The word "holistic" describes Veterinary Nutrition Care's approach, but it might not mean what you think it means.
The word "holistic" means different things to different people. Some use it to refer to the avoidance of some types of care, usually Western medicine. This is definitely not Veterinary Nutrition Care's usage of the word.
The medical definition of the word refers to treating a patient as a whole, rather than just one aspect of him/her. That's something that a veterinary nutritionist can get behind, since nutrition is inherently holistic.
Having said that, Veterinary Nutrition Care's approach to holistic medicine is to evaluate a pet in terms of what he/she is being asked to do. Although it may not seem like it, we actually ask a lot of our pets. Every pet has a set of tasks that are being asked of him/her. We ask our pets to stay healthy, and to live with, or fight, a disease. We ask them to be our exercise partners and our TV-watching buddies. We ask them to lose weight, to hang in there, to compete, to play, and to protect us. Some wear badges, harnesses, and vests in their jobs, others just do it in whatever silly outfit their owner put on them that day. Believe it or not, each of these jobs can tell your veterinary nutritionist a little (or a lot) about how a particular pet should be fed. Only once these jobs are understood can a nutrition plan be developed that helps support the pet in performing his/her job(s).
For Veterinary Nutrition Care, holistic doesn't even stop at evaluating the pet as a whole, because a complete nutritional assessment takes into consideration not only the pet, but also current and past diets, as well as his/her family. Understanding the current and past diets, as well as a pet's response to them, guides the nutrition plan. While it may seem unrelated, the pet's family has a lot to do with what the pet is fed, what jobs he/she is being asked to do, as well as exactly how food for the pet is purchased, prepared and stored.
Evidence-based nutrition is so important!
All of the above is good, but it needs to be done in tandem with evidence-based medicine and evidence-based nutrition. Despite all of the online research that many pet owners do to learn how best to feed their pets, they rarely come across these ideas. It's a shame, because understanding these principles saves time, energy and confusion. In addition, this is what guides the interpretation of a pet's history and physical examination, and what shapes good medical and nutritional treatment plans.
Evidence-based medicine could probably also be called "research-based medicine." It is the careful application of current best research to patient care. Evidence-based nutrition just refers to using the same principles within the specialty of nutrition.
Why does it have to be done carefully? Not all pets are exactly like the animals studied in a particular research report. How applicable the research is to any given patient is variable and determined by the person interpreting the research. That person should know what they're doing.
It's pretty easy to understand why it's important to be making decisions based on current research. Let's not belabor that point.
Why "best" research? No research is perfect, and every study ever completed has some weaknesses, or questions that it does not answer. The person interpreting the research has to decide how good the research is and determine how much weight to give the results of that research in decision-making.
Related to saving pet owners time, energy, and confusion: life experience teaches us that not all advice is good advice. Throughout our lives we learn how to distinguish good advice from bad, and we learn who are generally our best bets for advice in certain situations. It may sound strange, but there's a parallel with evidence-based medicine. Evidence-based medicine gives us a set of criteria that allows us to create a hierarchy that classifies scientific research; and indirectly, the advice derived from it. Most pet owners won't be reading and interpreting the latest veterinary research, so they should rely on veterinary experts for the interpretation. A problem, however, arises when everybody on the internet or in a pet store claims to be (or sounds like) an expert. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has developed helpful tools for dog and cat owners to learn how to decide which advice may be worth reading and considering, and which is not. Better yet, discuss any nutritionally-related questions or concerns with your pet's primary care veterinarian, or plan a visit with Veterinary Nutrition Care.
Veterinary Nutrition Care uses evidence-based medicine in many aspects of practice:
It helps determine the questions you are asked by your veterinary nutritionist, since it allows her to know that pets with certain factors in their history may have specific findings on their physical examination.
It allows your veterinary nutritionist to know that certain combinations of physical examination findings are more commonly associated with some medical conditions, which then may prompt a recommendation for further diagnostics.
It allows your veterinary nutritionist to turn all of the information collected into a diagnosis, which then can determine possible treatment options.
It allows your veterinary nutritionist to describe treatment options in terms of prognosis.
It should be noted that all of the above can only happen where related research has been done. Your veterinary nutritionist is not a magician. She can't just pull it out of thin air!
The internet abounds with very technical writing on evidence-based medicine's theory and execution. You can find more detail in nice, readable language here.
Communicating with pet owners and veterinarians is key
Without communication, your veterinary nutritionist has almost nothing. Good communication allows her to gather the most relevant information about a pet, make a diagnosis, prescribe a nutritional plan, and, maybe most importantly- follow up and change that plan as needed. It allows her to help maintain the high quality of care provided by your primary care veterinarian, and to build professional relationships with colleagues.
That's Veterinary Nutrition Care: guided by a holistic approach, informed by evidence-based medicine, and made possible by good communication.