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What Exactly is Holistic Healthcare for Pets?

Holistic medicine literally refers to caring for the “whole” patient. Like with human health, this approach looks at a pet’s overall condition, history and environment, considering how all the systems of the body and mind interconnect to achieve optimum well-being. If there is an ailment, holistic care seeks to uncover the root cause not just treat the symptoms, with the intention to restore vitality and a full recovery.

Systems not symptoms

Despite skeptical comments about holistic care, it’s gaining popularity as more and more veterinarians discover its positive results for cats and dogs. It’s also backed by research and studies. Vets are integrating holistic therapies with standard treatments to reap the benefits of both. They will use lab tests to help accurately diagnose an illness and prescribe a natural protocol for the most efficient and least harmful cure. 

Therapeutic toolkit

These “complementary” treatments for pets can be a preventative measure to avoid invasive procedures like surgery or the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs. According to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association these are some of the typical alternative tools holistic vets work with and some conditions they treat:

  • Acupuncture — pain relief of arthritis and muscle spasms; optimizes organ function
  • Herbal supplements — plant-derived medicines containing ingredients that cleanse, detoxify and boost the immune system (i.e., licorice root for cat allergies and respiratory problems, peppermint for nausea, slippery elm for diarrhea, chamomile for stress)
  • Homeopathic — treats the underlying causes of illnesses
  • Chiropractic — improves the nervous system
  • Laser therapy — encourages healing and improved cellular function; anti-inflammatory

Keys to natural well-being

In addition to the specialized modalities, the foundation of holistic health also includes at-home care of a cat or dog’s entire system:

Physical

  • High-quality and well-balanced nutrition (like Rachel Ray’s Nutrish line of super premium food for cats and dogs!); supports overall health & wellness
  • Exercise is essential for maintaining strong muscles, bones and a healthy heart

Emotional

  • Massage (and petting): the important power of touch strengthens our bonds with pets; relieves stress, reduces swelling and lowers blood pressure for pets and pet parents. Aromatherapy offers a fragrance to improve well-being, from the soothing scent of lavender oil to the arousal of catnip.

Mental

  • Stimulating play, such as pouncing and hunting simulation (cats)
  • Training and tricks (dogs)

While conventional medicine is great for broken bones and infectious diseases, holistic care may be an important preventive or preferable when treating chronic conditions. It may save money too. Always consult a holistic veterinarian before dispensing herbs and be sure an acupuncturist is certified with an accredited institution, such as the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. Check with organizations like Veterinary Institute of Integrative Medicine to find a local holistic vet.