HEALTH & CARE

Holistic Medicine for Dogs: Is It Actually Working?

Holistic Medicine for Dogs
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Despite the fact that most dog owners are well conversant with the effectiveness of traditional veterinary treatment, the increase in popularity has forced many dog owners to question the conventional treatment. Health and safety concerns have all been raised on many pharmaceutical treatments, veterinary medicines, prepared diets and other pet care products. All in all, it is very hard to circumnavigate through these series of claims just as it is hard to find the right combination of alternative and traditional treatment and products for dogs.

Herbs, home-cooked diets, acupuncture, massages, acupressure and many others have all been marketed as essential for maximum canine health that in turns leaves many dog owners entangled in a web of confusion. Apart from the increase in popularity of alternative forms of treatment, we cannot deny the fact that traditional veterinary medicine has achieved a milestone when it comes to canine health care. From steroids and antibiotics to non-steroidal pain killers and diagnostic procedures, the growth of animal care has been phenomenal.

Natural remedies

All in all, most veterinary officers and dog breeders blend conventional medicine with alternatives so as to achieve an animal care system that will meet their needs. Alternative medicine is mainly used for prevention and treatment purposes while modern medicine is used where alternatives fail to work or when they are faced with a serious ailment. Hence, here are four types of alternative treatment that every dog owner should be conversant.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a very old medical technique that dates up to 7,000 AD in India and 5,000 AD in China and was used in both humans and dogs. As a therapeutic process, acupuncture mainly involves the insertion of very fine needles into the body of a human being or dog so as to cure chronic ailments and control pain. All in all, acupuncture in dogs started almost the same time as acupuncture for humans.

How acupuncture works

According to antediluvian Chinese medical philosophy, the disease is a result of the imbalances between the vital body energies in an animal or a human being. Since acupuncture mainly uses a therapeutic approach, it mainly functions by restoring the balance of all the vital body energies thus allowing the body to heal. Once the therapy begins, the vital body energy also referred to as Chi (Qi) is guided along various pathways in the human or animal body.

All in all, according to several medical researchers, changes in blood circulation and electrical activity can be observed during acupuncture. Furthermore, the release of chemicals such as endorphins and many others into and a decrease in muscle spasm can all be detected during acupuncture.

Acupuncture inforaphic

As an alternative to conventional medicine, acupuncture has been accepted in the United States and many other countries throughout the world. Due to the increase in popularity and acceptability of acupuncture, a special organization the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society was formed. Like any other legally formulated body, the International Veterinary Acupuncture was formed to oversee the practice of acupuncture.

Also, it was also mandated to oversee an all-embracing certification program for veterinary officers. At the moment, over 150, 000 veterinary officers and close to 700,000 paraveterinary officers employ the use of acupuncture as a form of treatment in their practice.

Ailments that can be treated by acupuncture

Ever since acupuncture was selected as an alternative to conventional medicine, research has continued to show that it can be effective against both acute and chronic ailments. The acute and chronic ailments include: Paralysis, Allergies, Loss of hearing or hearing Disorders,   Gastrointestinal problems, Skin diseases, Heart-related conditions, Neurological disorders,    Incontinence, Reproductive disorders, Arthritis, Noninfectious inflammation, Chronic respiratory ailments such as asthma attacks.

Apart from the ailments that have been highlighted above, acupuncture does not work as alone but is mixed with other traditional treatments such as breathing exercises, herbal massage medicine, and many others. Also, research has also indicated that acupuncture can also be used to improve the effectiveness of the conventional medicine. All in all, acupuncture is widely used by many practitioners as an alternative pain reliever especially in scenarios where the anti-inflammatory medications and analgesics did not work.

Herbal medicine

Just like acupuncture the use of herbal medicine as a form of treatment for various ailments dates to many years ago. As time went by, most of the herbal medicines that were used to treat humans were also found to have the same effects on animals too. According to medical researchers, most animals that fall ill especially those who stay in the wilderness, have always looked for herbs as a treatment for their ailments or injuries.

Hence, practitioners who use or practice herbal medicine as a form of treatment are always advocating for this type of treatment as a powerful and a more purified form than those that would be found in the wilderness.

Dog in lavender field

Currently, most health practitioners use herbal medicine to treat the following ailments in dogs and other animals: Skin problems, Constipation, Diarrhea, and many other gastrointestinal problems, Bad Breath, Arthritis, Cystitis, Coughs, Allergies.

All in all, here is a list of some of the most common herbal remedies together with the ailments they cure.

Herbal remedyAilment
Black WalnutWorms, Fungal infections
Aloe Vera JuiceUlcers, arthritis,
Colloidal SilverAlternative to Antibiotics
ChamomilePain, Inflammation of the stomach and intestines
EchinaceaEnhance the immune system, fight infections
CornsilkIncontinence
GarlicNatural Antibiotic
Green TeaEnhance a dog’s immune system
GlucosamineArthritis and Muscoskeletal disorders

Four things you should know about herbal medicine

Despite the fact that most herbal remedies for dogs can be found in almost all of our favorite health food stores as tablets, capsules or as liquids, it is very important for every dog owner to be familiar with some of the ground rules so as to avoid some serious health issues. Before buying an herbal remedy for your dog, check with your vet. Checking with a vet is very important even if the dog is not under any medication because he or she is the only person who will know what will work or what is dangerous for your pet.

When administering the herbal remedy, it is the duty of every dog owner to watch out for symptoms, interactions and overdoses. As discussed earlier, it is very important for every dog owner to work alongside his or her veterinarian because some herbs may interact with prescribed medications and also other herbs. Furthermore, many of the herbs are beneficial in very small doses, but when consumed in large quantities they can be very fatal to the dog.

Ginkgo for dogs

A good example of such an herb is ginkgo that can interfere with the clotting of the blood. When ginkgo is administered to the dog together with a blood thinner or aspirin, the dog is likely to experience internal bleeding that in the long run could lead to death. Kelp is also another herb that is mostly used in a lot of herbal remedies. Just like Ginkgo, Kelp has its adverse effects because it can increase the intensity of thyroid diseases. Just like holistic healers, holistic veterinarians carefully examine the entire life of the dog before administering any herbal medicine.

Finally, if the dog is pregnant, it is the duty of every dog owner to discontinue treatment as soon as possible. The discontinuation of the treatment is very important because the effects of herbal remedies on the development of the infant and the mother are still unclear.

Homeopathy

As one of the most common alternative medicine, homeopathy is continuing to increase in size and popularity as more and more people are embracing this treatment therapy. Unlike acupuncture and herbal medicine, homeopathy was devised later on in the 1790’s by a German Physician, Samuel Hahnemann. The key concept for this alternative form of treatment is found in its name, homeopathy, which was derived from the Greek word for similar or like.

Homeopathy was developed on the concept that every living thing, animals and humans alike, do have a self-healing response. Hence, health problems and complications do develop when the self-healing balance becomes imbalanced or is hindered in some way. By assessing the individuals overall health in a larger context, homeopathy then tries to arouse body’s self-healing responses.

The homeopathic dog

All in all, homeopathic remedies create symptoms that are similar to the ones that are being showed by the sick animal. A good example is when an animal suffers from diarrhea; it is going to be treated with a mineral or substance that leads to diarrhea. Hence, once the treatment is administered, it replaces the already existing disease causing agents thus allowing the body to develop its healing powers to overcome the condition.

Since Homeopathy is an alternative form of medicine, it is used to treat a wide range of conditions ranging from both acute and chronic ailments. Essentially, homeopathy is used to treat some ailments that a modern dog may be subjected to, ranging from bacterial and virus infections to kidney dysfunctions and respiratory ailments.

Issues raised concerning homeopathy

Since homeopathy uses minerals, plant materials, and other natural substances that often create symptoms that are similar to those of sick animals, most of these substances have to be diluted. Dilution of homeopathic remedies is essential as it reduces the toxicity of this element by a significant margin. Also, most homeopaths do believe that the more you dilute the homeopathic elements, the higher the potency of these substances.

Hence, by looking at the different research conducted on homeopathic remedies, we can safely say that homeopathic therapy is not only safe but also has no side effects. A good example of some of the most common ingredients used in homeopathy includes, sulfur, poison ivy and bee sting.

The approach to homeopathy has caused a lot of uproar among many researchers and medical practitioners because it goes against everything.  Also, most practitioners and researchers are still questioning as to whether the various benefits of homeopathy as an alternative medicine are real and beneficial.

Furthermore, the homeopathic stance against the use of vaccines has also created a lot of debates because most homeopaths believe that the use of vaccines creates an imbalance in the body. Nonetheless, the number of dog owners and veterinarians who still believe that homeopathy is very effective and efficient than any other form of treatment is still on the rise.

Things you should put into consideration when administering homeopathy

Since Homeopathy is an alternative form of treatment, it not only differs with conventional medicine philosophically, but also the manner in which it is administered. Hence, there are some ground rules that must be followed when administering homeopathy as a form of treatment to your dog for maximum safety. Unlike other forms of treatment that can be administered together with food, homeopathic remedies cannot be issued with food.

Instead, homeopathic remedies must be administered one hour before the dog is given food so that the food and the remedy do not interfere with each other. Besides, homeopathic treatment must not be administered with any other form of medication unless it has been approved by your homeopath. Other forms of treatments that cannot be used with this therapy include other homeopathic remedies together with conventional remedies.

Furthermore, despite the fact that homeopathic remedies can be used alongside other alternative therapies like acupuncture and massages, you should consult with your homeopath before using them.

Homeopathy for dogs

In some cases, as a dog owner you should be aware that the symptoms may worsen after administration of homeopathic treatment. The worsening of the symptoms after administration of homeopathic medicine is usually referred to as homeopathic aggravation. According to homeopaths, homeopathic aggravation is a good sign because it is all part of the healing process. All in all, the homeopathic aggravation usually lasts for a short duration of time and is usually followed by a slightly faster recovery.

Apart from the homeopathic aggravation, as a dog owner you should also be well informed that the administration of homeopathy will also come with some discharges. Some of the discharges that will be present include diarrhea, nasal discharges, discharges from the skin and mouth or ‘behavioral’ discharges such as new fears. All the discharges present during homeopathy are considered as part of the healing process and as a dog owner you must not interfere with them.

Massage

Just like in humans, massage is as equally beneficial to dogs and can be used to achieve similar results. One of the widely known benefits of massage, is that it has the ability to alleviate the stress levels in humans and animals. In case the dog is either worried or stressed out, you can employ the use of massage to help him or her relax. Apart from reduction of stress, dog massages have also been found to improve the circulation and flow of blood in humans and animals.

The act of massaging the various body muscles, will improve the flow and circulation that in turn aids in both muscle recovery and the treatment of muscular disorders such as arthritis. Furthermore, massage is a great way to build and reinforce the relationship between a dog owner and his or her pet.

Finally, massage can be used to find problems or injuries that you, as a dog owner may not be aware. Once you begin massaging the pet on a regular basis, you will be familiar with his or her body. Thus, any swelling or muscle lump that may be present will be easily detected.

How to massage a dog

The techniques used during dog massages are similar to the four techniques used when massaging humans. The first technique is known as effleurage and entails the use of long and slow strokes while the second technique is the friction that involves the application of pressure at a point of contact without moving the skin.

The third technique is the percussion, which involves drumming the skin with the hands or fingers and the fourth technique is known as petrissage and employs the use of kneading. All the four techniques can be safely used on a dog for a full body massage or specific target areas.

Dog massage

Before massaging your dog, you should first begin by putting him or her down on a rather soft but firm surface. Begin with very soft, slow strokes from the head to tail. After you have successfully completed the slow strokes, you should then start to rub gently alongside the cheeks and also under the chin while gently scratching his or her ears. While rubbing alongside the cheeks and chins, you should make a point of using very light circular strokes, nothing abrupt, hard or fast.

When moving to the neck, chest and shoulders, you should gather small folds of the skin for a gentle pinch. For each of the legs, you can use three fingers for a gentle rub in the opposite direction. After the legs, you can then walk your thumb and index finger along the length of the spine and not on the spine. Finally, you can end by squeezing the tail gently and firmly from the tip to the end.

All in all while massaging a pet, you should not at any one point force the message on the dog. Also, you should never massage a dog for too long, and if you are not very familiar with the dog, you should never massage him or her. Needless to say, you should never at any one-point press on his or her stomach because you could cause internal damage to the pet.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Natalie Barton

    These are all well-founded alternatives, but the chances remain that they won’t be as effective or reliable as going to one’s vet. So long as traditional medicine works, I choose not to hedge my bets on an alternative path. But although that is my choice does not take away the fact that this article is very, very informative for someone like me who does not have an inkling between the connections of holistic medicine, acupuncture, our friendly dog, and homeopathy! Pretty informative, but not my choice.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      We all have our choices and decisions on which one is best for our dogs. This is just one of the options that we can have if the routine visits to the vet doesn’t work. We appreciate your feedback, Natalie.

  • Therese Smithson

    We had a dog once, a terrier who has a slipped disc. She was put on 3 medications. My sister decided to see a holistic vet and our dog had acupuncture. We saw great results immediately afterwards. However, when we gave her meds a few hours after, she begun panting. It seemed all the benefits the acupuncture has done came to waste. Do you have a similar experience with your dog? Do you think holistic medicine is better than synthetic pills?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Holistic medicine works most of the time, this is a proven fact. However, the relief it provides is the questionable part because this varies per case, which separates its effectiveness to conventional medications that has a pre-determined effectiveness.

  • MarieMarieBrown

    My best friend’s 15 year old Lab is now suffering from arthritis. Now, he has difficulties going up and down the stairs. Someone suggested she looked into acupuncture. Any thoughts on this? Has anyone here used acupuncture for their dogs?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Acupuncture can be done with dogs, but you must be aware to find the best and certified acupuncturist who is qualified to do this for your dog. It can provide relief, but it might not work in severe cases.

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