Lots of different therapies fall under the umbrella of alternative medicine (also called holistic 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.
- Chiropractic care provides hands-on spinal adjustments for your dog, just like you’d get, to relieve pain.
- Herbal treatments use plant remedies to treat a variety of ailments. For example, alfalfa is used for arthritis and allergies.
- Homeopathy aim 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.
What vets think about alternative medicine
Some veterinarians don’t care for alternative therapies since, unlike conventional veterinary medicine, most of them haven’t been scientifically proven to work.
However, that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective; it just means they haven’t been put to the test in well-conducted studies. And there are plenty of vets who are open to the alternative approach. Some veterinary schools now provide tracks in holistic medicine, and some vets offer alternative therapies alongside conventional treatments.
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 Veterinary Chiropractic Association
- 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.