Holistic vs Alternative vs Integrative vs Natural vs Homeopathic Veterinary Medicine

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Holistic…Alternative…Integrative…Complementary…Natural…Homeopathic. What do they mean? Holistic “Holistic” gets the most buzz these days. It is also one of the most useful of the above terms for me, because it most accurately explains what I wish to offer. The first definition that appears from a google search of the word sums it up well. characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole. Medicine characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease. Many of us may go as far as to take into account “spiritual factors” in the treatment of the whole person or animal. “Intimately interconnected.” What a great phrase. I see our entire universe as such, including the microcosm of the individual. In no way could I ever gain my own best health without caring for my intellectual, emotional, and for me spiritual needs, as well as the physical. For that matter, even the physical needs are interconnected in far greater complexity than we understand. Every hormone, cell, tissue, and organ in the body can be related to any other in one way or many. There is no way of isolating a facet of a body or individual and treating just that part without affecting the rest. The human inclination to categorize is useful, particularly in western medicine. It is a useful tool, but not always enough or even appropriate. A disembodied piece of tissue, organ, or system is unrealistic. That is why cardiologists are beginning to discuss carbohydrate intake and have always talked about exercise. It is all part of our health. Alternative “Alternative” is easy. Anything that is an alternative to the mainstream, conventional medicine is “alternative medicine”. For example, acupuncture is alternative in western countries, but is not considered alternative in the east. Whereas “holistic” is an absolute way of looking at things, “alternative” is relative to what is most commonly utilized. In addition, holistic defines the practitioner’s approach to the patient. Their perspective. “Alternative” defines the tools a practitoner uses. Interestingly, a vet using only the most conventional tools can be more “holistic” than a veterinarian practicing acupuncture and herbal therapies. I have seen “alternative” therapies, such as acupuncture or aromatherapy practiced strictly cerebrally with the goal being to treat a specific symptom, disease or system.  Alternatively, I have witnessed a very conventional vet facilitate miraculous healings with her love and concern for the animal and the owner. She, seemingly only employed pharmaceuticals and surgery. However, unconsciously she cared enough for the owner’s experience that healings happened for the animal too. Perhaps love is the greatest healer of all, and the animals...

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“The Completely Honest Veterinarian”

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I try not to take myself to seriously, so I laughed at the following video, called “The Completely Honest Veterinarian”.  It is short and totally worth your time, if you have chosen to read this blog article. It also resonates with feelings I have had from experiences in veterinary medicine. I love being a veterinarian. My profession is well respected and mostly adored by the public. I am grateful to be able to offer a unique and intimate service to animal owners. I am grateful for the work done by the AVMA to advance the veterinary profession. We are, in general, a very trusted profession. However, at least two or three times a month, I hear something like, “I can never get out of the vet’s office for less than $200.” I believe there is dissatisfaction brewing in the public with the general veterinary experience. In addition to hearing such comments from pet owners, I have seen and experienced the tension that economics injects into the exam room. Veterinarians are under more and more pressure to produce income. In addition, associate salaries are often based on commission. The more that pet owner’s spend in the hospital, the more money they take home each month. It is a good method for a veterinarian to encourage optimal healthcare, but it can also produce tension, when a client is watching their budget. In 2002, Mark Opperman was the featured speaker in a two-week business course that I took in vet school. I loved the course and bought into it. Mr. Opperman teaches veterinary practice management techniques and philosophy. His goal is to increase income for veterinary hospitals. We vets often need help with that goal, because we can be tender-hearted, people-pleasers, who do not want to “put anyone out” with expensive veterinary bills. It is a recipe for a struggling veterinary hospital. However, client-hospital economics can and often do tilt unhealthily in the other direction too. In my opinion, clients are sometimes encouraged to purchase diagnostics, procedures, and wellness care that is not commensurate with their own values in pet ownership. The veterinarian is here to serve the client’s needs for their pet. It is our job to investigate that need and educate them about their choices. It is not our job to judge them for what they choose to do or not to do. It is not our job to persuade them to do what we think their animal needs. We simply inform and provide. There must be a balance point that successfully supports our own financial health and gives the public what they want in veterinary care – no more and no less. I believe that the focus in my profession on increasing income is having a negative...

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