- Health Library
- PetMD U
Pets, like people, can suffer from a variety of debilitating chronic, degenerative conditions. Treatment options, meanwhile, are sometimes limited and frustrating, focusing on alleviating symptoms through the use of narcotics and other means. There may be another solution, though. Your veterinarian may recommend an alternative therapeutic approach to your pet’s health.
Alternative therapies for pets have taken giant leaps in the success rate of post-operative recovery, as well as cases involving degenerative spine issues, neurologic disc problems, hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament injuries. The aim of alternative veterinary therapy is to heal your pet using a whole body approach. The horse and dog racing industry have known this for years; alternative therapy stems from their specialized animal health practices.
To find out more, petMD’s Yahaira Cespedes spoke with Dr. Gerald Johnson, a holistic veterinarian with many years’ experience on primarily dogs and horses. He utilizes a variety of alternative therapies on patients at his practice. Their advantage: alternative therapies treat your pet’s condition by addressing the cause of the disease, while keeping you actively involved in your pet’s treatment.
Some of the more common alternative therapies include:
Used in the racing industry for years, canine hydrotherapy is a beneficial alternative to high impact exercise for dogs with chronic bone conditions or crippling injuries, such as hip dysplasia or cruciate ligament trauma.
Your dog is assisted in and out of a pool to minimize body stress and possible injury. A harness is frequently used to assist your dog in maintaining an above-water position. The water in the pool may also be heated; heat application helps alleviate muscular discomfort and pain. Some hydrotherapy treatments include using underwater resistance jets to create a current the dog can swim more strongly against.
Sometimes your pet’s malaise can be relieved by realigning and balancing their body by using, as Dr. Johnson defined chiropractic medicine, "force equaling mass times acceleration."
Dr. Johnson stressed that in order for a veterinarian to incorporate massage therapy and/or chiropractic treatment, they must have a comprehensive understanding of animal anatomy, the "line of correction," and "know the bones." Adding that, "you can feel subtle [tactile] changes when you apply chiropractic or massage therapy [on a pet]. In chiropractic therapy, the veterinarian uses manipulation to realign and adjust the bones. You’ll see an almost immediate change; your pet will start to feel better right away. The basis for chiropractic therapy is balancing the body’s circulation and energy flow. Once that is initiated, the body’s innate ability to heal itself will take over and finish healing what manipulation therapy started."
Several therapeutic adjustments are usually necessary, because there is memory in the joints."
Dr. Johnson likened acupuncture therapy to clearing up an accident on a highway. "An acupuncture needle is used to either open up blocked energy flow, or reduce when there’s too much energy flow in an area. Basically, acupuncture is used to balance the meridians that crisscross the body; the yin and yang."
An acupuncture needle is inserted into key points to stimulate that point, [and to] stimulate another area. Or, [acupuncture] is used to interrupt the nerve supply by blocking the switch causing the pain."
The most common pet problem corrected by acupuncture is arthritis. Dr. Johnson has both seen and used acupuncture to treat all kinds of pet conditions, ranging from neurological problems (such as seizures) to skin disorders, thyroid imbalances and heart conditions.
If your pet suffers from a chronically painful condition, know there are well-established alternative treatments available, which can speed their recovery post-operatively, assist them in regaining mobility, and in some cases, cure the cause of the disease.
Image: Mike Baird / via Flickr
A bundle of fibers that are used in the process of sending impulses through the body
General discomfort of the body
A condition in which growth and development are not up to normal standards
A medical condition in which the joints become inflamed and causes a great deal of pain.