A Day in the Life of a Holistic Vet
I'm often asked just what it is that a holistic veterinarian does. In other words, how is our day different from those of our conventional colleagues? In this article, I'll share a typical workday in the busy life of a holistic veterinarian.
Unlike conventional doctors, holistic veterinarians have 2 categories of clients. The first are those clients, usually regulars of the practice, who come in for wellness care. These pets typically are seen annually for a checkup, which includes blood titer testing to replace unnecessary vaccines, as well as other lab tests (blood profile to monitor organ function and to allow early screening for cancer and other inflammatory conditions, a fecal analysis to screen for intestinal parasites, a blood test for screening for heartworm infection, and a urinalysis to screen for disorders of the urogenital system, liver, and pancreas.) This is done every 6 months for pets 5 years of age and older (titer testing is done annually regardless of the pet's age.) In addition to this wellness care, designed to allow early disease diagnosis and treatment, these regular patients are seen for other things such as dental cleanings and removal of tumors and cysts. In general, these regular patients tend to stay very healthy due to the holistic approach to health favored by the doctor and the pet parents; rarely do these pets develop severe problems that require aggressive treatment.
The other category of patient seen by holistic doctors are those whose owners are seeking a more natural approach to disease prevention/wellness or who suffer from (typically) chronic illnesses. These illnesses can include cancers, immune disorders, allergies, seizures, arthritis, disk problems, and diseases of the internal organs. Typically these owners prefer a safer, more natural approach to treatment rather than chronic use of conventional medications. Often these pets have not been helped by conventional doctors, or have been turned away since their cases are diagnosed as "hopeless" by conventional medicine (I share many of these stories in my book, Unexpected Miracles: Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets)
While we love keeping our regular patients healthy and free of horrible diseases, the real challenge and satisfaction comes through helping these "helpless, hopeless" cases.
Here is an example of a typical day I recently experienced that is similar to those experienced by my colleagues in the holistic field.
Wednesday February 11th:
First Appointment - Regular patient Lily, a 6 year old Maltese, coming in for biannual visit (all pets 5 and over are seen twice yearly to assess health and allow for early disease detection and treatment.) Visit involves examination, discussing any concerns with pet owner, and running lab tests (blood, urine, feces) for diagnostic evaluation. Part of the blood testing is an early screening test we do to diagnose cancer and immune/inflammatory disorders before the pet becomes ill. We are the only practice in North Texas offering this unique service. Refill the pet's supplements to maintain health.
Second Appointment - Regular patient Dustin, a 9 year old Labrador retriever, returning for laser/acupuncture treatment for arthritis.
Third Appointment - Regular patient Snow Baby, a 15 year old Ragdoll cat, dropped off for dental cleaning using holistic anesthesia and removal/biopsy of small skin tumors. Performed both procedures, took dental radiographs, and drew blood for early detection of cancer. Snow Baby woke up 2 minutes following the procedure and was sent home wide awake.
3 pets dropped off for continued fluid therapy and detoxification for liver and kidney disease.
1 pet dropped off for cardiac ultrasound to evaluate heart murmur/disease.
Lunch Break - Reviewed charts for hospitalized pets; updated service codes; reviewed progress of hospitalized cases. Spent time responding to client emails. Wrote article (this one!) for Animal Wellness. Wrote columns for practice newsletter. Worked on consulting job for supplement manufacturer. Prepared lecture notes for upcoming lecture to local dog club.
Afternoon First Appointment - Did phone appointment/consultation with pet owner in California who does not have local holistic veterinarian. Spoke with her about her pet's cancer diagnosis and recommended therapy. Shipped various herbal remedies to help pet battle cancer.
Second Appointment - New patient Tino, a 2 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, with skin disease. Reviewed medical records and examined pet. Due to the chronic nature and severity of the condition and lack of a proper diagnosis drew blood and collected urine and feces for evaluation. Scheduled skin biopsy and culture for the next day.
Released hospitalized pets to owners with discharge instructions.
Went home for a nice walk with my beautiful wife after a typically long and tough day saving lives naturally!
Note: You might be surprised that a holistic doctor sees far fewer patients (usually only half as many) as a conventional doctor. This is because we spend more time on each case rather than trying to "cram" as many appointments into our day as possible. By spending more time we can offer a more personalized approach to pet care, can accurately assess each case, and are less likely to misdiagnose a serious problem.
Of course, some holistic veterinarians (including yours truly) also stay busy doing other things. We write books (and articles!) to educate pet owners and other veterinarians. We speak at veterinary meetings, sharing our passion for this wonderful world of natural healing. Some of us have our own line of natural products that we use in practice and sell to the public, trying to make sure our patients and pets around the world have access to the best supplements to keep them healthy. The life of a holistic practitioner is indeed a very busy one but it is never boring. Each day presents its own unique challenges, as we do our best to help all pets, but especially those not helped by conventional medicine.