Holistic Medicine

What is Holistic Medicine Anyway??

By: Dr. Karin Derfuss

Holistic is a term that has come to mean many different things to different people. A Google search gives the following definitions:


  1. characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
  1. characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease.

I believe the word should be whole-istic rather than its current spelling. I receive phone calls on a regular basis looking for the “holistic vet” from people who don’t want to use regular medicine on their pets, or think that holistic is a particular type of medicine. It can be very difficult convincing some people that what they are expecting doesn’t really exist (at least not at my practice). Human medicine, as well as veterinary medicine, has moved away from treating the whole patient, or holistic based treatment, to so many specialties that the patient is no longer seen as an entire entity, only a part that corresponds to that particular doctor’s specialty. This is fantastic in so many ways, but can also be disastrous when there is a lack of communication amongst the doctors or lack of truthfulness or knowledge on the part of the patient, or for veterinarians, their owners. 

Treating a patient holistically means using whatever methods are available to address the issues at hand for the whole patient. Those treatment options will change from patient to patient, and should be individualized. Sometimes drugs are necessary, sometimes surgery is necessary, or it may be acupuncture, herbal therapies, Reiki, chiropractic, essential oils, nutritional changes, behavior modification, evaluating the home situation, consulting an animal communicator, or even several or many of the above options. Of course, very few doctors are well versed in many forms of treatment, but it is still possible to be open minded and advise our clients / patients that there are other options available and even refer properly for alternative forms of treatment.

Holistic medicine isn’t magic. Using a holistic approach requires time, attention to detail, thorough review of the patient’s medical history, a thorough exam, and maybe even admitting that this patient would be better off with another doctor or practitioner of another non-medicine modality. The proper solution may not be what the patient or client came looking for. This is where the proper experience and expertise will be essential and beneficial for the care of the whole patient.

My version of holistic medicine is integrative veterinary medicine. I embrace my traditional veterinary education, knowledge and skills which include medicine, dentistry and surgery, and enhance them with Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, as well as incorporating Stem Cell Therapy and Platelet Rich Plasma therapy. I addition to these excellent and successful treatment options, I also know when I need to incorporate modalities that I am not skilled in such as veterinary chiropractic care, animal communication, behavior modification and training, and Reiki.

In conclusion, let’s consider “Wholeistic” medicine instead of “Holistic” medicine and get on track to doing a better job in treating ourselves as well as our families and pets!


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  • "The office staff works very closely with the veterinarians to answer questions and help with concerns. They are always ready to help you. 5 Stars"
    Cathy & Greg B.
  • "#1... it's easy, the professionalism and value for money well spent, as well as kindness for both the owner and the animal!
    5 Stars"
    Bonnie P.
  • "Been going there for 13 years now. Dr. Derfuss and her staff are the best. 5 Stars"
    Edward B.
  • "Great Vet... great staff... This group is like no other Vet I've been to. I tried 5 different Vets in the New Brunswick area... Branchburg is on a totally different leve. 5 Stars"
    Daniel F.
  • "We want to thank Dr. Derfuss and her entire staff at Branchburg Animal Hospital for all of the wonderful service and care we have received over the years. We've been with the practice since it opened many years ago. Whether we are coming to the office to pick up food or bring our pets in to be treated, we are given the best care. They are like family to us. We give them an A++ and have recommended them on many occasions."
    The Del Grosso Family
  • "Linda and I have been bringing our Labrador Retrievers (first Shiloh and now Cooper) to Dr. Derfuss and the Branchburg Animal Hospital for many years. We have always admired and embraced the leading edge, holistic healing practices that are employed there. This has included such applications as acupuncture, chiropractic and the utilization of natural supplements, all of which have appreciably augmented the overall quality of life for our beloved canines. At a time and in a country where the overuse of prescription medication has clearly run amok, it is great to have a facility in our area where numerous other alternatives are deployed and RX medication is applied on a far more discerning basis."
    Kevin B.
  • "My husband and I have been taking our German Shepherds to Dr. Derfuss for many years. She is extremely caring and compassionate. She not only practices traditional medicine but holistic too. Our "girls" actually loved when they went to the vet! We highly recommend Branchburg Animal Hospital!"
    Carla B.
  • "I’ve been bringing my cats here for 15 years and Dr. Derfuss and the staff have been caring and compassionate. Holistic treatments are available if you want them, depending on the animal’s condition, and I have gone this route a couple of times for ailing cats. I never felt pressured into accepting any particular treatment. I’ve always been given all the options and chose what I felt was best. There are a number of vets closer to where I live, but I continue to make a slightly longer drive to Branchburg Animal Hospital because I trust them."
    Loretta A.
  • "Great Vet, Professional Staff, Very Clean. We are fortunate to live close to this great Vet!!"
  • "For the past five years, the veterinarians at Branchburg Animal Hospital have taken great care of Stitch. I highly recommend this vet for your cat or dog."
    Jaime Hernandez / Branchburg, NJ

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