The truth is – we are both! But what do these terms actually mean? And what does it mean for Whole Pet and for your pet? According to the Oxford Dictionary, Holistic is “characterized by the belief that the parts of something are interconnected and can be explained only by reference to the whole.” With regards to medicine, it is “characterized by the treatment of the whole [patient], taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of an illness.” And so, YES! THIS IS WHO WE ARE! 

Integrative Medicine is defined as “a form of medical therapy that combines practices and treatments from alternative medicine with conventional medicine.” YES! THIS IS ALSO WHO WE ARE! We think bringing alternatives into our practice accentuates our results, opens more options, and overall gives us and our patients/pets more successful outcomes and joy. 

Something we notice, however, is that the words Integrative and Holistic are sometimes distorted as a desire to avoid drugs, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and all other traditional medical practices. While there seems to be a growing group of individuals who identify with these values, we most identify with the truest sense of Integrative and Holistic, and you will notice this in our recommendations to you. 

One major way your goals may not match our recommendations would be with vaccinations. Since our opening in 2013, we have adopted safe vaccination protocols, which include using vaccine brands with the least reactivity and safest or no adjuvants, separating vaccines from each other, holding off using vaccines on sick and immunocompromised pets, and using titers to help us determine the need for them. This has afforded us a zero percent rate of auto-immune disease or vaccine-induced disease created within our hospital over a whole decade. For some reason, we see the most client resistance with the Rabies vaccine, which we consider to be the second safest vaccine in our hospital. When following the principles outlined above, we feel very strongly that this vaccine is safe for 99% of our patients. Because we are Holistic, we know when this vaccine might be dangerous for your pet, and we want you to know we are not interested in doing anything that may cause harm to your pet. 

There are a few truths we have with the Rabies vaccine that we think are pertinent to our Holistic view. 1. Rabies is universally fatal. This is why it is taken so seriously. If a pet or human contracts Rabies, they will die, and rather quickly. To my knowledge, only one person has ever survived Rabies. The risk to humans is great, and this is why we are so adamant about it. 

2. If your pet bites a human and is not Rabies vaccinated in accordance with your state law, the state has the right to quarantine your pet or even take your pet and have them tested for Rabies.

3. The only way to test for Rabies is to ***warning: graphic*** cut their head off and submit their brain for testing. Every person working in veterinary medicine has had the unfortunate experience of having to do this on a beloved patient, and it’s not something we ever forget. 

4. If your pet bites a human and that animal does not have a current Rabies vaccine, to protect the human from the possibility of Rabies, that human would require 7 (seven) vaccines. This goes against our philosophy of doing as few vaccines as possible for the greatest good of both people and animals. 

It is our job to protect your pets, and sometimes that means protecting them from the chance they could be taken from you or euthanized against your will. It is also our job to protect the people in our care, which is why your pet may be refused for service if not Rabies vaccinated. Yes, we know this is uncomfortable for some of you, but we ask you to remind yourself of who we are and what our expertise is – we know how to vaccinate your pet safely. We hope that you trust us to do this for you.  

Another way in which our recommendations may be unexpected is heartworm prevention. Yes, we recommend heartworm prevention for every dog in our practice! Why? Because when chosen carefully, heartworm prevention is extremely safe and protects your pup from something that is extremely unsafe and permanently destructive to their body. Recently there is more information circulating online to avoid monthly prevention in favor of testing your dog every three months for heartworms. Once your dog tests positive, it’s too late! There are now large worm(s) inside your dog’s heart that do require unsafe, harmful medications to kill them. Why would anyone recommend foregoing a safe micro-dose of medication monthly in a healthy pet in favor of waiting for disease and using a noxious medication in a pet who is now compromised? Why have some become so committed to finding ways around medications that have no side effects and protect your pets from deadly disease? Is it because one has seen side effects in their dog who took a less safe version and now, they don’t trust any of them? Or maybe they just heard about this happening to someone else’s pet? If this is the case, let us help you! We have done all the research. We have thousands and thousands of patients in our practices. We know the safest choices. In fact, we know how to detoxify the unsafe ones out of their bodies if they have been prescribed in other hospitals. We’ve got you! 

We know flea and tick prevention is a little different. Yes, some are much safer than others. They stay in the system much longer than heartworm prevention pills, and so our more sensitive patients do need to be careful at times. Again, let us help you find the right choice for your pet. Fleas and ticks aren’t just gross and annoying, they also carry deadly diseases that are extremely prevalent in our area. It’s about balance. It’s also about individualized medicine. We take to time to consider the risks and benefits for each pet, including yours. 

Finally, we do see a population of clients who seem to challenge themselves to see how “holistic” they can be, having pride about avoiding traditional medications and doing the research themselves. Living in the age of Google and Social Media, what we know is that one can easily find information to support their own personal view. There is a plethora of information available to each of us. Our job as doctors and scientists, however, is to evaluate ALL positions and come up with protocols and recommendations that take into consideration all sides and also utilize our personal VALUES of do no harm and happy, healthy, holistic. 

We do not share the goal of trying to avoid pharmaceuticals at any cost. For us, sometimes the cost is death, suffering, or chronic disease, all of which go against our goals of Holistic care for your pets. The truth is, we obsessively research the safest products, put new products through scrutiny, and don’t allow many basic commonly used veterinary drugs and products in our hospital because we feel we have better and safer options. We also work to get to the root of disease and only use strong medications when they are absolutely necessary for the longevity and comfort of your pet. 

Isn’t this what we are looking for anyway? Isn’t this what it’s all about? Longevity and quality of life? To us it is, and we work to see all angles of a problem to help make the most Holistic recommendation, often using Integrative Medicine to accomplish this. Here’s one more thing we think you need to know: we have a medical licensing board that regulates everything we do. This is great for you! They are here to make sure we are using high standards to take care of your fur babies. While we love so many of the little tricks and herbs we use, we are also held to a standard of using proven medications with data and veterinary specific research over things that have less data. We can safely use herbs and supplements to complement these, but we are not likely to throw out the recommendations that have the proven research and results in favor of things that are lacking the same amount of data. Working outside of this framework, with the exception of desperation because there are no options for a particular problem, can result in substandard results for you and a threat to our licenses, and our ability to help as many pets as possible.  

If we didn’t have a licensing board to hold us accountable, we could make whatever claims we wanted and maybe put your pet at risk, much like the unlicensed opinions you may come across in your own personal research. Unfortunately, this governing board cannot hold individuals accountable who have no license and may have strong thoughts or opinions for or against medicine and medicinal treatments. It is our hope that we have earned your trust and we can work together to provide you and your pet the most effective options for their longest and very best, most comfortable life. We are truly blessed to help you provide this to the furry, scaled, and feathered creatures you love so much!


Nicole Sheehan

Nicole Sheehan, DVM, CVA, CVFT, CVCH, MATP

Owner, Whole Pet Veterinary Hospitals