A Whole-Health Approach

As pet owners strive to live healthier lifestyles, they are increasingly turning to holistic services for their four-legged loved ones.


Holistic has become a buzzword for America predominantly because of the Baby Boomers. This post-war generation of 44 to 62 year olds is focused on aging gracefully through healthy lifestyles; and they have more disposable income to spend on their kids, aging parents and, of course, their pets. Baby Boomers make up just 28 percent of the U.S. population, yet they are the most powerful consumer group out there. Boomers alone carry more than half of the country’s purchasing power, spending upwards of $2.3 trillion annually. This health-focused consumer group is enamored with holistic health care for themselves and their families, so it’s no wonder they are seeking out holistic services for their pets.

Veterinary Care

While holistic veterinary care is not new to the pet scene, it is gaining popularity at a similar rate to the human practice. In a holistic veterinary approach, the focus is on repairing the damage that has been done to the body through the root cause, in hope that the health problem does not arise again. This is in contrast to conventional medicine, which normally just treats the symptoms and not neccesarily the root cause.

The idea behind the holistic approach is to treat the entire being, not just the malady, and focus on the animal as a whole. Use of alternate therapies often includes chiropractic, essential oil therapy, reflexology, massage, naturopathy, vaccination protocol, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture.

Many different forms of acupuncture are available. In addition to traditional needle therapy, electro-acupuncture is gaining popularity. In this therapy, a device is attached to the carefully inserted acupuncture needles, which then generate continuous electric pulses. In contrast, aqua-puncture is an acupuncture treatment that focuses on injecting liquids (often liquid vitamin B12 or saline) into specific neurological points in the body in order to create therapeutic effects. This form of acupuncture is often used to treat spinal diseases, lameness and hip dysplasia in a veterinary setting.

Another holistic treatment area is the use of bio-resonance. These therapies include pulsed magnetic therapy, spectro-chrome (color) therapy, low-energy photon therapy, micro-current electrical stimulation and scenar therapy. Simply put, these therapies are based on the overall concept that utilizing different forms of vibrating energy can actually heal a pet’s diseased or injured cells. This is often used to increase healing and reduce pain, as well as for the treatment of allergies and food intolerances.

Holistic vets often create a treatment protocol for a sick pet using a broad range of therapies. Since the focus of holistic care is the theory of wholeness, all aspects of the pet’s life are then considered: the living environment, the symptoms of the disease and its pattern, and the relationship of the pet with its owner or caregiver.  It’s typical that they take a less conventional approach to the use of vaccinations and drug therapies; however, oftentimes, the recommended treatment may involve traditional medical treatments in addition to holistic ones, such as surgery and pharmaceuticals.

Pet Care Services
Grooming salons and boarding kennels are also embracing the holistic trend. This approach often means an even better overall experience for the animals being cared for at the pet facility. Boarding kennels are integrating more natural foods into their boarders’ diets and are designing more relaxing environments and incorporating exercise sessions into daily routines. 

Many grooming facilities are also making the switch to holistic salons, offering spa treatments using natural products, aromatherapy and essential oils, massage treatments, Reiki, behavior and nutritional counseling, natural flea and tick control, and even anesthetic-free dental cleanings. Demand drives the market, and there is no doubt a huge demand for holistic.

Retail Opportunities
Pet owners, in general, want to do the right thing for their pets. They want their furry friends to be healthy and happy, often putting the pets’ needs before their own. Those who embrace the wholeness approach to pet care want the best food, vitamins, supplements, toys and supplies. Retailers wanting to capture these buyers need to remember to appeal to their mind, body and spirit, and they will buy.
Carefully selected, high-quality holistic products need to be displayed in a relaxing, pleasant store atmosphere. But that is just the first step.

These consumers need information and education to make informed decisions. This is where well-trained staff members are essential. Employees need to be able to provide information on how to best utilize the products on the shelves. For instance, most pet owners know little about pet food. Well-versed nutritional counselors who can make brand recommendations based on individual pets’ needs will likely create loyal pet food customers who will buy food from only your store, and will recommend it to friends and family.

As with any popular trend, a certain amount of controversy follows the holistic movement. It isn’t difficult for fraudulent practitioners to make grandiose claims with little retribution, due to the lack of regulation. Some claim to have the ability to perform disease-finding “full body scans” which, interestingly enough, can be done over the phone as long as the caller has a credit card handy.

Others can communicate with pets telepathically and interpret what Fluffy has been trying to tell his owner. It’s buyer-beware, as always; do your research, and check credentials when selecting a holistic practitioner to avoid disappointment, or worse.

Finding the Balance
Today’s informed pet owners are looking for holistic pet products and services. They are consciously choosing healthier lifestyles for themselves and also for their pets.

Since the basic idea of holistic care is the focus on wholeness, it only makes sense from a healing aspect that the mind, body, spirit be dealt with simultaneously. In our overcomplicated society, this move toward a more natural simplicity is very appealing. After all, couldn’t we all use a little more balance and harmony?

Shannon Heggem NCMG, CKO, CMG, is a dynamic pet business expert who has motivated thousands to take action. She is an internationally recognized grooming and boarding kennel expert, with a long list of accolades and certifications. She is the founder and drill sergeant of the newly launched groomingbootcamp.com, and recently opened the Australian Grooming School in Queensland, Australia. When she isn’t on a plane going back and forth, she works as a consultant to pet professionals, helping the overwhelmed and overworked get focused, organized and more productive in their pet care businesses. Subscribe to Shannon’s free e-zine “Words to Wag By” at www.petbusinessadvice.com.

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