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What exactly is a holistic vet?

What you need to know about holistic care

As pet owners, we want the best for our furry family members, but sometimes knowing what's best is confusing. You've probably heard of holistic vets but do you know what they do and does your pet need one? Let's find out.

Woman with holistic vet

We caught up with holistic vet Dr. Doug Kramer to separate fact from fiction when it comes to holistic vet care. How does he define the term holistic? "I believe holistic medicine entails treating both the mind and the body — meeting both the physical and the spiritual needs of the pet. This entails taking into account all body systems (organs) when evaluating a patient and developing a treatment plan," he explains.

SheKnows: What are some common misconceptions pet owners have about holistic vets and care?

Dr. Kramer: Defining "holistic" represents a significant challenge which has contributed to the confusion surrounding the topic. I feel that there is no real consensus about the definition of holistic veterinary medicine — even among veterinarians themselves. Some of the most common misconceptions are that holistic medicine is nothing more than outdated quackery, on par with mystical witchcraft or shamanism. In addition, all too often people will use the term holistic interchangeably with words such as herbal, alternative or complementary medicine which leads to further confusion.

SheKnows: What are some advantages to having a holistic vet in your opinion?

Dr. Kramer: The greatest advantage of having a holistic vet is that you are generally working with a doctor that is open-minded to all therapeutic avenues. Rather than being outright dismissive of new treatments or ideas, a holistic vet will try to incorporate them into a comprehensive treatment plan. In particular, a holistic vet will pay more attention to the mental state of the pet. Emotions such as fear, stress and depression can have a very real impact on health and well-being. This fact has been supported by numerous scientific studies.

SheKnows: What are some main differences between a holistic vet and "regular" vet?

Dr. Kramer: It's difficult to make this distinction. It all depends on how you interpret the definition of "holistic." Any veterinarian can call themselves "holistic" and market themselves as such. There is no official certification or recognized specialty training. There are independent classes and seminars that vets can (and should) take to educate themselves. This is at the individual vet's discretion. However, there is no official regulating body to oversee training and competence levels. In short, the difference between a regular and holistic vet boils down to additional specialized training and practical clinical experience.

SheKnows: Can all pets see a holistic vet or is it for pets with health issues?

Dr. Kramer: I would suggest that pet owners should only consult with a holistic vet if their pet is experiencing a problem or for regular checkups (preventative care).

SheKnows: What is your advice for someone looking to find a holistic vet?

Dr. Kramer: Do your homework and research any prospective veterinarian very carefully. Friends and family are the first and best place to start your search. Always try to rely on a personal recommendation. Remember that you can always "shop around" for a holistic vet, so if you don't feel comfortable with an individual veterinarian during a consultation, then don't return. Visit multiple vets for an initial consultation until you find one that you feel is a good fit.

SheKnows: Anything else pet owners should know?

Dr. Kramer: Many vets advertise as being holistic merely to cash in on the "go green" movement that we are experiencing today. A good question to pose would be: Does the vet clinic (or individual vet) practice holistic medicine as a core philosophy or do they simply have a traveling holistic vet who stops by the hospital once a week to see patients? I would recommend the former.

You can learn more about Dr. Kramer and holistic veterinary care on his website Vet Guru.

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