There is much to explore in the area of holistic pet care today. Nutritional protocols–such as homemade raw food diets and recipes created by individuals who have the knowledge and experience to share what has worked for them and resonates within the context of feeding a species specific diet–are perhaps at the top of savvy holistic practitioner’s lists.
Homeopathy is another example of a form of holistic medicine that has been used for over 100 years–with great success–in both human and veterinary medicine, while acupuncture and chiropractic are now considered to be a part of the mainstream in both human and veterinary practices. We read about various holistic modalities every day and how many people and their animals have benefitted greatly by incorporating these alternatives into their lives.
No doubt you are confused by this mass of information flooding cyberspace and want to use caution when it comes to the care and feeding of those entrusted to your care. But how does one, in all practicality, marry two schools of thought that seem to be so diametrically opposed to one another?
A good compromise, rather than expecting your veterinarian to be the last word, might be to become the steward of your own animal’s health care and take the approach that your veterinarian actually works for you within a kind of cooperative partnership. Your relationship with your veterinarian is, after all, considered to be a personal service contract.
When selecting a veterinarian, it is advisable to inquire about their education, experience, and healing philosophy, and observe how they handle and interact with your animal. Only you can determine who the right practitioner will be for you and your animal. Ask as many questions as necessary to fully understand what is involved before you agree to any treatment. Constantly evaluate your animal’s response to therapy. Remember, you and your veterinarian are in a relationship, and you’re free to change practitioners at any time.
Some holistic veterinarians will work with you by phone. In that case, you will need a local veterinarian to provide diagnostic services, physical exams, and emergency care. It is critical that you take responsibility for the health of your animal. Don’t expect your veterinarian to do that for you.
It is not the intent of most holistic practitioners specializing in alternative medicine to override your veterinarian’s advice or to suggest that the myriad of holistic protocols ever be used as a substitute for quality veterinary care. Your veterinarian should be the first person you contact when you feel that there may be a serious problem and need a medical diagnosis. It is prudent to allow your vet to run the appropriate tests–within your budget restraints–then share with you those findings. And know that these diagnostic tests are yours, so be sure to get a copy for your own files just as you would do for yourself and your children.
It is important to remember that, within any medical specialty, a diagnosis is–at best–a well-educated guess based on today’s science, laboratory findings and interpretation, and your veterinarian’s own personal experience in the field. Even when lab work supports your doctor’s diagnosis, there is still a margin for error. Veterinarians are trained to present the worst case scenario. For example, “Fluffy”¯ is coughing/gagging and sometimes throws up a little thin, watery, yellow bile. It may be nothing more than an attempt to expel a hairball, but it is better to be safe and get it checked out. However, many veterinarians, who may not specialize in felines, have diagnosed a hairball cough or reaction to the microscopic dust from clay litter, as asthma.
Just as you would be advised to do for your own health, you have the right–and, perhaps, the duty–to seek a second opinion from a holistic veterinarian or practitioner who might know an effective natural therapy for your animal, or at least be able to offset the side effects of conventional medical procedures.
Don’t hesitate to bring fresh ideas from holistic practitioners, who have real experience with the protocols they recommend, to your veterinarian. Challenge rather than just accept conventions, such as annual vaccinations. Discuss simple blood tests for titers instead when your vet automatically wants to do a booster shot. Seriously question the risk vs. benefits of topical pesticides for flea and tick control. These so-called preventative protocols would never be used on people and can be extremely toxic to the liver.
None of us deserve to be bullied or frightened into doing something we intuitively know is inherently unhealthy and unnecessary for the people or companion animals with whom we share our lives. It is possible to rely on traditional medicine while utilizing more natural alternatives to augment/support and, in some instances, mitigate the damage done by some traditional protocols. Make informed decisions for yourself and those who trust you to take care of them.