If you have ever considered alternative treatment for your four-legged family members, you may be surprised to learn that you’re part of a growing group of pet parents!
There are plenty of pet parents who use alternative treatments to find relief from pain and illness, and many are beginning to explore the same treatments for their furry friends. As the trend has grown, veterinarians who perform those alternative therapies have become higher in demand than ever.
To help you understand what alternative or holistic treatment entails, this 3-part series of blogs will focus on homeopathy and herbal treatments, chiropractic therapy and acupuncture.
The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) defines holistic medicine as “the examination and diagnosis of an animal considering all aspects of the animal’s life and employing all of the practitioner's senses, as well as the combination of conventional and alternative modalities of treatment.”
Now, most practitioners of traditional veterinary medicine – myself included – generally meet the first part of that definition, as we too consider all aspects of an animal’s life and use all of our senses during an exam. The distinction lies in the second half, the veterinarian’s additional use of alternative therapies, such as herbal remedies and acupuncture, in treatment. The practice of holistic medicine, both in human and veterinary medicine, centers on empathy, and is minimally invasive.
Homeopathic medicine is based on the idea that the same symptoms that are caused by a substance can be cured if the substance is administered in small amounts, or as the name implies, “like cures like.” Holistic remedies can be made from plants and minerals, as well as derived from viruses and bacteria. Remedies are made by diluting the substance in alcohol or distilled water until very little of it actually remains, and sometimes until none remains. The theory is that during the mixing, the substance leaves an enduring effect on the water as vibrational energy essences. Administering homeopathic remedies is meant to stimulate and encourage the body’s natural healing forces for recovery.
Throughout history, herbs have been used to enhance health and treat disease. Veterinary herbalists use Western herbs as well as Ayurvedic herbs from India and traditional Chinese herbs. Different substances can be used to combat the effects of aging, enhance vitality and promote overall well-being. They can also be used medicinally to heal illness and address pain.
Herbs can be used to treat almost any condition that is currently being treated with Western medicine, from arthritis to cardiac and kidney disease, as well as managing the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
Homeopathy and herbal medicines are usually prescribed in combination with lifestyle and food changes, and sometimes the vet may also prescribe acupuncture and/or chiropractic treatments. If you decide to pursue alternative therapies, I encourage you to do so in conjunction with conventional medicine. To make sure everyone is on the same page, always make sure your regular vet is aware of any treatment your pet might be receiving from an alternative veterinarian, as well. In addition, if you've protected your pet with Petplan, you'll be happy to know that alternative therapies such as veterinary acupuncture, homeotherapy and chiropractic treatment can all be covered!
Point your paws to part 2: acupuncture for pets