Understanding different types of veterinary medicine

Veterinary Designation can be complicated. Here is some basic information about a few of the more commonly-seen initials.

The first notation you’ll usually see is an indication of a veterinary degree: either DVM or VMD. Licensed veterinarians diagnose and treat animals, or may pursue laboratory work, research, or teaching. They may choose general practice or seek board certification in a particular area of specialization. Both DVM and VMD indicate the individual has graduated from a veterinary school.

Naturopathy and homeopathy

Once licensed, a DVM or VMD may choose to incorporate an area of holistic medicine into his or her practice, such as homeopathy (CVH) or naturopathy (VND). Homeopathy is based on the concept of “like cures like”, where disease is treated with highly diluted but potent remedies that produce the same symptoms, thereby stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities. Naturopathic medicine also uses the body’s inherent healing powers to restore and maintain overall health. It encompasses other alternative healthcare practices, including homeopathy, acupuncture, yoga, herbal treatments, osteopathy, hydrotherapy, massage, nutrition and dietary therapy.


An animal acupuncturist (CVA) offers an alternative approach to solving isolated or chronic issues without drugs or surgery. According to the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (AAVA), acupuncturists treat a range of conditions and illnesses including pain, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems, musculoskeletal disorders, urinary disorders and dermatological problems.

Acupuncture is traditionally defined as a method to assess and rebalance the flow of energy (qi) that travels along the body’s 12 main linear pathways. When a pathway is blocked, sickness results. Acupuncture corrects this by inserting any number of small needles in specific points to restore health.

In most states and provinces, veterinary acupuncture is considered a surgical procedure and may only be administered by a licensed veterinarian.

Chiropractic medicine

This is a drugless form of therapy based on the relationship of the spinal column to the nervous system. When problems with this relationship arise, various health conditions result. Chiropractors correct these problems with adjustments in the form of spinal manipulations and applied pressure.

According to the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA), chiropractic care can benefit any animal suffering from pain, injuries, muscle and nerve problems, internal medicine disorders, lameness, and other issues.

Certification and practice in the area of veterinary chiropractic vary widely. For example, a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) is a human chiropractor who also treats animals; a DC wishing to treat animals either pursues study in animal chiropractic, or holds a DVM or a VMD degree. Some states or provinces restrict the practice of chiropractic medicine to humans only.

This is far from an exhaustive list of all the initials associated with the fields of veterinary and alternative medicine. But even a fundamental grasp of the ones covered here will help you understand more about your dog’s healthcare provider, and what he or she can do to keep your canine companion well and happy.