Many people are becoming more aware of supporting their own health with better diet, exercise, and even with application of more natural healing methods such as acupuncture and chiropractic care. But did you know that these health care options are becoming more available for pets too? Here is a list of some common alternative or complimentary therapies that are available through holistic veterinarians and veterinary care professionals:
Essential oil therapy
Cold laser therapy
Massage therapy/Tui-na/Reiki/Healing Touch
So how do some of these holistic health care options benefit pets? First, let’s take a moment to explain the differences between holistic and conventional medicine. In general, holistic medicine focuses on correcting the root of the health problem rather than on addressing the symptoms of the problem. Oftentimes in conventional medicine, medications are overused and underlying sources of disease are not really dealt with or resolved. In many cases, adding more (chemical & synthetic) medications ends up causing more symptoms, which are termed "side effects". Employing natural therapies can help to address the overall and comprehensive condition of the patient and assist the body to heal itself. The aim of natural healing is to correct the imbalances that lead to the problem. In addition, most natural therapies have minimal risks or side effects.
Both medical approaches have their strengths. Conventional medicine is excellent with emergency situations and severe injuries, as well as other problems that require surgery or dental care. However, alternative/holistic therapies can be more successful when it comes to managing chronic disease conditions or in addressing preventative medicine and overall wellness.
Integrative health care utilizes options from both conventional and holistic medicine. This is the most balanced approach, and can provide the “best of both worlds”. There are clearly many reasons for using conventional veterinary medicine and surgery when indicated. However, there are also holistic or alternative therapies that provide a great adjunct, and are oftentimes ultimately more effective, less expensive and less invasive.
In fact, holistic methods can also be an effective alternative to surgery or to more invasive or extensive treatment options. One example is with dogs that become paralyzed in the hind end due to "slipped discs" in their spine/back. (This is termed, Intervertebral Disc Disease, or IVDD), which is very common in Dachshunds, Corgi's and similar breeds. The use and combination of acupuncture, chiropractic and laser treatments can have equal to greater success compared to surgery, while avoiding an invasive and expensive procedure.
Another example is chronic skin allergies. Many owners spend thousands of dollars during a lifetime of battling skin and GI (gastrointestinal) problems with pets that have severe allergies. Conventional medicine is often lacking a true solution, and many animals are treated with multiple rounds of antibiotics and steroids, only to have symptoms return again & again. It must be stated that these issues can be difficult to resolve with holistic medicine as well, but typically the issues can be greatly reduced (and often times completely resolved!) with safer and more proactive approaches to the underlying problem.
Here is a list of common conditions that are often treated or managed with holistic or integrative medicine:
Back/spine disease or injury
Gastro-intestinal diseases (IBD, colitis, sensitive stomach)
Allergies & immune-mediated diseases
But don’t forget, integrative medicine takes a very proactive approach and therefore offers excellent preventative medicine benefits and aims to support general wellness. Let’s not wait until pets are sick to promote their health!
When looking for holistic pet care, I would recommend finding a veterinarian who prioritizes nutrition and diet in the initial stages of treatment. Nutrition is truly the foundation of health, and should not be overlooked in any disease or health problem. Good quality nutritional supplements (which are selected based on the individual pet and their type of diet, etc) should also be added to the regimen. Quality nutritional supplements can go a long way to improve health and assist the pet in overcoming disease or illness! Other things to look for would be credentials or certifications in specific modalities including acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, etc. Ask the practitioner for a list of treatment options they offer and/or the modalities that they are proficient in.