Holistic Therapies And Alternative Dog Health

holistic therapy: dog taking tincture of alternative medicine

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Holistic Pet Day happens on August 30th, so maybe alternative treatments for dogs are already on your mind. But dog owners have questions about holistic therapies and alternative medicine for their pooches all year long.

We all want to do what’s right for our dogs and their health. However, some pet parents are wary about invasive medical procedures and pharmaceutical drugs–often referred to as “western medicine”–and the companies that create them.

Many medications have concerning side effects, and dog owners rightfully worry about overusing them and exposing their dogs to the risks that come with them. Alternative therapies can address some medical issues without those same risks.

Before you consider holistic or alternative treatments, it’s important that you have a discussion with your veterinarian. Many vets do not oppose combining forms of treatment or seeking out alternatives to medication and invasive procedures. They can give you plenty of great advice.

Here are a few things you should know about holistic and alternative therapies for dogs.

Types Of Alternative Therapies For Dogs

Dachshund getting acupuncture treatment, close-up, elevated view

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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. Practitioners often use this ancient Chinese treatment to control pain and cure chronic ailments.
  • Chiropractic care provides hands-on spinal adjustments for your dog, just like you might get, to relieve pain.
  • Herbal treatments use plant remedies to treat a variety of ailments. For example, alfalfa can help with 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. The theory is that the body will respond and treat itself.
  • 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, some of them haven’t been scientifically proven to work.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective; it just means that well-conducted government studies haven’t put them to the test yet. And there are plenty of vets who are open to the alternative approach.

Some veterinary schools now provide courses in holistic medicine, and some vets offer alternative therapies alongside conventional treatments.

Find A Practitioner

3 year old Boston terrier is lying down on a massage table while receiving a therapeutic massage.

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If you’re looking for a qualified alternative medicine veterinary practitioner, then 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:

When deciding on a practitioner, make sure they have a license or certification 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 Good Judgment

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 probably 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 regardless of how much you give your dog.

Be sure to educate yourself on the substances and doses of alternative medicines and herbs to be able to keep your dog safe. Always consult your veterinarian before you make any changes.

This article is not meant to endorse any specific holistic or alternative therapies for dogs. It is simply a brief explanation that can help guide your discussion with your dog’s professional health care expert. Again, always include your veterinarian in health decisions for your dog.

Have you ever tried holistic or alternative treatments for your dog? Did they help? Then let us know in the comments below!