Visit with a Holistic Veterinarian
Making the decision to switch from a conventional veterinarian to a holistic veterinarian is easy. We all want to find the best care possible for our pets, and a holistic veterinarian can offer a wide variety of choices for health care. But how does one find a holistic veterinarian, and what should be expected from the first visit?
Finding a holistic veterinarian can be more challenging than finding a conventional veterinarian. There are approximately 1,000 members of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) and not every city or town has a holistic veterinarian. The easiest way to find one is to visit the website of the AHVMA (https://www.ahvma.org/) and see if there is a holistic veterinarian nearby. If there are several holistic veterinarians in your area, visit each doctor and his or her staff and then choose the hospital where you feel most comfortable. If there are no holistic veterinarians in your area, some members of the AHVMA will do phone consultations with your pet’s veterinarian and can offer help in this way.
While each holistic doctor has his or her own way of doing things, it’s important to ask the following questions in addition to any that you may have.
What Food Do You Recommend?
The specific brand recommended is not as important as the quality of food. Holistic veterinarians typically recommend or sell natural brands of food. Additionally, they are usually open to discussing the possibility of preparing a balanced diet at home whether it’s cooked or raw as well as the pros and cons of each diet. In general, a holistic veterinarian will discuss nutrition and recommend the best diet that fits the needs of you and your pet.
What Vaccinations Do You Recommend?
Vaccinations in and of themselves are not bad and do not need to be avoided. Holistic veterinarians know that vaccinations are only one part of a pet’s health care. Most holistic veterinarians recommend a blood antibody test called a titer test, which allows the doctor to determine if and when a pet needs immunizations. Pet owners should keep in mind that some vaccines, such as rabies, are required by law, and they should consult with their veterinarians regarding complying with regulations.
Do You Recommend the Use of Conventional Treatments for Any Illness?
A truly integrative or holistic doctor is open to whatever treatment will help your pet recover from a disease and stay healthy. A holistic veterinarian usually has many different treatment options for your pet, including all of the treatment available to conventional veterinarians (surgery, medications, etc.) as well as a number of “alternative” therapies. These may include acupuncture, nutritional supplementation, flower essences, homeopathic remedies and herbal remedies.
What Holistic Modalities Do You Offer in Your Practice?
Each holistic doctor has developed expertise in certain therapies. It is impossible for any one doctor to be able to do everything. In my practice, for example, I offer homeopathy, herbal remedies, flower essences, acupuncture and nutritional therapies. I refer clients and their pets for other therapies that may benefit them, including chiropractic care, massage therapy and physical therapy. In general, most holistic veterinarians are skilled in and can offer at least two or three of these healing modalities.
How Often Should You See My Pet If It’s Healthy, and What Will You Do at Each Visit?
There is no right or wrong answer here other than to know that a truly holistic veterinarian is interested in keeping your pet healthy and preventing disease. Therefore, regular veterinary visits and necessary laboratory testing are important. In my practice, pets under five generally come for an annual visit unless they have a medical problem that needs frequent attention. The annual visit includes a physical examination, blood and urine testing and fecal analysis. Pets five years and older have the same testing done at least twice a year unless they are being treated for specific problems, in which case I usually recommend a visit every three to four months.
Do You Recommend I Give My Pet Any Supplements?
Holistic veterinarians accept the fact that while complete and natural diets can usually meet a pet’s nutritional needs, no diet in the world can meet every pet’s health requirements. Therefore, many holistic veterinarians routinely place their patients, both healthy and sick, on a variety of supplements. Some combination of the following products can help your pet: antioxidants, enzymes, probiotics, fish oil, health maintenance formulas and choline (especially useful for older pets).
If your pet gets sick, your local holistic veterinarian can offer you a variety of treatment choices.
Shawn Messonnier, DVM is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. He lives in Plano, Texas and practices at Paws & Claws Animal hospital and Holistic Pet Center.