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Holistic Medicine: The Latest Trend in Treatment for Dogs


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For the last decade or two, the use of holistic or alternative medicine has become increasingly popular in a world that is progressively wary of the number of chemicals and drugs being used to treat virtually anything. But what you may not know is that many of these same holistic treatments are finding their way into being used in the animal world. In fact, a number of veterinarians are offering alternative options right alongside traditional care.

What are holistic treatments for dogs?

Traditional veterinary medicine continues to advance and improve. When holistic treatments are considered, they are often described as complementary care and can be used in harmony with your veterinarian's recommendations. According to reports from the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association (AHVMA), holistic medicine is just as much about treating your dog as a whole rather than simply attempting to address a single problem. The theory behind this is that by treating your dog in this manner, you and your vet can provide your pet with care that is beneficial in all aspects.

Holistic treatments that can be used alone or hand in hand with traditional methods include acupuncture, aromatherapy, and massage therapy. There are several methods of care that fit under the holistic banner. Discuss these and other treatments with your primary veterinary caregiver if you would like to take this approach with your pet's illness.


Acupuncture is used to treat an incredibly diverse range of ailments from low appetite to vomiting. It involves inserting tiny needles into very specific points on your dog's body. The spots are on nerves that, when stimulated in this manner, can help reduce stress, pain, nausea, and muscle spasms. Treatment for dermatological issues and cases of cruciate ligament injury may also benefit, as can the discomfort often felt by senior dogs. It can also help improve your dog's appetite and circulation. There is very little chance of any side effects, and the treatment has been found to be highly successful. Be sure to talk to your vet about starting this type of treatment and be sure the person you are considering using is properly trained and certified.


The use of aromatic plants in the form of essential oils and essences is called aromatherapy. While effective in treating some cases of hair loss, digestion issues, pain, respiratory problems and more, you should never attempt to treat your dog on your own. Aromatherapy can be effective when administered by a trained holistic specialist. The ingredients of the plant are distilled and used for antimicrobial, anti-infectious, and antiseptic purposes. Some pets may be sensitive to essential oils and essences, so discuss their use with your vet in concurrence with your pet's holistic caregiver.


Physiotherapy is often considered alternative medicine and can be performed in conjunction with care techniques like ultrasound and hydrotherapy sessions. Your veterinarian may offer treatment for a specific illness and a holistic treatment will complement it. For example, medication may be prescribed for osteoarthritis to benefit your furry companion along with the physio. Dogs undergoing care for conditions like degenerative myopathy and joint stiffness can benefit from the combination of both traditional and physiotherapy or hydrotherapy. 

Massage Therapy and Acupressure

Physical massage and acupressure are used to help relieve muscle and joint pain. They are also used to help your pup recover from an injury. A canine massage therapist can treat your dog with a therapeutic massage, which offers short-term relief from pain and discomfort. Acupressure involves applying pressure to the nerves instead of inserting needles into them, as with acupuncture. It offers similar relief to acupuncture, but the relief has a shorter lifespan. Both holistic massage therapy and acupressure can aid in the recovery of sports injuries as well as in the case of rehabilitation from surgery.


Dogs with stress or anxiety are often treated with phytotherapy, which is the use of plants as a way of healing. This approach looks at the whole animal in an attempt to strengthen the body and the immune system. Detoxification and the regulation of body systems are also goals of the treatment. Sometimes, traditional medications are used as well. In the case of phytotherapy, the aim is to reduce and perhaps remove the need for the medication. However, this depends on the illness being treated. Not all plants are safe for canines, so do not attempt phytotherapy on your own. Consult your holistic vet and involve your regular vet in the treatment.

Consult your vet

Holistic treatments are rapidly gaining in popularity among pet owners and with good reason. However, for the sake of your dog's health, be sure to talk to your vet first and make sure your furry companion's condition can be managed in this manner. If you are still not sure of your vet's answers, you can always seek a second opinion from a vet that specializes in holistic treatments for pets.

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