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“Holistic” is one of those words that makes some folks roll their eyes and others start reaching for their wallets. We’ve all heard of holistic medicine and “taking a more holistic approach to health,” but what exactly does it mean?
In the simplest terms, viewing health from a more holistic perspective means taking the entire body into account and considering all possible treatment methods. Someone with this approach to their own health doesn’t view the mind and body as separate entities. They instead look to strengthen and protect both at the same time. They also blend traditional medicines and healthcare methods with alternative options. Their novel approaches to familiar health issues have made holistic healthcare into a multi-billion dollar industry.
It’s not just an option for health-conscious humans. More and more pet parents are taking this approach to pet care in hopes of helping their cats and dogs live longer and healthier lives.
Holistic Healthcare for Pets
In addition to traditional tests, procedures, foods, and supplements, holistic veterinarians have a number of alternatives in their arsenal. “As a doctor,” says Barbara Royal, I want any tool that’s going to work.” The president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association continues, “having more tools in my tool kit has made a huge difference.”
Those tools include:
Originating in China more than 5,000 years ago, acupuncture therapy involves inserting thin needles at various points across the body. Enthusiasts claim it produces myriad benefits by correcting energy imbalances.
These treatments involve essential oils and other substances that emit potentially calming scents.
A chiropractor gently manipulates and realigns the body to alleviate joint and muscle pain. It’s a popular drug-free option for both pets and people experiencing these symptoms.
Massage therapists apply pressure to the body over an extended period in hopes of alleviating both physical and mental stress.
Many holistic pet care advocates argue that nutrition is the most important ingredient for a happy, healthy pet. They may choose specialty foods, cook from their own recipes, or supplement traditional pet foods with additional nutrients or herbs.
This emerging field of pet therapy uses certain types of music to soothe pets. So far, tunes from composers like Beethoven and Vivaldi have shown promising results.
Potential Benefits of Holistic Pet Care
The people who love holistic pet care tend to really, really love it. Advocates suggest that treatments can lead to a host of positive changes, including:
- Better circulation
- Stress and pain relief
- Improvements to coat and digestion
- A stronger immune system
- Decreased blood pressure
In general, these benefits are considered anecdotal. The medical world’s exploration of holistic healthcare (for pets and people alike) is still in its very early stages.
Is Holistic Pet Care Safe?
Like any evolving area of study, holistic pet care is characterized by controversy and uncertainty. While some pet owners and vets swear by these methods, others are wary to even suggest them.
Holistic pet care is particularly controversial where diet is concerned. Raw food, for example, is a popular choice among many holistic healthcare advocates. They argue that a diet rich in raw protein is not only better for a pet’s body and mind, but more accurately reflects what they’d have eaten in the wild. More cautious experts point to the risk of foodborne illness.
Even supplemental vitamins and minerals can be a touchy subject. Certain nutrients — while beneficial in small doses — can have adverse side effects when taken in excess. Non-traditional diets may also expose a pet to potential allergens, irritants, or toxins.
Holistic medicines and treatments should never be considered an alternative to traditional veterinary care. They are tools, not an entire toolbox unto themselves. Consult with your vet before making any major changes to your pet’s diet, exercise regimen, or typical courses of treatment.