The 4 types of Veterinarians

When it comes to raw food, veterinarians have an amazing span of opinions.  Some, like Dr. Karen Becker, are staunch advocates and have made careers promoting a species-appropriate diet.  Then you have veterinarians who believe wholeheartedly that raw food is will harm and possibly even kill your pets.  How is it possible that people with the same educational background can feel so differently about the same topic?

A lot of it has to do with the education the veterinarian receives.  In this blog, we lay out the four type of vets, so you can know what to look for when trying to find a veterinarian that can work well with your choice to feed a raw diet.

There are many types of Veterinarians, each with their own specific training, philosophy, and experiences.  The differences begin with different education backgrounds, extended specialized focus, and additional education such as extended internships and residency programs, but also extends to their philosophies of treatment, personal experiences and biases, and approach to medicine.

General Companion Animal Practitioners

These types of veterinarians trained at a 4-year veterinary school.  After school these doctors will usually practice in private medicine, treating a variety of diseases and disorders as well as providing routine animal care. Their Western medical training means they focus on the treatment of signs and symptoms one problem at a time, viewing the body “in pieces” and considering physical factors to determine care treatment options. These General Practitioners will have earned a Doctrine of Veterinary Medicine (DVM, or sometimes VMD) degree upon graduation. Most of these doctors are members of the AVMA (American Veterinary Medicine Association).

Veterinary Specialist

Like human medicine, there are numerous specialty fields in Veterinary medicine, such as Nutrition, Internal Medicine, Dermatology, Cardiology, Oncology, Ophthalmology, etc. These veterinarians complete their four years of veterinarian school, followed by a four-year residency program.  They then face a grueling two-day board exam. This elite group of specialists will have an extra letter after their DVM degree that is associated with their specialty field. They are usually part of the AVMA or the AHVMA, along with their specialty association.

Holistic or Alternative Veterinarians

Holistic veterinarians are doctors who have completed veterinary school and received their licensing, but who have a special interest in the holistic approach to veterinary medicine and has trained in holistic specialties.  These areas can include Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, Clinical Nutrition, Chiropractic, Rehabilitation, Massage Therapy, and Homeopathy. This type of veterinarian will treat the pet’s initial issue, but also places a broader focus on prevention through establishing and maintaining a foundation of health in the pet's body. They consider emotional, mental, and environmental factors in addition to physical factors when determining treatment options, and they will pay attention to lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction). These doctors will belong to the AHVMA (American Holistic Veterinary Association) and usually have much more extensive nutritional training.

Integrative Veterinarian

This type of veterinarian is a blend of both worlds. Integrative veterinary medicine is a comprehensive medical approach to pet care that combines conventional medicine and complementary/alternative therapies.  This type of veterinarian has a focus on treating the whole animal, not just the current issue, practicing both holistic modalities and conventional care.   The integrative approach to veterinary medicine is designed to minimize adverse side effects, maximize successful treatment outcomes, and improve the quality of life.  Any veterinarian who uses therapies outside of conventional medicine in conjunction with traditional practices is an integrative veterinarian. There is an increasing number of veterinary practices that will include these doctors to serve their patients better.  Sometimes this may involve working with a team of veterinarians.

For the best medical care for your pet, it is recommended to find a doctor who is open-minded to holistic and complementary approaches. It is just as important that if you do choose a holistic veterinarian, that they are open to you making the choice for your pet, even if your choice is to turn to conventional options upon occasion.  Balance in all things matters, and Western Medicine has its place, so make sure, above all, you choose a vet that is willing to let YOU decide what is best for your pet.

Kairi Gainsborough

7 years ago

I didn't know that there are different types of veterinarians. An integrative vet sounds like a good place to take my pets too. I seems like they would be the most open-minded because of their background in both medical school and holistic training. I'm sure they would know when it is better to try a lifestyle change and when it is necessary to consider medication or surgery.

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