March 4, 2021

Integrative Veterinary Medicine: Why is it so hard to find?

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by Jo Singer

Is there a integrative veterinarin near you?

The practice of integrative veterinary medicine is growing by leaps and bounds. Integrative veterinary practices use a combination of conventional medicine along with a variety of alternative therapies. Integrative veterinary medicine focuses on caring for both the pet’s body and mind and is an integral ingredient in treating the pet as a whole.

To offer cats a more comprehensive approach for treatment, many pet guardians have been seeking this Integrative path to their pet’s veterinary care. This said however, sadly many people complain that it is almost impossible to find an integrative practitioner in their area because the majority of those veterinarians who practice Integrative Veterinary Medicine are not located within a convenient driving distance. This consideration makes it extremely difficult for these guardians to have their pets cared for using this specific treatment modality.


Unfortunately the majority of Integrative Veterinary medical practices are virtually unavailable to them unless they happen to reside in a city with a large population.

In a recent article published by Healthy Pets written by Nancy Scanlan, DVM, the Executive Director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation, she posed an interesting question “Why are Holistic veterinarians so scarce?” This writer found her answer to be quite disturbing. In fact to be perfectly honest, it really got my dander up.

According to Dr. Scanlan the reason for the lack of the availability of Holistic and Integrative veterinary practitioners is, “Because holistic medicine isn’t taught in veterinary schools. Interested veterinarians must spend additional time and money to get training to practice the most complex types of holistic medicine – the types of therapies you are most likely to need for your pet. US Veterinary schools don’t require training in Holistic Medicine.”

I have made the acquaintance of several “traditional” practice veterinarians over the years who unfortunately continue to stubbornly maintain that many of the therapies that are provided for pets in an Integrative practice are basically “woo-woo”, “snake oil” and that they are just worthless. They base their attack on the inaccurate premise that there is no “scientific” proof that these techniques really work.

In fact some of these “hard-lined” traditional practitioners still consider that if a medical condition seems to have resolved; that the probable “cure” was the result of the disease coincidentally going into remission, or that it was due to a “placebo effect” which caused an improvement in the pet’s condition. Many of these traditional-only practitioners apparently refuse to take the time to do any meaningful research or even consider the many advantages that Holistic/Integrative medicine offers.

In reality however, if a pet is being cared for holistically with acupuncture treatment or is receiving Chinese Herbal medicine to be able to get a “placebo effect” since the pet cannot comprehend what the treatment is or anticipate its expected outcome. Although in human medicine patients may receive a “placebo effect” but this because they often expect that the treatment will be successful. But come now; is it possible for a pet to have the same expectations as we do? I think not! So how do these animals often clearly demonstrate that they are feeling better?

At this time, according to Dr. Scanlan, Acupuncture treatment has become more widely accepted. She writes, “The most popular type of Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine (CAVM) training for veterinarians is acupuncture. Over 4,000 veterinarians have become certified in the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS), Chi Institute, or the Colorado Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians’ course. Some of the 29 Veterinary schools offer elective courses in CAVM, but they are elective courses, but sadly, of course are not required in their curriculum.

According to Dr Scanlan, the reason that acupuncture is the only holistic method that is used regularly in veterinary schools is because there is a great deal of research done on this treatment modality. In fact acupuncture has more research article published than any other form of alternative treatment.

The American Holistic Veterinary Association (AHVMA) is the leading organization in the field of Veterinary medicine that is presently elevating the profession through education, innovation and the advocacy of Integrative medicine. The organization publishes quarterly a peer-reviewed scientific journal, “The Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association”. This is the only peer-reviewed scientific journal that focuses exclusively on integrative veterinary medicine.

Holistic/Integrative veterinary medicine has greatly helped my cats and many of my friends’ pets. Our three cats are extremely lucky to be under the care of an excellent veterinarian who practices Integrative Veterinary Medicine. She always pulls out all the stops to find ways to improve our kitties’ health.

We are the ones who are fortunate enough to be able to have our pets treated using holistic/integrative veterinary medicine. They have shared with me that the combination of traditional medicine and alternative methods has helped to improve the health of their extremely ill pets.

I am optimistic that one day in the near future Holistic/Integrative veterinary medicine will receive its merited respect. When this happens, hopefully all veterinary schools will make CAVM a required course. This will make many more trained Integrative Veterinary medical practitioners more widely available to all pet guardians.

How do you feel about Integrative Veterinary Medicine? Would you be open to having your pet cared for using this treatment modality? Share your thoughts with us in a comment.

Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW, is a retired certified Social Worker and Psychotherapist. Her Master’s thesis was written on the subject of therapeutic horseback riding for the disabled. Jo is passionate about cats and horses and is politically active in animal welfare.

Jo lives with her husband Marty in Central Florida.. They are owned by three amazing kitties, Sir Hubble Pinkerton, (geriatric white Oriental Shorthair) and two youngsters, Aki ( blue-ticked tabby Oriental Shorthair) and Edgar Allen Poe, black Domestic medium-haired cat they adopted from Angels Have Whiskers, a no kill shelter in Central Florida.

Jo writes articles about cats for CATNIP ( Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine newsletter) and CAT TALK, (The Cat Fanciers’ Official magazine). In 2016 Jo successfully completed the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement’s online course; receiving her certificate in Pet Bereavement Counseling.

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