Holistic veterinary care is a movement that is gaining speed. People are beginning to want to move away from expensive medications and toward natural, preventative health measures. Many critics of holistic veterinary care believe that it is mostly anecdotal and does not bear the proof  that conventional veterinary care does. However, believers in the holistic philosophy argue that there are many FDA approved treatments that kill our pets or keep them sick. So what is the difference between holistic veterinary care and conventional veterinary care?

The whole body or the sum of its parts?

Manna and the Computer Screen

Manna inspecting the computer.

The underlying philosophy that makes holistic veterinary care different from conventional veterinary care is how the body is viewed. These views are the same views seen in holistic and conventional care for humans. Conventional veterinarians use a reductionistic view of the body; each organ is separate from all of the rest and therefore is treated individually.  In this philosophy, an illness belongs to specific part (or parts) of the body. As an illustration, the conventional philosophy views the body like a computer. If the sound won’t work on your computer then it is assumed that the problem is with the speakers, headphones or sound card. The rest of the computer is considered to be in working order. Holistic veterinarians view the body as a whole; organs function together and problems in one leads to problems in others. In this way of thinking, an illness does not belong to just one part of the body, but the whole body. This point of view looks at the body more like a watch that is run by a set of gears. If the watch is not displaying the proper time, it is not assumed that something is wrong with the watches hands or even the mechanism that moves the hands. It could be a problem with any one of the watches gears or parts that is causing a chain reaction with the rest of the parts. The whole watch is considered broken when it doesn’t display the correct time.

Determining a Diagnosis

When you take your cat to a conventional veterinarian for an illness related visit, you can expect that there will be a lot of tests. To determine the cause of your cat’s symptoms, the  veterinarian will do things like blood tests, urine tests, fecal tests, and x-rays. All of these tests will help the veterinarian to decide which illness (based on accepted definitions) your cat is suffering from. The exact illness would then be treated. On the other  hand, the holistic veterinarian will want to know all about your cat’s life. Issues like your cat’s behavior, relationship with you and others in the household, diet,  and mental state are discussed. Rather than diagnosing an exact illness per say, potential problems the the previously mentioned issues are considered and treated.

Holistic Treatments Options vs. Conventional Treatment Options

A Veterinarian, 2 kittens, and a boy

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Conventional veterinary treatments are mostly pharmaceutical or surgical. They are based on treatments that have gone through the process of becoming FDA approved and passed. These treatments tend to focus on relieving or eliminating the symptoms of the illness, though sometimes they do delve a little deeper into the problem. There is a large variety of treatment options with holistic veterinary care. Treatments may include nutrition , acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic , herbal , behavior modification, or any variety of therapies (massage, music, augmentation, etc). The idea is not just to treat the symptoms, but to clear the whole body of illness. Pharmaceuticals are avoided because of the horrible side effects they can have. Many holistic treatments do not carry the FDA seal of approval.To clarify, not being approved by the FDA does not mean that they have not been studied or tested, simply that they haven’t gone through the process set forth by the FDA. Any ethical holistic veterinarian will inform you of their suggested treatment’s standing with the FDA.

How do you feel about holistic veterinarians?

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