Holistic Medicine Trends in Dogs

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Holistic Medicine Trends in Dogs

Holistic medicine is a controversial subject. There are passionate opinions on both sides. Opponents claim that if “alternative” treatments really worked, they would be more widely accepted and many illnesses and ailments would have been cured long ago. This side of the debate feels that herbs and medications are often used inappropriately without adequate training and understanding of the potential side effects or dangers and without scientific evidence that they actually work. These treatments have not been thoroughly investigated nor tested for efficacy or safety and in some cases may actually be harmful.

Proponents feel that holistic treatments provide a more “natural” way to heal the body in a world full of chemicals, preservatives and synthetics. Many times, “alternative” treatments are used to augment more traditional treatments and are not commonly used as the only treatment.

The final decision to add alternative treatments to your pet’s current regime should be decided between you and your veterinarian. Remember, these treatments are best used in conjunction with traditional medicine and should not be used to completely replace proven, effective treatments. To read the other side of the debate, see The Appeal of Alternative Therapy.

Just what does the term holistic really mean? The word holistic means the body as a whole. With regard to holistic medicine, the pet’s environment, lifestyle, disease, relationship with the owner or other pets, current medications as well as nutrition are taken into consideration when determining the best treatment for the pet. Another term often used to describe holistic medication is alternative treatments. Treatment options vary and may include homeopathy, herbal medication, acupuncture or even nutritional changes.

Holistic medicine alternatives have become more commonplace treatment options in veterinary medicine. The goal of holistic medicine is to promote wellness, not just to treat the symptoms of a disease. It is most often used to augment traditional medical therapy or surgery.

Homeopathic Remedies for Dogs

Homeopathy is often misunderstood. It is not the same as holistic nor is it the same as herbal treatment. The system of homeopathy used today was originally developed by a German physician in the mid 1800s. The basic principle behind homeopathy is that “like cures like.” The primary concept of homeopathy is that medicine, plants, minerals, and drugs that cause illness can also be used to cure the illness. Symptoms of illness are thought to be the result of an internal imbalance.

Homeopathic remedies include the use of plants, vitamins, minerals and other natural substances to treat illness. Homeopathic practitioners believe that homeopathic remedies contain vibrational energy essences that work with the disease state and help heal the pet.

Herbal Medicine for Dogs

The use of herbs for their medicinal value is an old practice that has regained new interest. Rather than the use of drugs, which can alter the body’s natural immune defenses, these remedies are used to help stimulate the body to heal itself. Often, herbs are used in conjunction with traditional drugs to help heal an ill pet.

Many of today’s commonly used drugs were discovered and isolated from plants. Taken in this purified and concentrated form, these drugs are fast acting but often have potent and undesirable side effects. The concept behind herbal remedies is to ingest an extract or dried form of a plant known for its medicinal properties.

Since the active compounds are present in smaller concentrations, the desired effect is often achieved with minimal side effects. Herbal medicines are available for a wide variety of problems and many people feel they are providing safer more natural medicine for their pets. Not all veterinarians dispense herbal medicines. If you are interested in supplementing your pet’s diet with any herb, vitamin or mineral, be sure to check with his veterinarian first. Some pets may require smaller than recommended doses or be on medications that can cause interactions.

Some of the more commonly used herbal remedies include:

  • Calendula for wound healing
  • Raspberry to help with pregnancy
  • Echinacea to stimulate the immune system
  • Milk thistle for liver disorders
  • Chamomile for wound healing and respiratory diseases
  • Gingko to improve memory (mainly used in dogs)
  • Lavender to promote restful sleep
  • Oats to reduce itching – used in a bath
  • Yeast as a skin supplement and for diarrhea
  • Asian ginseng for low grade fevers
  • Flaxseed for constipation and irritable bowel syndrome

    These should be treated as medications and not given to your pet unless recommended by your veterinarian.

    Popular but not recommended:

  • Garlic or onion – can result in anemia
  • White willow – used to reduce inflammation but contains salicylates, which can be very irritating to the stomach, especially in cats.
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