What is holistic veterinary medicine?
Why is someone like me, a non-veterinarian, writing about holistic medicine for pets? Because I know a lot about holistic medicine (certainly more than most conventionally trained veterinarians) and an awful lot about how, why, and if it works with pets.
Although my medical license is in “human” acupuncture and Chinese medicine, over the more than twenty years in private practice, I have accumulated more experience treating animals holistically than most “holistic” vets will ever have. I always work directly with, or under the supervision of, the primary veterinarian who oversees the entire case of the animal. This has ensured that the pet receives the best of both Western and alternative care.
Why holistic medicine for your pet?
Veterinary medicine has always benefited from advances in human medicine. As people look for and choose effective, safe, and holistic alternatives for themselves, eventually their interest and awareness spreads out to other members of their family and ultimately to their pets.
Holistic Veterinary Medicine is becoming increasingly popular for animals for all the same reasons it has had such an increase in usage and popularity for humans: it's non-toxic, gentle, and effective and in many cases a great alternative to toxic drugs or invasive surgery.
Initially, veterinary medicine took liberally from human alternative medicine. At this point, within the holistic veterinary community, certification programs and teaching tracks exist that are specific for veterinarians. Some veterinary schools even have holistic specialty tracks.
Holistic veterinary medicine is as broad as holistic medicine for humans is. However, a few main modalities that are most commonly seen and utilized include: acupuncture, Chinese and western herbal medicine, chiropractic, bach flower and other flower remedies and Homeopathy. Let’s look at the various modalities.
The most prevalent and popular - and also considered the most medical of all the techniques - is acupuncture. Did you know that, since there is no placebo effect in animals, the excellent results humans get from acupuncture can be verified in studies repeated on animals?
Acupuncture for small animals is very popular and, among the horse crowd, it's almost standard therapy for racing and show horses. As in human medicine, acupuncture is effectively applied in pain cases, as well as in chronic and debilitating cases. There are two different certifying programs for vets who want to learn acupuncture.
Another very popular application of a human technique is chiropractic. There are probably as many “human” chiropractors as vets trained in veterinary chiropractic - although, again, a human-licensed chiropractor must work under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. There are two programs that vets can attend for chiropractic training and certification. One concentrates on the “hard” adjustments that most “human” chiropractors do, and the other uses an instrument called an activator to adjust the spine and other joints.
Two therapies that really do not require much medical training are extremely effective and very popular among pet owners. These are bach flower remedies and homeopathy. Certainly classically trained homeopathists study for many years to attain their mastery of the remedies, but these days there are combination remedies available directly to the consumer that are easily applied to animals and can be extremely effective.
Bach flower remedies are homeopathic dilutions of flower material developed by Edward Bach, an English homeopath, in the 1930s. Bach flower remedies and other flower essences made by various other companies, are easily available to pet owners and can be selected by symptoms. Rescue Remedy is the most widely known and popular of the flower remedies, and is useful in many situations including stress, new home adjustment, and illness.
There is an offshoot of homeopathy call homo-toxicolgy that is applied by injecting homeopathic remedies into acupuncture and trigger points. There is a training program for vets in this sub-specialty as well.
Herbal medicine is another area of interest among holistic vets. There is a Chinese herbal training program available in Florida for interested vets. Just as in human herbal medicine, animals that take herbs often can get the same results as with drugs, but without the toxicity and side effects. Herbs should never be administered unless by a qualified and trained veterinary herbalist, as certain herbs can be contraindicated for certain species of animals.
These are the main methods of holistic treatment in veterinary medicine. There are additional holistic methods that have also been adapted from human holistic medicine that vets can train in. Some of these methods and techniques include Veterinary NAET, CRA, and Bio-Kinetics.