone from vaccinating your dog for rabies each year to every three years. That’s because many experts believe that yearly vaccinations are unnecessary and may even be dangerous.

A holistic vet may waive vaccinations entirely based on your preference, your pet’s overall health, or your pet’s age. Some will also use a titer test to see if your pet has immunity to certain illnesses before recommending vaccines. When you’re researching holistic veterinarians, be sure to ask about his vaccination protocols to ensure that they align with your own philosophies.

5. Holistic veterinarians recognize the importance of proper diet.

Besides the diverse alternative therapies already mentioned, one of the most effective tools in the holistic veterinarian’s arsenal is proper diet. Just like us, many pets are fed a consistent diet of processed foods that are a far cry from what their bodies are meant to consume.

Many of these processed pet foods contain ingredients like soy, corn, wheat, and other grains that contribute to inflammation and chronic health issues. Holistic veterinarians often recommend a species appropriate diet, such as raw pet food or at least a higher quality, all-natural diet that’s easier for dogs to digest and provides optimal nutrition.

Unfortunately, much like conventional human doctors, conventional veterinarians aren’t likely to offer much guidance in the way of diet. Once again, that’s because they weren’t provided with much nutrition education in vet school.

Some Final Thoughts

It’s also important to know that many holistic vets are open to using a combination of alternative and conventional treatments, depending on what’s best for your dog. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. The most important thing is to find a holistic vet that’s willing to consider your own beliefs and your pet’s best interest when making recommendations for your fur baby’s health care.

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