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Why Do Vet Schools Shy Away From Holistic Medicine?

With a growing interest in holistic medicine, vet students aren't being offered classes in the subject at school.


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Holistic medicine was not taught when many of us were in veterinary school. As a result, practitioners interested in holistic medicine had to learn on their own, often through mentors and few resources. 

Today, most veterinary schools offer no formal training in the discipline—about a dozen have elective courses—nor does there seem to be much interest among educators in expanding the teaching. 

The lack of training is unfortunate, I believe, as many consumers use some sort of alternative therapy and welcome these therapies for their pets. If veterinary schools won’t step up and educate students, are we really surprised when clients turn to “internet experts” for advice? 

Despite the lack of official curricula at schools, holistic medicine continues to advance. 

The first change over the last 10 years or so involves vaccine protocols. We simply don’t need to give pets frequent vaccines. Giving unnecessary vaccines increases the pet owner cost, does nothing to prevent disease and may harm the immune system. 

In place of vaccines, a blood titer test lets the pet’s body tell us when it needs booster immunizations. While holistic doctors have utilized reduced vaccines and titer tests for many years, the good news is that more doctors are offering these tests and most boarding and grooming facilities accept them in place of traditional vaccines. 

The second change I’ve seen is better cancer treatment. Holistic therapies such as herbs, nutritional supplements and homeopathics are used to detoxify the pet and support damaged organs and the immune system. 

The third development is early cancer testing. Twenty-five years ago I was often asked about simple tests for early cancer diagnosis. Such tests did not exist then, but today holistic doctors commonly test pets for cancer during annual visits. The test profile consists of checking inflammatory and cancer markers and the vitamin D level. 

Tests of dogs in my practice show that over 90 percent are abnormal during early testing. Early intervention lets us save lives. 

Fourth, I’ve been shocked at how many dogs are vitamin-D deficient. Low vitamin D levels, discovered through blood testing, are linked to heart disease, infectious diseases and, of course, cancer. Testing and treatment are easy and inexpensive. As vitamin D testing is becoming more mainstream in people, my hope is that this trend will cross over into better pet care. 

Finally, medical-grade hemp oil (CBD) is available to help patients. Many purported uses for CBD, such as with seizures, aging, arthritis, pain and cancer, may be responsive to this new supplement. 

As interest in holistic medicine grows among consumers and veterinarians, hopefully veterinary schools will respond with educational opportunities. 

For more information about veterinary homeopathy and for references for some of the statements made in this article, visit the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy website.


Dr. Shawn Messonnier is a speaker, author and owner of Paws and Claws Animal Hospital in Plano, Texas. 

Sparks, Md., holistic veterinarian Christina Chambreau, DVM, contributed to this article.

Originally published in the January 2017  issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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