Pet Connections

Adopt a Holistic Lifestyle for Your Pet

By Doug Knueven, DVM, CVA, CVC, CVCH

Holistic veterinary care is in great demand these days. The term “holistic” implies that the entire being; body, mind, and spirit, is being addressed. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This concept stands in direct opposition to the Western reductionistic view of life. Modern medicine tends to break systems down into smaller and smaller pieces, reducing them to their basic building blocks to gain an understanding. Often, the modern doctor loses sight of the forest for the trees.

Holistic medicine takes many forms, but there are common beliefs among these various techniques. First of all, perfect health is considered to be more than simply the absence of disease. It is a state of well-being expressed as a vitality that resists disease. Health is a dynamic balance of internal and external forces. From this point of view, there is a broad spectrum of physical conditions ranging from perfect health to death.

Perfect Health
Dis-ease Disease

Dis-ease begins as an imbalance, which may go undetected by conventional means. If left untreated at this early stage, detectable disease and possibly death will eventually result. Often, holistic approaches to health can detect problems at the dis-ease state and correct the imbalance before disease sets in.

Holistic therapies embrace the vitalist concept that has been abandoned by conventional medicine. The vitalists believe that there is more to the body than meets the eye. There is a vital energy that animates the flesh. The Chinese call it “Qi,” the Japanese call it “Ki,” the doctors of India call it “Prana,” homeopaths call it the “Vital Force,” and chiropractors call it the “Innate.” It is this life force energy that is the difference between life and death, and it must be nourished to maintain true health.

While conventional medicine fights disease, holistic therapies generally strengthen the body. The body is viewed as containing its own pharmacy. Research bears this fact out. You may have heard of the “placebo effect.” This medical anomaly predicts that 30% of subjects treated with a sugar pill will improve; no matter what the disease is. High blood pressure, low blood pressure, allergies – all can be alleviated by the patients’ own bodies. It is considered a case of mind over matter but it proves that our bodies can heal themselves if conditions are right. The idea of holistic therapies is to produce the right conditions for the body to produce true health.

The conventional veterinary medicine emphasis on fighting disease can be extreme. In fact, in veterinary school we do not learn much about health care. Rather, we are taught about disease care. Certainly, learning how to detect and treat diseases is an important lesson for any health care practitioner. But what if instead of focusing on disease, veterinary professionals focused on health? 

Think about it, if we put more resources into preventing diseases like cancer then there would be no reason to” run for a cure.” The problem is that many of the diseases that plague our society and its pets are brought about by lifestyle. Processed convenience foods, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, lack of exercise, and a general disregard for body condition are all risk factors for chronic disease (and not-so-chronic cancer).

The holistic focus on a healthy lifestyle gives this philosophy and advantage over conventional medicine. Of course, you can’t just take your pet to the vet to make it healthy. Holistic health takes commitment. The goal is to lessen the risk factors of disease. 

There are disease risk factors that we cannot avoid but there are many that we can evade. A holistic life style – eating a species-appropriate, whole-foods diet, avoiding unneeded vaccines, getting plenty of exercise, and using natural healing methods – increases the odds for your pet to live a long, healthy life. Unfortunately, a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy, but in the end it is well worth it.  

Katy is a 12-year-old Maltese. She has eaten raw pet food since she was 10 weeks old. Instead of getting yearly vaccines she has gotten titer tests which show that the vaccine for Distemper and Parvo that she got at 12 weeks of age is still protecting her. 

Keeping her healthy has been a balancing act. She has benefited from various Chinese herbal formulas to balance her energy, chiropractic to keep her spine in shape, and even therapeutic laser for a knee injury.

Katy is a bright senior who is not as spry as she once was, but is as spry once as she ever was.  


December 14, 2023
December 14, 2023


December 14, 2023