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Integrating Holistic and Conventional Veterinary Medicine

Integrating Holistic and Conventional Veterinary Medicine

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.

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Celeste Yarnall

Celeste Yarnall, PhD shares musings on myriad of topics at her Celestial Musings Blog. She is the author of The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care with Jean Hofve, DVM and Paleo Dog. Celeste is an actress/producer/activist/writer and keynote speaker. She and her husband Nazim Artist created the Art of Wellness Collection and are the producers of Femme: Women Healing the World. They live in Los Angeles, California with their beloved Tonkinese cats. Join Celeste at her website or on Facebook.


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8:04AM PST on Dec 15, 2012


12:32PM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

@ joanna- also try some Colloidal Silver

12:26PM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

dear Joanna P, I'm really sorry to hear about your little doggie...I hope and pray your doggie recovers and heals soon..

I found this site for you with some info hoping its helpful, please have a look


3:38PM PST on Jan 30, 2012

I don't know. I have a pretty good vet who has really done well by all my cats. He's occasionally suggested a homeopathic remedy like the Bach flower remedies.

9:45PM PDT on Sep 15, 2011

Thanks for the info

12:03PM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

Very interesting article.

10:53AM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

Some of drugs may be so dangerous... Please, check out this video of my little doggie. This was a week after she received a toxic dewormer Milbemax. She was on steroids. Now, 1,5 months later, when I tried to lessen the dose of steroids, she became almost paralyzed. Can't move her legs, won't drink or eat. She is suffering. Do anyone have any idea what else I could do? The vet that saved her life says she can't be on steroids forever, they can make harm too. But she doesn't really know what to do... The producer of Milbemax, Novartis, won't talk to me about this when I call or send them e-mails while I don't even want to accuse them, I want them to tell me what to do! :( Please, read the description. Watch and share. Thank you.

8:30PM PDT on Jul 7, 2011


11:49AM PDT on Jul 7, 2011

just found a vet that is traditionally & holistically trained...we'll see how it goes :)

10:05PM PDT on Jul 6, 2011

I have 3 very healthy cats around 3 yr old. They haven't had any major medical work but I routinely perform therapeutic touch on them. Their vet, who is also their godfather and guardian should something happen to me, is very supportive of this. I also did this for my 17 yr old cat for a couple of yr before he died and it helped with pain control and calming him. The same works for people --- I used it on my step father after he had cancer surgery the 2nd time and what a noticeable difference. Even the nurses commented on the benefits. Alternative therapies can be very appropriate for animals. As to food, I get it from the vet's office and after the Chinese melamine incidents, he personally toured the plant and saw the stringent controls in place for safety and quality.

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