Pet Health: Holistic and Alternative Medicine for Dogs & Cats

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Research has shown that health is influenced by physical, mental, and emotional factors.

Holistic medicine includes an evaluation of diet, emotions, behavior, and lifestyle, in addition to the routine physical exam. Holistic Medicine is also
called Alternative Medicine and is an approach that deals with the whole patient, not just the presenting complaint.

The veterinarian will need to know as much as possible about your pet’s environment. History taking will include your dog’s living arrangements as well as past medical problems and treatments. Owners need to be prepared to answer questions concerning their pets fears, food preferences and emotions. The time of day a problem occurs is also an important factor in making a diagnosis. Vets will take extra time to discuss how to monitor results of specific therapies and how to determine whether or not certain environmental factors are influencing their pet’s health.


Using plants and herbs for medicinal purposes is an ancient practice. You can cut up fresh herbs and mix them into the food, or use the liquid “tincture” form, which is the most potent and the best choice in most cases. Herbs can be used externally as dips and tonics for skin problems. They also have unique properties when it comes to stimulating the immune system for diseases like cancer that are largely un-treatable by traditional methods.

Certain herbs are potentially toxic at any dose and should be avoided. These include: Chaparral, Comfrey, Pennyroyal, Garlic, Tea Tree and Mahuang.


Homeopathists believe that giving an extremely dilute form of a substance similar to the one causing the symptoms, stimulates the body to overcome the illness itself. The remedies used are all natural and are derived from plants, minerals, or animal products. They are precisely diluted one part to 90 parts alcohol then vigorously shaken to become activated. The more dilute the remedy, the stronger it gets and the more intrinsic energy it releases. This energy rebalances the body’s “vital force” or “chi”, which stimulates the body’s immune system to heal itself.

You can buy most homeopathic remedies in a specific strength. The number after the name indicates the strength, for example, Arsenica album 6c. The remedies can be given as pellets or crushed to powder and given by mouth. They must be handled and given according to specific guidelines as they can easily become inactivated.

Homeopathic remedies are compatible with nutritional and chiropractic therapies. However, they should not be used with acupuncture or strong herbal tintures because they can inactivate each other. Working with a homepathic vet is essential for successful therapy.


There are many more alternative therapies than those described here including Aromatherapy, Detoxification, Magnetic Field Therapy and Energetic Therapies like Reiki. As traditional research continues to uncover the efficiency of these treatments, more will find their way into mainstream veterinary medicine.


Flower essences are diluted flower preparations that are used to treat behavioral problems, fears and other psychological problems, especially those associated with stress. They help to rebalance mental and emotional well-being. Originally, Edward Bach, a British physician in the 1930’s, developed 38 different flower essences, each of which was used to rebalance a different emotional situation. These essences are therefore also called Bach Flower Remedies.

Rescue Remedy is one of the most popular. It is a mixture of five flower essences and is commonly used after a physical or emotional trauma or a stressful situation. For example, with a dog stressed by a major change in his or her home life, two drops in or on the mouth or tongue two to three times daily is often an effective remedy. You can also put two to three drops into the water bowl. Most dogs relax and adjust to the change more easily.


Acupuncture is the insertion of needles into specific body points to stimulate the body’s immune system to heal itself. It is used to relieve pain caused by arthritic conditions like Hip Dysplasia and Spinal Disc Disease as well as skin allergies, Chronic Bowel Diseases and nervous disorders including Epilepsy. The relief is generally temporary and several treatments are often needed for positive results.


Chiropractic Care involves manipulating the spinal cord to adjust misplaced vertebrae that may be impinging on nerves and impeding movement. It can be useful to relieve musculoskeletal pain resulting from trauma and arthritis as well as other degenerative processes affecting the spine, joints, and bony skeleton.


Naturopaths believe that diseases are caused by a buildup of toxins in the body. They recommend a regime of good nutrition and exercise combined with bathing, massage, and sunshine.


These are biologically active nutritional supplements given as treats or mixed with food. Many contain glands from hormone secreting organs, such as the thyroid, and are used to stimulate a weakened gland to function normally. These are very safe.

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