By: Samantha Randall
When your dog gets sick, it is natural that you want to do everything in your power in order to help him get better or at least ease his pain if he suffers from a chronic illness. And even though we think of Western medicine as the most advanced, there are many instances in which alternative medicine can prove as the better option. However, talking to your vet about holistic care and home remedies can sometimes be difficult, especially if you want to discuss methods that are considered unproven or even bogus by Western medicine standards.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask
If you believe that your dog could benefit from a holistic therapy or home remedies, you shouldn’t hesitate to bring it up with your vet. She will probably try to explain to you why that specific therapy or remedy is or isn’t good for your dog, or she will refer you to a vet who knows more about alternative medicine and what holistic dog care entails.
If your veterinarian refuses to answer your questions or simply dismisses holistic or home remedies as unscientific without considering what it could do for your dog, you should think about changing your vet. They should always have your dog’s well-being as a priority, even if that means being open-minded to alternatives to Western medicine.
Alternative medicine is mostly dismissed by conventional vets, but the situation is change as more evidence is showing that there are benefits of holistic veterinary care. As a result, some forms of holistic care, like acupuncture (which has been proven in studies to work), have been included in many vet offices in the US. Homeopathy, on the other hand, still lacks scientific proof and you need to take it with a grain of salt yourself and discuss it with an open-minded holistic vet on which homeopathy treatments may be effective for your dog, and which ones to avoid completely.
What to Ask Your Vet?
Whether you are interested in one specific holistic therapy or you simply want to know more about holistic vet care in general, it is important to ask your vet the right questions and to be polite and respectful of her advice and opinions, even if you believe there are better healing methods for your dog out there.
Make sure to research the field yourself – Internet is a wonderful place to start – and understand the basics so that you know if your veterinarian is dismissing you completely and when to look for a second opinion. Below are some sample questions (and brief answers) you can start with and then based on your veterinarian’s answers move from there. When I interviewed an experienced holistic vet Dr Anna Maria Gardner, I asked her some of these questions. I’ve made notes on her responses and then used the same ones with my regular vet to see how they respond and note the difference how these two veterinarians view treatment of dogs.
What Is Holistic Care?
Holistic care is based on the concept of treating dog’s health problems as a whole instead of looking at one specific health problem. It follows the notion that an ailment is a result of an imbalance in the body and while conventional medicine separates the body into parts and deals with each part individually, holistic medicine tries to cure or heal the entire body. In the US, the best resource on this is the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) and their website is a great resource.
What Is Treated by Holistic Care?
Even though holistic medicine has the dog’s entire body in mind, there are some common illnesses and injuries that are usually treated by holistic care. This includes joint paint and arthritis, muscle weakness, anxiety, GI issues, hormone and blood deficiencies, and more.
Holistic medicine will look at disease signs and symptoms, but will also consider the demeanor, character and appearance of your dog. It will also take into account your dog’s diet, nutrition and lifestyle.
What Are the Most Common Holistic Therapies and Treatments?
Holistic care isn’t limited to a strict set of practices. It actually includes many different therapies and treatments, like acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, chiropractic, flower essences, herbal medicine, sports medicine and much more.
Can I Use Both Approaches?
Yes. Since the holistic approach is getting a lot of popularity in the recent years, there are many people who decide to get care for their dog by using best of both worlds. That usually means using conventional medicine to treat disease or injury, and holistic care as a complementary treatment to aid the healing process.
Some people use holistic methods and home remedies not as complementary, but as primary health care. Even though it sounds amazing to treat your dog naturally, without any pills or medications that can cause side-effects, in many cases this isn’t possible.
Are Holistic Methods Safer?
This is a hard question. Holistic care and natural remedies can be perfectly safe, but they can also be dangerous to your dog if not administered properly. There are also many scammers out there who will try to take advantage of desperate people whose dogs can’t be healed by Western medicine. You need to be very careful before you try any home remedies or holistic methods and get as much information about them as you can. Read about specific methods online and what results they have yielded. If there is scientific research available that backs the benefits of some home remedy or holistic therapy, you should give it a go.
However, even with all the possible side-effects of modern medicine, it is still not factual to say that holistic medicine is safer. Treating your dog with holistic care or home remedies just because you are afraid of medications and pills and their possible effects or you don’t want your pooch to have a surgery, can harm your dog simply by not getting the proper treatment. Also, many of the herbs used for home remedies can also have side-effects.
Should I Use Home Remedies?
Yes. Natural home remedies from things you have in your house can help your dog with minor health issues, like skin irritation, diarrhea or even some chronic problems like arthritis. Since many of the most popular drugs are developed by isolating a specific chemical found in a plant, herbs have often been used to cure diseases and heal injuries and that can be a better solution than pharmaceuticals.
Use of the entire herb instead of the drug extracted from a specific chemical in the herb might limit side effects. Also, herbs can be added to the diet in order to improve overall health. There is also some scientific evidence that some herbs can prevent or decrease the potential for getting certain diseases.
However, in many cases these, home remedies will not be enough and you should go with mainstream medication in those cases.
What to Choose?
As I said before, you should always try to keep an open mind and look for the best solution for your dog. Complimenting conventional medicine with home remedies and holistic therapy can give you the best results, as long as you do everything in consultation with your holistic and/or regular vet.