Why isn’t Integrative/Holistic Veterinary Medicine More Widely Accepted?

Integrative veterinary care is the integral ingredient in treating the whole animal. The focus in an Integrative practice is to treat both the animal’s body and mind, using a combination of conventional medicine with a variety of alternative therapies.

Holistic veterinary medicine
Photo credit: Jo Singer Dr. Erin Holder performing acupuncture on Sir Hubble Pinkerton
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Today there are many cat guardians who are seeking this more integrative approach to their cat’s veterinary care. This said, however, many people tell me that it is almost impossible to find an integrative practitioner in their area; that most of the holistic veterinarians are not located within a reasonable driving distance. This makes it extremely difficult for them to have their cats cared for holistically. It seems that unless one is living in a big city with a large population, this type of practice is virtually unavailable for them.

In an article recently published on Healthy Pets by Nancy Scanlan, DVM, Executive Director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation, Dr.Scanlan posed the question “Why are Holistic veterinarians so scarce?” The obvious answer to her question truly disturbed me and to be perfectly honest, got my dander up. The reason for the lack of availability of holistic-integrative veterinary practitioners is, according to Dr. Scanlan, “That’s because holistic medicine isn’t taught in veterinary schools. Interested veterinarians must spend additional time and money to get training to practice the most complex types of holistic medicine – the types of therapies you are most likely to need for your pet. US Veterinary schools don’t require training in Holistic Medicine.”

Over the years I have made the acquaintance of several “traditional” practice veterinarians who still maintain that many of the therapies that are used in an Integrative practice are basically just “woo-woo”, “snake oil”, and are worthless. They claim that there is no proof that these techniques really work. In fact some of them still consider that if a medical condition appears to resolve, it is probably just that the disease went into remission coincidentally or that it was due to a “placebo effect” causing the animal’s condition to improve. Many of them refuse to even listen to, or do any meaningful research in the many advantages that holistic/integrative medicine offers.

But please tell me how is it possible for an animal to experience a placebo effect since the animal has no idea what the treatment is or what it is supposed to accomplish. I totally understand the possibility of that effect in human medicine, since humans have an expectation for a treatment to effect an improvement in the condition. But is it possible for an animal to have the same expectations as we do? I think not! So how do these animals often demonstrate that they are feeling better?

At this time, according to Dr. Scanlan, Acupuncture treatment has become more widely accepted. She writes, “The most popular type of Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine (CAVM) training for veterinarians is acupuncture. Over 4,000 veterinarians have become certified in the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS), Chi Institute, or the Colorado Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians course. Some of the 29 Veterinary schools offer elective courses in CAVM, but they are elective courses, and not required in their curriculum.

According to Dr Scanlan, the reason that acupuncture is the only holistic method that is used regularly in veterinary schools is because there is a great deal of research done on this treatment modality. In fact acupuncture has more research article published than any other form of alternative treatment.

This gets me wondering why it is that so many people I know; the ones who are fortunate enough to have their cats treated with holistic/integrative veterinary medicine, report that this combination of traditional medicine with alternative methods has helped their very sick kitties to feel better.

I am lucky to have such an excellent veterinarian who pulls out all the stops to improve our kitties’ health. Hopefully one day in the near future, holistic/integrative veterinary medicine will receive its merited respect. When that happens, perhaps all veterinary schools will CAVM a required course; making trained practitioners more widely available to all kitty guardians.

What are your thoughts about holistic/Integrative veterinary medicine? Tell us in a comment.

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7 thoughts on “Why isn’t Integrative/Holistic Veterinary Medicine More Widely Accepted?”

  1. In this instance, people should probably be afraid of what they don’t understand! However, there is plenty of info. It would be best to work with a vet who is informed or at least can tag with you. Brigitte URI is gone after 4 days. It was not looking good before treatment. I’m also researching FIV and working up a protocol for Oskar. I have found a case where a positive latter tested negative!! At the very least, there are ways to manage and stave off the normal decline. Complementary medicine is the way to go for people and animals!

  2. Coming from a background which is decidedly anti-allopathic, I do not believe in western, symptom-based “medicine” for any species. That said, I do always get basic vax for my beloved cats, and spay/neuter, of course; and I have had to have operation for one of my loved ones who developed Mast cell lymphoma. On the whole, though, I believe in feeding high-quality foods, having fresh, clean, filtered water in a fountain available at all times, and encouraging play. This seems to work very well. For myself, it’s basically the same regimen. The body (and mind, and spirit) heals itself and maintains excellent health if these disciplines are followed, and the overwhelming majority of diseases are preventable, treatable, and reversible with good diet and lifestyle.

  3. I’m a big believer in CS as it has successfully treated my daughter’s Lyme Disease. I think a lot of cat owners are afraid of new treatment options. They believe if they don’t start their cat on antibiotics, steroids, etc., the cat will die because this is all that cat owner has ever used. We’ve had a rough year with Renny having a mild stroke in January then Who-Me Cat and Clemmy coming down with a serious upper respiratory infection. We used mainstream medicine on the latter two supplemented with CS in the nebulizer. All have recovered.

  4. There’s just so much to be studied yet and there seems to be no stats found about what percentage and degree cats are relieved of arthritic pain or are in remission from cancer, FIV, FIP, or CKD.
    I think that I can accept Holistic as a supportive therapy, like massage for chronic back pain; but, it can’t compete with surgery, chemotherapy, or current medications.
    Sadly, loads of people consider holistic to be hocus pocus, waste your money medicine.
    But, it has its place as support.

  5. Additional specialty studies are involved. I imagine many vets are not eager to put the time and money in. I practice complementary medicine on my rescue animals since I have decades long self-study in alt med. and institutional studies in TCM. My vet approves and works with me. I’m currently treating a 7 month old kitten, who has the beginnings of a URI. Using Vit. C (“Tiny Dots”), systemic enzymes, and colloidal silver. Gave the CS internally but really best nebulized right into the lungs…did that @2 hours ago and will continue til well. She is much improved. Somethings I go straight to the vet and conventional medicine for…
    I’m glad I’ve ‘put all the time in’ to know what I’m doing….and also to know how to make the choice of home care or vet’s office care.

  6. It goes to prove that veterinarians and indeed anybody in any medical profession are inherently quite conservative.

    The don’t like change it seems to me. I think it is just a personal characteristic that goes with the job of being a veterinarian. They’re quite scientific minded people and therefore resist anything which is not founded and based upon science. It is probably quite a dogmatic point of view because there’s still lots to understand and know in medicine.

    One day, perhaps about 1000 years in the future, veterinarians will look back to 2016 and think how crude and narrow minded veterinarians were.

    More research needs to be done on holistic medicine and also integrative medicine. I would have thought in fact that any good medicine should be integrative. Simply to apply drugs or rely on surgery seems to be very narrow minded and self-limiting.

    1. except, alternative medicines are based in science, just not cold metal instruments and drugs that cause liver damage.

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