Should you work with a veterinarian that practices holistic or homeopathic medicine? What may seem like semantics is actually vital to ensure the vet you select shares your desires and preferences for treating your animal. It’s up to you to do the necessary research to determine whether their practice aligns with what you consider to be the best opportunity for your animal’s healing.
A holistic veterinarian looks at your animal’s medical history, genetics, nutrition, environment, family relationships, stress levels, and other factors that impact their wellbeing. They examine and treat the entire animal, rather than focusing on its individual ailments. Holistic vets have trained in conventional medicine as well as an assortment of treatment modalities including using acupuncture, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, food therapy (diet and nutrition), laser therapy, bodywork (massage, myofascial release, spinal manipulation), ozone therapy, homeopathy and more. A holistic vet often chooses to exclusively practice with these holistic modalities. An integrative vet practices using both conventional and holistic practices. An exclusively holistic vet will work with a conventional vet to provide the best possible veterinary care for their patients by using the strengths of both medical systems together.
Herbalism is a subset of holistic medicine. Herbalists use plants (herbs) as medicine to stimulate “the self-healing powers to restore health”. Herbalist Matthew Wood gives an example of goldenseal, a plant that can be used in small doses to stimulate better digestion and improve the health of mucosa. When consumed in large doses as a “natural antibiotic”, it can kill bacteria. Herbs can be used to increase health or as a case of “health management”. It may be more of a goal of biomedicine, therefore the use of herbs may not necessarily be holistic or apply the principles of vitalism.
Homeopathy medicine treats symptoms in your animal with small amounts of substances that would typically cause their symptoms. It too is a subset of holistic medicine. This practice, based on the concept of “like cures like” dates back to Hippocrates in 400 BCE. Dr. Samuel Hahnemann shaped it in the early 1800s. Many vets who use homeopathic medicine pair it with other treatments as part of their holistic approach.
Conventional medicine tends to view the body as a complex machine, foregoing the body’s own healing abilities. Conventional medicine is wonderful for the fields of pathology, radiology, tests such as bloodwork, surgery, all of which we utilize. But this approach often separates the individual from the disease and does not take components like emotions, lifestyle, diet, stress, and the innate ability for the body to fight off disease into consideration.
In his book, The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism, Mathew Wood states the use of an energetic system is virtually a prerequisite in holistic medicine...that “vitalism looks upon the body as a living being which can correct and cure itself”.
Many principles are the same within the different practices of holistic medicine including vitalism, holism, and the innate ability of the body to heal. Many holistic practitioners believe that good health derives from an equilibrium between the mind and body, which is maintained by a "vital force" that regulates the body's self-healing capabilities. It is my passion to bring holistic medicine to the forefront of health and I take every opportunity to raise awareness of holistic health and wellness benefits. It’s my belief that integrative veterinary medicine should become the standard practice of every vet clinic.
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