Holistic Veterinary Care is a somewhat new, but increasingly popular, style of veterinary service, rooted in thousands of years of tradition. It is not too dissimilar from conventional medicine and is designed to enhance, rather than be an alternative to, regular veterinary care. Modern Holistic, or “Integrative” Medicine is bridging the gap between science and tradition and is an exciting space for all animal lovers to be watching and getting involved in.
Holistic Vets aim to see the bigger picture and integrate natural methods into both diagnosis and treatment. Their goal is to find the root cause(s) of pet’s barriers to great health and suggest meaningful solutions that meet with your family’s philosophy, resources, and abilities. They design individual care plans for your pet considering their particular environment and offer the most current, evidence-based approach to your pet’s future wellness or disease treatment, across both traditional and conventional medical systems.
So, what is the rationale for opting for holistic care for your dog?
We teamed up with Dr. Matthew Muir, from All Natural Vet Care, a holistic vet practice in Sydney, to uncover what kind of services holistic vets offer and why they may benefit your dog over regular veterinary care.
Blood titer testing
- What is it: Blood titer testing is performed at accredited laboratories to check the antibody levels in your dog’s body and establish whether your dog needs booster vaccinations. In many cases, your dog might have sufficient antibodies in their blood from their previous vaccinations, and not require another booster vaccination until later down the track. Wellness Checks and Disease Risk assessments replace the trip to the vets for their “annual jabs”.
- Benefits: By titer testing instead of vaccinating, your dog will receive vaccines only when required, and their immune system won’t be disrupted unnecessarily. This is particularly useful at a time where we are seeing allergy, hormonal imbalances, and cancer epidemics, which are increasingly thought to be related to immune system dysfunction.
Diet and nutrition programs
- What is it: Holistic vets can use principles of Western Clinical Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda to formulate individualised diets for dogs prone to allergies, dogs with digestive sensitivities, and dogs needing assistance in managing specific diseases. Programs for overweight dogs to lose weight are also common.
- Benefits: By using food as medicine, a wide range of chronic conditions, even epilepsy, arthritis, and anxiety, may be actively resolved or managed, sometimes without needing medications. Nutritional Therapy can also be used preventatively. Focusing on improving the quality of your dog’s diet to meet their individual needs before they get sick, for example, for future disease risks and even aging has obvious positive flow-on effects for your dog. By working with a holistic vet, you’ll also be confident that you’re providing a complete and balanced meal for your dog, which is crucial if you plan on preparing your dog’s food at home.
- What is it: Acupuncture treatments for dogs very much mirror the treatment for humans. Fine needles are inserted in specific places over your dog’s body to manipulate the flow of blood, nerves signals and energy. It is tolerated very well by most dogs. Additionally, a huge natural surge in endorphins has been scientifically demonstrated and noted by many pet parents, who see their pets in a post acupuncture session relaxation daze. Long-term acupuncture can also be achieved by surgical gold wire implantation, an emerging therapy that is a crossover technique between western medicine and acupuncture.
- Benefits: Just like for us humans, acupuncture is a tool that can relieve many conditions and improve overall health. It can be used to release problems such as sore muscles and joints, digestive problems and support kidney function in pets with kidney issues. The relaxation response experienced by pets can help avoid future vet phobia, which is important, as stress when visiting the vets can be detrimental to healing. The most common use of acupuncture is for mobility issues, as it can reduce a dog’s required medications. This is particularly beneficial when side effects are seen or expected, or where dogs cannot receive anti-inflammatory medication due to other illnesses. It is also used during general anesthetics to manage complications such as low blood pressure.
- What is it: Herbs have been used historically in humans, to maintain and even improve our health. Recently there has been increased research and innovation in the application of herbs to aid medical conditions in dogs. Most pharmaceutical medications in existence have been derived from botanical sources. Herbal medicine leverages these natural sources by combining minimally processed substances to achieve treatment synergies. Herbs can be used alongside medications, to minimise doses or address medication side-effects. They can also be used instead of medications, when opting for a completely natural approach or when there are limited conventional medication options.
- Benefits: There is an astonishing array of uses and benefits from herbal treatments in modern veterinary herbal medicine. Herbal formulas are prescribed based on the individual needs of a pet, factoring information from their holistic exam: a western and eastern diagnosis that creates an accurate herbal prescription. Some herbs assist in weight loss. Others are used to help digestive issues and upset tummies. They can be used to treat many other conditions, ranging from pancreatitis and epilepsy to allergies and hormonal imbalances.
Physiotherapy and chiropractic care
- What is it: Rather than relying exclusively on medicine and drugs to improve muscular skeletal or neurological problems, dogs can undergo physio or chiropractic treatments. The treatments themselves consist of a combination of massages, exercises, and stretches, which often require some at-home care.
- Benefits: Just like for humans, these muscular-skeletal therapies aim to solve your dog’s condition from the root cause, rather than simply improving the symptoms. They are a great option for dogs recovering from injuries, or senior dogs who are experiencing muscular pain. Improving athletic function, strengthening and maintaining muscle mass also improves the immune system. Building physical therapy into current exercise adds more behavioural enrichment and mental stimulation to your dog’s daily life.
There are many other modalities that your pet may benefit from. For more information on Holistic Veterinary Medicine reach out to the All Natural Vet Care team here. For reading, check out Matthew Muir’s holistic vet care blog Achieve Animal Wellness. Matthew also works as a steward for animal conservation with Planet Decent.