By Jane Meggitt

You’ve just brought home a four-legged bundle of joy, and you want the very best for him. Do you follow the traditional puppy care route, or try a more holistic approach? The latter is more work for you, but might contribute to your dog’s overall physical and mental health.

Flower Essences, Homeopathy and Essential Oils

Many holistic vets use alternative therapies, such as flower essences, homeopathy and diluted essential oils on their patients. For example, a puppy suffering from separation anxiety may receive a cup of cool chamomile tea mixed in with his food, a few drops of “Rescue Remedy” flower essence in his drinking water, or hang out in a ventilated room with a lavender oil diffuser. These various therapies will help him stay calm and lessen anxiety.

While these therapies are safer than common medications used for puppies – such as anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants – you should still discuss their use with your vet. Certain essential oils, for example, are quite strong and not suitable for puppies. Flower essences are used for specific purposes and emotional states. Giving your puppy the wrong flower essence won’t harm him, but it also won’t do any good.


Traditionally, puppies are fed a high quality puppy food until they are ready to graduate to an adult form. You’ll find lots of puppy foods marketed as “holistic.” These foods should contain natural ingredients, with no fillers. Many pet parents today choose to feed homemade diets, which can be formulated with the help of your veterinarian.

Feeding holistically also means using appropriate alternative therapies to aid digestion or treat occasional bouts of vomiting or diarrhea. If a puppy experiences serious vomiting or diarrhea, take him to the vet as soon as possible. Dehydration can quickly kill a young puppy.


Flea infestations can prove deadly to puppies. The loss of blood can make them anemic. It’s unlikely that a well-cared for puppy will experience a serious flea issue, but rescued puppies are often loaded with fleas. Such puppies require immediate veterinary attention.

A traditional vet may recommend prescription flea and tick medications suitable for puppies, in topical or oral form. Some puppies may experience toxic reactions to these powerful chemicals. Holistic veterinarians prefer a moderate approach if the flea problem isn’t overwhelming. Your holistic vet may recommend regular bathing to eradicate fleas, and the use of natural repellents such as diluted orange or geranium essential oils.

Regular bathing keeps fleas to a minimum. During flea season, wash your puppy every week or so, using a gentle formula shampoo. Any fleas on him will drown. On non-bath days, give your puppy a thorough combing with a fine-tined flea comb. Have a cup of soapy water handy to drown any bloodsuckers you find on your dog.

Keep fleas out of your yard by purchasing nematodes, available at garden centers. These minute worms consume flea larvae, and rapidly reduce the flea population in your yard.

Further Reading: Natural, Organic Flea Treatment and Control (With Herbal Rinse Recipe)

Tick Control

Ticks not only latch on and feast on your puppy’s blood, but they can spread disease. Lyme disease, common in canines and humans, is transmitted via the bites of the tiny deer tick. During tick season – which is year-round in warm climates – check your puppy thoroughly for these creatures every time he comes indoors.

Rose geranium, catnip, lavender and several other essential oils have tick-repellent properties. Your holistic vet can recommend the proper mixture and carrier oil for your puppy. Put a few drops on him prior to each walk.

When out for a stroll, keep your puppy away from areas of tall grass. That’s where ticks linger, ready to jump on their prey. If out on trails, keep your puppy in the middle of the path.

Further Reading: Natural Tick Treatments for Dogs (With Anti-Lyme’s Bite Recipe)


Perhaps nowhere do holistic and traditional puppy care veterinarians differ more than in the area of vaccinations. It isn’t that holistic vets don’t believe in vaccinating puppies, but they advocate a different schedule and types of vaccines. This is the traditional vaccination schedule:

• 5 to 8 weeks – distemper, measles parainfluenza
• 10 to 12 weeks – DHPP: distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus
• 12 to 24 weeks – rabies
• 14 to 16 weeks – DHPP
• 12 to 16 months – DHPP, rabies.

Those are the “core” vaccines, and do not take into account additional vaccines the vet may recommend depending on your region or lifestyle. Common non-core vaccinations include:

• Bordatella
• Coronavirus
• Leptospirosis
• Lyme disease.

Holistic veterinarians usually recommend a later and simpler schedule, using single vaccines rather than combination vaccines such as the DHPP. However, the schedule usually depends on your ability to keep the puppy isolated from other canines until he is 22 weeks old. That’s 5.5 months of age, and such isolation often isn’t practical and can affect an animal’s socialization. A typical holistic vaccination schedule looks like this:

• 22 weeks – distemper
• 26 weeks – parvovirus
• 30 weeks- rabies

Rabies vaccinations are required by state law. Give the homeopathic remedy Thuja occidentalis before and after vaccinations to minimize reactions.

Many pet parents chose a combination of holistic and traditional puppy care, as that works best for them.

Dog Vaccination Schedule
Does My Puppy Need Shots?

Guest Author Bio:
Jane Meggitt is a Writer for Animal Connection, a holistic pet care store in Charlottesville, VA. Jane’s work has appeared in The Daily Puppy, Paw Animal Nations, eHow Pets, The Nest Pets and many other publications. She’s also a nationally known equine journalist.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
30 Essential Oils that may not be Safe for Pets
Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats – Natural Treatment and Prevention
Is Tea Tree Oil Safe for Pets?
Natural Treatment of Struvite Bladder Stones in Dogs and Cats (Infographic)


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3 thoughts on “Holistic vs. Traditional Methods of Puppy Care – Where They Differ

  1. Oh my gosh……those PUPPIES!!! So cute. Great info too!!! I’m never sure about vaccines. There’s a fine line between to much and not enough.

  2. Holistic all the way! Vets have their place and we see one regularly but I believe mother nature can help lots too.

  3. We just battled fleas the natural way and my gosh what a lot of work! When I see the pictures of reactions to harsh flea collers & other meds I know its worth it though.

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