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Holistic Care for Companion Animals: Education and Career Options

Holistic veterinarians require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

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Holistic medicine is healing that takes all parts of a body--mental, physical, and emotional--into consideration when trying to find the root cause of any health issue. While holistic medicine has become more popular for physicians, veterinarians are beginning to alter their practices, too.

Essential Information

As opposed to conventional veterinary medicine's focus on physical symptoms, holistic veterinary care emphasizes treatment of a companion animal's mind, body and spirit. All veterinarians must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree program from a college accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Applicants typically complete a bachelor's degree program, though some colleges only require relevant coursework, such as biology, chemistry, physiology and animal sciences. Applicants must attain a qualifying score in the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

After graduation, veterinarians must receive and maintain licensure in every state where they wish to practice, which requires a qualifying score in the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). After acquiring a license to practice, veterinarians can consider training and certification in one or more modalities of holistic care for companion animals.

Required Education Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine
Other Requirements State license; certification in specific holistic practice
Projected Job Growth 9% from 2014-2024* (all veterinarians)
Median Salary (2015) $88,490 annually* (all veterinarians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options for Holistic Veterinarians

Veterinarians can choose from a number of holistic modalities, which can include special training for using behavior modification, herbs and other alternative medicines with companion animals. Membership in a relevant association and certification can greatly enhance a holistic veterinarian's visibility and assure potential clients of their competency.

Veterinary Acupuncture

Acupuncture relieves pain and improves body functions by stimulating specific points on the surface of an animal's body. Certification in veterinary acupuncture for both small and large animals is offered by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS). Certification involves an educational program, clinical experience under the supervision of a certified practitioner and a qualifying score on examinations. According to IVAS, a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist (CVA) designation also provides a basis for those interested in studying Chinese veterinary herbology.

Veterinary Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care involves the adjustment of a pet's joints and bone structures to relieve pain and treat injuries from physical activity. Certification is offered to those who complete an approved training program and pass the exam administered by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association's Animal Chiropractic Certification Commission (AVCA/ACCA).

Veterinary Massage

Companion animal massage seeks to promote comfort and mobility. The International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork (IAAMB) provides educational and training programs.

Veterinary Homeopathy

Homeopathy treats chronic diseases in pets through remedies derived from plants, minerals and even viruses. The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH) is the North American certifying body. The certification process requires training and a minimum amount of clinical experience. Once these requirements are fulfilled, veterinarians are eligible to take the exam to receive the Certified Veterinary Homeopathy (CVH) designation.

Career and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for veterinarians is predicted to increase 9% from 2014-2024. The job market for veterinarians seeking to provide companion animal care is expected to be tighter than the job market for vets looking for jobs caring for farm animals.

The BLS reported that the median salary for veterinarians was $88,490 in May 2015. The five states that employed the greatest number of veterinarians were California, Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania. The five states where veterinarians had the highest annual average salaries were Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

Veterinarians who wish to practice holistic care can learn techniques such as acupuncture, chiropracty, massage, and homeopathic medicine. These techniques can help return healthy balance to an animal patient, just as they do for human patients.

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