Monday, 01 February 2010 00:00    E-mail
Alternative medicine for pets

By Debra J. White Download this article: 18-EO-Alternative_Medicine_for_Pets.pdf

Holistic medicine to treat headaches, arthritis and indigestion is a practice rooted in ancient China. Alternative medicine recently grabbed a foothold, or should I saw paw-hold, in veterinary medicine.

Domestic pets with chronic or acute illnesses or injuries now benefit from massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, aromatherapy, Bach Flower remedies and vitamins.

holistic2-adj2Holistic approaches cannot replace all veterinary treatments, such as vaccinations or surgery, but they compliment traditional medicine to relieve pain and suffering. That appeals to lots of pet owners who want the best for their beloved animals.

Cynthia Patane, vice president of Beagles of Arizona Club, treats her dog Dudley with neoplasene, a holistic remedy for cancer. Fifteen-year-old Dudley, a Beagle/Basset Hound mix, developed a malignant tumor on his paw. Applied topically, Neoplasene destroys cancer cells.

Since treatment began with Dr. Marjorie Nard of Chandler, Ariz., in December 2009, Dudley’s tumor has shrunk half its size and that’s terrific news to Patane.

HolisticWay-web4tHolistic medicine treats the whole person; a veterinary practitioner treats the whole animal. In Dr. Paul McCutcheon’s new book, “The New Holistic Way,” he suggests adjusting the pet’s environment to meet her needs. Look at stress. Is that causing the problem? And most importantly, he says, free up blocked energy.

Wellness can be achieved and maintained through a combination of diet, exercise, stress relief and balance.

If your dog develops behavior problems, a holistic veterinarian would, of course, perform a physical examination to rule out underlying illness.

She would also look at the dog’s home environment. Did the owner’s suddenly banish the dog to the yard because of a newborn baby? Is there constant bickering at home? Did the dog’s daily walks suddenly end due to job change?

Dogs thrive on routine. The slightest change is jarring to them and upsets their balance. If a dog slept inside for nine years and then is forced outdoors, she will naturally revolt. Alternatively, if the once peaceful home environment is now marred by arguing, the dog senses the change.

So, the most effective way to deal with excess barking or digging is to return normalcy to the dog’s routine. Surrendering the dog to a shelter should be the absolute last option.

DebrasStory-3tAlternative medicine is a good option for physical problems. Dog or cat skin allergies or indigestion can almost always be traced to food. There are no easy tests to determine the allergen. With food, it is usually corn or wheat.

Owners experiment with different diets to see which ones the animal tolerates.  The process of elimination determines the allergen. Switch to a premium brand for a healthier pet.

Herbal supplements are also popular.  Milk Thistle may ease the symptoms related to liver disease in dogs or cats.  Pam Heine, who runs Finding Fido Rescue in Phoenix, treats a lot of sick dogs and cats that she saves from shelters or plucks off the streets.

“I give them yogurt for anything intestinal and omega fatty acids for kidney disease,” she said. Heine also uses equal parts of water and apple cider vinegar as an ear wash to combat yeast.

Acupuncture helps pets with severe arthritis, slipped discs, skin diseases and chronic gastrointestinal disorders. Based on the ancient Asian system of Yin and

Yang, acupuncture restores balance. For instance, Yin is said to be negative while Yang is positive. Illness disrupts the energy flow. Acupuncture redirects energy so the patient feels relief.

Veterinary acupuncture operates on the same premise. Thin needles inserted along the animal’s pressure points by an experienced veterinarian relieve pain and restore the animal to health.

Veterinary medicine expressed interest in acupuncture by discussing the subject at the 2009 American Veterinary Medical Association convention. Several researchers authored papers about it. And it’s offered at Manhattan’s prestigious Animal Medical Center among other clinics and hospitals throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

Veterinary chiropractic and physical therapy offer animals a drug free, noninvasive treatment for the pain from degenerative arthritis, neurologic disorders, ruptured ligaments or damage to soft tissue. There are veterinary rehabilitation centers around the country set up to treat pets with these modalities, which also improves their mobility.

Developed by Dr. Edward Bach back in the 1930s to treat human ailments, Bach Flower remedies were found to work on animals as well. Bach Flower essences rejuvenate our weakened inner forces so we can heal. Common remedies used for pets:

• Clematis—increases attention span

• Rock Rose—helps with panic and terror

• Star of Bethlehem—comforts dogs left alone

• Cherry Plum—allergies

Bach Flower remedies are best administered in the animal’s water. Dosage varies, but usually just a few drops given three to four times a day for several weeks achieve the desired results. The remedies are nontoxic and have no side effects.

Aroma therapy for dogs and cats uses essential oils to treat skin infections, flea and tick infestations and fear of loud noises. Place a few drops of oil in a ceramic burner and light a tea candle underneath.  The healing aroma permeates the room. Some popular aroma therapy treatments are:

• Ginger—to ease pain

• Lavender—for itching

• Valerian—to calm a hyperactive dog

Experienced herbalists suggest that you do not buy cheap oils. They are often diluted and are less effective. Buy good quality oils from a reputable supplier or store.

Remember your pet’s diet and exercise. Feed your pet good quality food. Read the ingredients before buying. By law, all ingredients must be listed in descending order. If the first ingredients are wheat, corn, meat by-products or broth, then it is not top quality. Consider another brand. A dog or cat that eats dried kibble is less likely to have digestive problems or dental decay. Kibble is also more economical and is easier to store. Canned food consists primarily of water, blood or broth.

Regardless of breed, all dogs need exercise. Even a Chihuahua or a Poodle should go on a walk at least once a day. Exercised dogs are less prone to destructive behavior. They are healthier and happier. Owners benefit from the exercise too.

If you are new to holistic or alternative veterinary medicine, do your homework before using treatments on your pet. Always discuss plans with your veterinarian, especially if your pet is already on medication.

Sometimes herbal treatments and traditional Western medicine Interact with adverse consequences.There are costs associated with alternative medicine. Understand your pet’s illness and the appropriate treatments that can offer relief. Be leery of hucksters trying to sell you a miracle cure. Little or no options are available for a 16-year-old dog with end stage bone cancer, other than palliative care. Before you invest money, make sure your pet will benefit.

Additional information about holistic medicine can be obtained from the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, and the American Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.

Many fine books and magazines areavailable about alternative or holistic veterinary care at your public library, book store or natural foods store. Be an educated consumer for your pet’s health and well-being. Alternative medicine isn’t intended to replace standard veterinary care, but to complement it.

That’s a win/win situation for owners and their pets.