This is one of my frequently asked questions. About once a week or so I get one of these questions: What's a Holistic vet? Are you a Homeopathic vet? Are you a Naturopathic vet?

It might seem like just semantics but it's actually important to understand what these terms mean so that you can figure out what kind of vet you're working with. It's good to be sure that the vet is on the same page as you as far as how they're going to approach and treat your animal.

Let's start with Holistic. Here's the dictionary definition: relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts. So a Holistic vet is going to try to look at and treat the whole animal rather than focusing on individual problems. The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) describes how a Holistic vet is interested not only in a medical history, but also genetics, nutrition, environment, family relationships, stress levels, and other factors. Not all Holistic vets are the same. Some are trained in lots of different treatment options like acupuncture, herbal medicine, chiropractic, aromatherapy, nutrition, and rehabilitation. Some Holistic vets mainly use conventional Western medicine and do a little herbal medicine and acupuncture. When choosing a Holistic vet you’ll have to do a little research to see if the services they offer are in line with the kind of Holistic care you’re looking for for your pet.

What about Wholistic? This is a cutesy marketing term to emphasize that they're Holistic and focusing on the whole rather than the parts. I usually avoid people (and products) using this term. If they have to come up with gimmicky phrases to get your business they may not be providing the best service or product.

Some people think that Homeopathy refers to anything that's not conventional Western medicine. It's actually a very specific medical theory that some but not all Holistic vets use. Homeopathy uses the principle of “like cures like” where small amounts of substances that would cause the symptoms are used to treat the symptoms.

Most vets who use Homeopathy use it along with other treatments as part of their Holistic approach. I'm just as suspicious of a vet who only uses Homeopathy as I am of a vet who only uses conventional Western medicine. If the goal is to help the body heal itself we should be using everything we can to try to reach that goal so limiting ourselves to one kind of medicine and treatment is probably not going to provide the pet the best opportunity for healing.

Lots of people go to Naturopathic doctors for themselves and are looking for the same kind of approach for their pets. According to the American Association of Naturopathic Practitioners naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. So basically the same as the definition of Holistic veterinary medicine.

However, Naturopathic is a term which is actually specific to human medicine. Only people who have completed the professional training and licensing process required to become an ND (Naturopathic Doctor) can legally and officially call themselves a Naturopathic doctor or practitioner. It's not really correct or respectful (and in fact in many states it’s actually illegal) for a vet to try to claim that they are a Naturopathic vet even if we're using the same principles for our approach to veterinary patients as they do for their human patients. That's why you'll see lots of vets like myself who follow these same Naturopathic principles calling ourselves Holistic vets not Naturopathic vets.

Some people use the term Integrative Vet. This is just a variation of Holistic. It’s called Integrative because it integrates lots of different treatment options and approaches. So we might integrate conventional Western medicine, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, and rehabilitation to provide the best possible veterinary care for our patients.

Now that you know what all these terms mean you can make sure you find the right kind of vet for you and your pet! If you want to find a holistic vet near you try searching at American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association: If you’re looking for some detailed information on holistic pet care and holistic options for some common issues like allergies check out our Educational Materials and other blog posts!