Disclaimer: Holistic alternatives can be used as complementary therapies in conjunction with your dog’s regular veterinary care. Always consult a veterinarian for any concerns regarding your dog companion’s well-being.
Holistic alternatives to traditional medicine are readily available for dogs, and their use is growing in popularity even among traditional veterinarians. They can be used as complementary therapies in conjunction with your pet’s regular veterinary care to benefit your pet’s overall health.
For example, if your dog breaks a leg, your vet may need to perform surgery, but you could also use holistic therapy to help speed the healing process and decrease the amount of pain and inflammation that would accompany a broken leg.
Holistic veterinary medicine encompasses many modalities, including energy healing, homeopathy, chiropractic, herbs, flower essences, magnetic therapy, natural foods, and acupuncture.
1. Reiki and energy healing
Energy healing therapies have existed for thousands of years and are practiced throughout the world by many cultures. As a Reiki Master, I use Reiki regularly on animals at the request of their families.
In Reiki, I serve as a conduit to clear imbalances within a dog’s energy centers, known as chakras. It can be very useful in calming a nervous or distressed dog before, during, and after surgery; when an animal is making its transition to the other side; and while an animal is ill in an effort to progress the healing process. In addition, energy healing is useful in maintaining the general well-being of a dog.
The principle behind homeopathy is that “like cures like,” in which a much-diluted form of a substance is used to treat a condition or group of symptoms which, if used in its full strength, would cause the same set of symptoms in a dog. Thus, the homeopathic practitioner must carefully match the dog’s symptoms with the appropriate remedy. The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy provides a list of certified and affiliated veterinarians who specialize in homeopathic treatments.
Chiropractic therapy is based on the manual manipulation of the spine to improve health. In general, it focuses on the interaction between the nervous system and the biomechanics of the vertebrae. Since all of the body’s systems are regulated by the nervous system, anything that causes interference between the nervous system and any of the body’s systems can adversely impact those areas.
When seeking chiropractic therapy for your dog, ensure that the veterinarian or chiropractor you choose uses techniques approved specifically for dogs. The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association lists certified practitioners.
4. Herbal remedies
Herbs have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and are effective in treating many conditions that afflict dogs. They also support the immune system by assisting your dog’s recovery, while other herbs serve as detoxification agents, antioxidants, and anticancer therapies.
Only consider well-known and respected herbal companies when purchasing herbal products for your dog. The Veterinary Botanical Medical Association is dedicated to responsible herbal practices and has information on what companies to buy from.
5. Flower essences
Flower essences can modify the behavior of dogs exhibiting aggression, fear, and behavioral problems. The choice of remedies for behavioral challenges should be based on the individual dog’s needs. Oversimplification — or simply using a particular flower essence for a particular problem — is much less effective than evaluating your dog’s overall condition and formulating a remedy of various flower essences.
6. Magnetic therapy
Magnetic therapy helps dogs with joint problems, which affect their mobility. Many dogs sleep on magnetic dog pads that have specially placed magnets embedded within them. They’ve been shown to increase mobility for dogs who lie on them.
7. Natural foods
For dogs to live healthy and happy lives, natural foods are key. Many commercial dog foods contain by-products and chemicals known to have serious side effects. Chemicals to avoid include BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, as well as any artificial coloring and flavoring.
Foods that are good to feed your dog include natural whole grains like brown rice barley and quinoa; organic vegetables; and meats such as chicken, beef, or rabbit. Of course, if your dog is allergic to any of these types of foods or is being treated by your veterinarian with a prescription diet to manage a particular disease, don’t include them in their diet. One website I find helpful in objectively rating commercial dog foods is Dog Food Advisor, with reviews on dry, wet, and raw dog foods.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method used to treat blockages in the energy lines, known as meridians, running through the body. When needles are inserted in specific acupuncture points, blockages in the energy lines are eliminated and the body returns to an energetically balanced state.
Some of the benefits of acupuncture include pain relief, increased blood flow to the area being treated, and decreased inflammation. Acupuncture is a viable alternative to using painkillers and steroids.
Conditions that benefit from the use of acupuncture in dogs include hip dysplasia, arthritis, and nerve damage; it also controls nausea and vomiting. In addition, acupuncture can be used to help relieve the side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. There are few if any side effects when done correctly. The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture lists practitioners who are certified to perform acupuncture for any type of animal.
The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s website is a great resource to locate a veterinarian in your area who is certified in holistic modalities. I always recommend seeking holistic alternatives for your dogs in addition to traditional medical treatments.