Conventional vs Holistic Veterinarian. A Dog Owners Experience

Last Updated on 2022-05-08 by Admin

For this article, Conventional and Holistic Veterinarians, how they differ and how Your dog can benefit, the focus is on private general practitioners. The most familiar Veterinarian is the is the conventional Veterinarian. However, there is also the holistic Veterinarian. That Veterinarian has a different approach to treating a dog.

Being aware that there are different types of Veterinarians broadens potentially the available treatments a dog can receive.

Difference in Philosophy Between Holistic and Conventional Veterinarians

The conventional Veterinarian treats a dog pretty much like a medical doctor would treat a human patient. Then treatment very likely will be pharmaceutical medicine.

On the other hand, the holistic Veterinarian will want to know more about Your dog in general. The dog’s behaviour is observed, and there are questions about the dog’s daily routine and feeding habits. The recommended treatment can vary significantly from a conventional veterinarian. That is because the whole dog is considered before treatment is recommended.

I like to share my experience and observations based on visiting several veterinarians under each category. However, one needs to keep in mind that only one dog owners’ experience and comments follow.

Veterinary Training

Both the conventional and the holistic Veterinarian will have the same basic training. After the basic training, veterinarians can then go on and get further training.

After the basic training, the holistic Veterinarian will then also take training on alternative medicine. Alternative medicine can range from using herbs to treat specific ailments to using homeopathy, Acupuncture etc.

Holistic and Conventional Veterinarians don’t see Eye to Eye

It is important to be aware that these two veterinarians don’t see eye to eye. And You as a dog owner might be stuck between the two types of vets, neither having much good to say about the other.

Much of the behaviour You as a dog owner might experience can be attributed to the difference in philosophy of treatments the two types of veterinarians have. As I said, it is essential to be aware of the difference. Most likely, you might choose a specific kind of Veterinarian in the first place because of those differences.

Conventional and Holistic Comparison

It’s worth repeating here that both types of veterinarians will have had the same basic training. The various treatment options under each veterinarian type are not a complete listing by any means. The focus is on treatments that were either discussed or applied during my visits to keep things factual.

Conventional VeterinariansHolistic Veterinarians
Uses Pharmaceutical medicineUses Herbal, Chinese or Homeopathic medicine
SurgeryMight suggest alternative treatment instead of surgery
Laser TherapyLaser Therapy
Diet programs or referrals to Pet Nutritionists (Read further down about Pet Nutritionists)Diet programs or referrals to Pet Nutritionists (Read further down about Pet Nutritionists)

Alternative treatments

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Treatment

Massage & Acupuncture

Homeopathic Remedies

Herbal, Chinese remedies

It is worth noting that a Vet’s services are often not all performed by that clinic. There might be a referral to another clinic, or a specialist will visit Your Veterinarian’s clinic to complete the treatment.

About Diet and Pet Nutrition

Diet and nutrition are as important to dogs as it is to humans. A veterinarian’s training on pet nutrition can be measure in weeks. Veterinarians will often end up selling you some brand of kibble they carry to address nutritional or digestive needs. To me, that is simply a conflict of interest.

Let’s compare Veterinarian training on nutrition to pet nutritionist training. The Veterinarian’s training will be measure in weeks, and the pet nutritionist will have years of study. Often it is assumed that Pet nutritionists only work for large pet food companies. However, that is not the case. Many pet nutritionists have their a consultancy and work on referrals from veterinarians or directly with dog owners.

I know of many dog owners that could use the help of a pet nutritionist. One should not underestimate the effects of good nutrition on health.


Nutritional therapy in the treatment of heart disease in dogs

Treatment Types and the Science

For each treatment option, it makes sense to take a look at the available research. The reason I introduce some research studies is to show various treatments from a scientific point of view. The effectiveness often is not that black and white as is assumed, regardless of the type of Veterinarian chosen. Good science will change its mind when facts warrant it. But it for sure does not make it easy for the dog owner to make a decision.

The dog owner expects that the treatment work regardless of treatment option. With that expectation, however, should also come some willingness to investigate each treatment. At least to have a fundamental idea of what the treatment does and how it roughly works. So let’s have a look at some broad types of treatments.


For conventional Veterinarian’s pharmaceuticals are what is resorted to treating many illnesses. The traditional Veterinarian wants a science-based treatment.

Pharmaceuticals require stringent testing for effectiveness. The manufacturing process is also particular so that every pill, ointment, spray etc., will contain the exact amount in each container.

This precision aspect is often not available with alternative treatments. But like with most medications, pharmaceutical or natural, there are always side effects, interactions with other medicines to consider.

Many studies are available online regarding effectiveness, side effects etc., on the various drugs. However, what often does not get mentioned is who asked and paid for the study. Then there is also the issue of conflict of interest of scientists. All of these details should be taken into consideration and evaluated when reading scientific studies.

Massage & Acupuncture

Massage & Acupuncture have scientific evidence that they have a positive effect on some conditions. Dogs with seizures have shown to have excellent results when treated with Acupuncture.

I wrote an article about massage and Acupuncture that I apply to my dog for her knee injury. I find that acupressure and massage help my dog with mobility. Even dough acupressure and Acupuncture are not the same thing; they share some of the same points on the body.

Massaging is often used as part of physiotherapy and has a broad acceptance for its positive impact. Acupuncture also has a long history of use and reported benefits in eastern cultures. But it is not fully understood why it works from a western health perspective. It took many years before Acupuncture became more mainstream in the west of the world.

Conventional and holistic veterinarians seem to have accepted massage and Acupuncture as a treatment for some conditions. What is important with these treatments is not only the treatment itself. But the skill of the person giving the treatment. That is especially true with Acupuncture.

With these treatments, we can easily see the potential problem in assessing the effectiveness of the treatment as much depends on the practitioner’s skill. Acupuncture points are not like a pill. Often there is a combination of points that need stimulating for any treatment. One can see that this would not be a straightforward approach to prove that a treatment works scientifically. Then there is also the response time. Some pets might respond to the first treatment. Others may require many sessions.

Many studies mentioned electro-stimulated Acupuncture. That may or may not be available at every acupuncture therapist.


Effect of acupuncture on pain and quality of life in canine neurological and musculoskeletal diseases

Herbal and Natural Remedies

We often forget that natural remedies have been around for a very long time. Much longer than pharmaceutical medicine. And many pharmaceutical remedies are based on plants or other natural products.

Herbal and natural remedies have a long history of treating all kinds of conditions. For many herbs, there is scientific evidence to supports their effectiveness in some situations.

Based on my experience, I have only seen herbal remedies mentioned and given by Holistic veterinarians. And most of the ones that I visited are using Chines herbal formulas. However, there are also European herbal treatments. Much depends on where You live and the training the Veterinarian took.

Because natural remedies have been around for a long time, scientific evidence often goes back many years or even decades. However, the older research is not available online. But it can be found in some older books.

Even though herbal remedies can’t be as precisely standardized as pharmaceuticals, many herbal remedies do hold up well to scientific rigour for their effectiveness. And as with pharmaceutical products, natural remedies can have side effects and can even be deadly.


Dog food production using curcumin as antioxidant: effects of intake on animal growth, health and feed conservation

Impact of Nutritional Supplementation on Canine Dermatological Disorders

Homeopathic Treatments

Homeopathic medicine is something that many conventional veterinarians will shun or downright despise. Homeopathy is a most controversial topic with two very strongly opinioned sides. The important thing to know is the facts. With facts, one can make an informed decision. Being informed also helps to ask relevant questions.

Science, in general, is not favourable about homeopathic treatments. Homeopathic medicine has not stood up well when treated scientifically. Below are links to a two-part study that makes excellent reading. That is for anyone interested in reading about evaluating studies done on homeopathic treatments compared to pharmaceuticals.

There are a lot of holistic veterinarians and dog owners that say homeopathic treatments do work. The critical question to answer is, does it work for Your dog? At least, that is my attitude toward homeopathy. I would never deny my dog a treatment that can help. And that sometimes means one has to try it to find out.


Comparison of veterinary drugs and veterinary homeopathy: part 1

Comparison of veterinary drugs and veterinary homeopathy: part 2

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Treatment

I wrote about the PRP treatment in an article about alternatives to knee surgery on dogs. While Platelet-Rich Plasma is used in humans and animals, there is some debate on its effectiveness. Also, the equipment used to create the plasma has an impact.

Based on the free resource that I found, there is no clear verdict that it works. However, this type of treatment is used in professional sports medicine and by Holistic veterinarians for years.


Treatment of canine osteoarthritis with allogeneic platelet-rich plasma: review of five cases

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is another widely used treatment that conventional and holistic veterinarians use. Between the many laser frequencies, applications, and treatment objectives, it is not easy to judge its effectiveness. One of the new studies looked at the dog’s fur colour and the light diffusion attributed to it. So the latest recommendation is that dark-haired dogs need shaving to receive the same effective treatment as the lighter-coloured dogs.

Like with many other treatments, some studies conclude that it is effective, while another study will state the opposite.


Preliminary clinical experience of low-level laser therapy for the treatment of canine osteoarthritis-associated pain: A retrospective investigation on 17 dogs

Effects of low-level laser therapy on the healing of surgically closed incisions and surgically created open wounds in dogs


My own experience has shown that getting a second opinion is often not welcome by the vets. But as a dog owner, my main interest is the well-being of my dog, not the Vets. And a dog owner can do somethings at home as well to keep a dog healthy.

Why having more than One Veterinarian is a Good Idea

I find it beneficial to have more than one type of Veterinarian. Once I reviewed how holistic and conventional vets approach my dog’s health. I find it helpful to have one Vet in each category. Most of the time, it is perfectly fine to go to my conventional Vet. But there are times when I’m not satisfied with the treatment options presented. That is when it can be of help to see a holistic veterinarian.

As for the science, the many treatments don’t have a black and white outcome. No matter what type of Veterinarian You choose. In the end, it is up to the dog owner to decide what treatment is affordable and or suitable for any given situation.

I observe that veterinary costs are much lower a few hours away from a major city. That can make a treatment that is too costly in the city affordable outside the city.

How to find a good Veterinarian

Finding a good veterinarian is not always easy. If you search for good veterinarians, you might find Jana Rada’s article “what makes a good veterinarian” helpful. . Jana Rada is foremost a dog lover but also an award-winning writer about dogs.

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