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Alternative Medicine and Your Pet

Editor’s Note: I am a big fan of some forms of alternative medicine and have been quite curious about how it would work for pets. I’ve used acupuncture to treat various ailments, and personally, I am a fan. Following is a story about dogs and alternative therapies from the folks at dogtime.com.

Acupuncture needles really don't hurt.

More and more people are turning to alternative therapies to cure what ails them, and they’re doing the same for their dogs. Almost every alternative therapy used to treat humans is also used for canines.

Often, dog lovers experiment with alternative therapies to find gentle treatments for conditions such as pain, especially in senior dogs. Acupuncture, herbs, and massage are all used to ease pain.

Lots of different therapies fall under the umbrella of alternative medicine. But many of them have this philosophy in common: consider and treat all aspects of the patient’s life, not just the symptoms.

Here are a few of the most popular ones:

Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles into specific areas on your dog’s body to balance the flow of energy, or chi. This ancient Chinese practice is often used to control pain and cure chronic ailments. Acupuncture is also used on cats.

Herbal treatments use plant remedies to treat a variety of ailments. For example, alfalfa is used for arthritis and allergies.

Homeopathy aims to jumpstart the body’s own healing response with very diluted substances that cause the same symptoms the dog is suffering from. For instance, a dog with diarrhea would be given tiny amounts of a substance that causes diarrhea.

Massage lowers the level of stress hormones in the body, increases circulation, eases pain, and may even give the immune system a boost.

Nutritional supplements are used to make up nutritional shortfalls in the diet by supplying extra vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids.

Veterinarians on Alternative Therapies
Some veterinarians don’t care for alternative therapies since, unlike conventional veterinary medicine, most of them haven’t been scientifically proven to work. Others actually incorporate alternative therapies into their practice. Some veterinary schools now provide tracks in holistic medicine.

Find a Practitioner
If you’re looking for a qualified alternative medicine veterinary practitioner, word of mouth is often the best way to go. Try asking your vet, and talk to other dog owners. You can also visit one of these organizations for a referral:

American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association
Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy
American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture
International Veterinary Acupuncture Society
Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association

When deciding on a practitioner, make sure they’re licensed or certified by whatever organization governs the therapy. For instance, anyone doing chiropractic work on your dog should be certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association.

Use Common Sense
You wouldn’t give your dog a conventional medication without knowing anything about it or consulting with your vet. The same thing goes for some alternative therapies. You won’t do any harm if you massage your dog, but giving incorrect dosages of potent herbs or supplements is another story. Just because a substance is natural doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

Have you used any alternative therapies on your pet? If so, I would love to hear about it.

9 comments to Alternative Medicine and Your Pet

  • Good article, but the author neglected to mention one of the most popular alternative therapies for animals – Reiki. One of the fastest growing fields in animal care since the early days of my career as a Reiki practitioner (which began in 1996), Reiki has become quite popular in medical settings for people as well as in veterinary settings and for home use with animals.

    Reiki is a form of energy healing that balances the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of every living being, and no diagnosis is required.

    While it is often helpful to seek out the services of an animal Reiki practitioner, one of the things that sets Reiki apart from other alternative methods is the fact that with the right teacher and a beginning class the average person can begin to apply the benefits for their animal companions, themselves and family and friends immediately.

    To learn more about Reiki or for some tips on how to find a Reiki teacher in your area check out: http://wildreiki.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/dr-oz-declares-reiki-his-1-alternative-medicine-secret-tips-on-choosing-a-teacher/

  • Thanks so much Rose! This is very helpful information.–Michele

  • Fulvia

    I’ve been using homeopathy for almost all my life, it’s my remedy for almost every disease. I use it for my animals too, with great reaults. Shocked horses refusing obstacles starting to jump again, mistreated dogs getting more and more confident, dogs previoulsly used for fighting turning into perfect, sweet and balanced pets. We definitely cannot speak of placebo when animals are involved! I have to say that homeopathy in Italy is taken very seriously, and it can be prescribed ONLY by medical doctors postgraduated, the same regarding vets. Thank you for this post, Michele!

  • I didn’t know that about you Fulvia. It sounds like your animals are in good hands. Thanks! Michele

  • What I like about alternative medicine is the high safety. It is safe and it can work just as well as drugs, in spite of the protests of ‘evidence-based medicine’ supporters.

    I think the main misunderstanding there is what constitutes evidence.

    Personally I believe that integrative approach is the most effective. Using the best tools for the job, regardless of whose toolbox they come from.

  • Thanks for sharing this, Michele. I use homeopathy in conjunction with modern med and have seen first hand the benefits.

  • Very interesting post, Michele. I’ve often wondered how these alternative procedures might benefit my dogs.

  • I give my dog Reiki treatments, to which she responds extremely well. She first received Reiki after a severe injury to her ACL ligament. She was given the Reiki before surgery. Her response was fascinating–she had never met the practitioner before, yet sat quietly through the 20 minute session. She saw the practitioner four months later, and immediately went to her and put her (now operated on) leg out, seemingly wanting Reiki. Now, each time she sees this practitioner, it is the same, altho she does that with no one else.
    I now give Reiki to her (myself, I took a course), and it seems to have had a very positive effect on her behavior. Remarkably less fearful of strangers. http://healing.about.com/od/petcare_touch/a/reikidogs.htm

  • Virginia Herndon

    I’ve tried acupuncture on myself and on my lab who was suffering from dysplasia. It helped up both. Thanks for the write up.

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