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What is Integrative Veterinary Care?


Dr. Al Townshend

Today, humans and their companion animals are living longer than ever before. There is much to be thankful for when it comes to modern medicine for both humans and animals. 

Increased interest in living a more natural way of life may also play a significant role in extending the lives of humans and their animal companions.

When it comes to health, a more natural life-style includes prevention and treatment using the best and most appropriate approach.

For both humans and pets, there are two basic attitudes toward medical health, traditional medicine and a more holistic or whole-body approach, as it relates to both prevention and treatment.

Traditional or Western Methods 

Emphasize the treatment of symptoms with medicine and surgery. Veterinarians that practice this mainstream type of medicine generally recommend using pharmaceuticals, nutrition, surgery, physical therapy, and radiation to treat various diseases. This type of medicine is typically found in most animal hospitals and the most proven and science-backed option.

Holistic Methods

Focus on the whole body to determine the underlying causes and use alternatives to traditional medicines and surgery to treat or prevent problems.

Common holistic alternative therapies include acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, Chinese medicine, herbal therapies, nutritional therapy, and laser therapies, to name a few.

Integrative Veterinary Medicine 

Is a comprehensive medical approach to pet care that combines the best traditional methods and complementary and alternative therapies to provide the best and most appropriate strategy for the pet.

The integrative veterinary medical practice focuses on treating the whole animal, in a partnership between the client and the veterinarian, to use all appropriate therapeutic options to achieve optimal wellness for a pet.

It is important to note that sometimes there is the temptation to focus exclusively on one specific approach towards care when the best approach is to utilize all avenues to achieve the best results.

Ignoring science-backed traditional options can be very dangerous to the Guardian and their pets if a pet Guardian chooses to seek only holistic treatment options for their pets. For example, vaccinations are proven to be an effective means of disease control and prevention and should not be ignored completely, even though many strictly-holistic veterinarians may not offer them. 

Completely avoiding the use of necessary medications to treat pain and infection, or not having necessary surgery performed to avoid anesthesia, and other types of avoidance of necessary traditional veterinary medicine can be very harmful to a pet.

Veterinarians that embrace an integrative approach to the care of animals have the advantage of offering complete care that includes the greatest choices for our beloved pets’ health.

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Additional Resources

College of Integrative Veterinary Therapies

Conventional and Holistic Veterinarians Working Together

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