Not very long ago, complementary, or alternative therapies as they are more often referred to, were regarded with scorn and suspicion by much of the veterinary profession. Examples include acupuncture, homoeopathy, physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage and herbs to name but a few.
Today, these “alternative" modalities are becoming widely accepted and respected as viable companions to traditional veterinary medicine. They are more correctly referred to as “complementary therapies, " and should be used in conjunction with, (to complement) traditional veterinary medicine.
Sometimes animals may have conditions, such as persistent lameness, gait abnormalities, loss of performance, skin problems etc. , that fail to improve with traditional veterinary treatment. Many owners, whilst wanting to do their very best for their pet, look to “alternative" therapies to provide a “cure".
Although there is no alternative to proper veterinary diagnosis and care when it comes to your animal's health, complementary therapies can work in conjunction with traditional medicine and should not interfere with or harm the animal in any way.
Some of the most popular complementary therapies for animals are:-
Acupuncture treatment aims to restore the body's natural balance by stimulating or depressing particular organs using the appropriate and corresponding acupuncture points located along various meridians. Used for a wide variety of complaints including lameness, skin complaints, reproductive problems and other musculo-skeletal problems.
The basic principle of Homoeopathy is that of “treating like with like". If you take a substance (usually toxic) and administer it to a normal healthy body (human or animal), it will produce certain symptoms. That same substance, when given in minute quantities, will help to cure those same symptoms if they are produced in the body by some other cause, like illness or disease. Homoeopathy stimulates the body's natural defences by rousing the immune system to fight the disease.
Homoeopathy has been shown to be useful in the treatment of many illnesses and ailments as well as behavioural problems.
Herbs for animals
Probably one of the oldest forms of medicine, herbal remedies have been used for many thousands of years. Even today, a large percentage of our conventional drugs come from or have been derived from plants.
Herbal remedies can provide relief from a wide variety of conditions, and usually, without many of the unwanted side effects associated with conventional drugs.
Physiotherapy is commonly used to treat conditions of the musculoskeletal system and soft tissue injuries.
Chiropractic for animals
Chiropractic deals mainly with the spine and the relationship of the spine with the nervous system. It is very useful for treating problems with mobility, gait, lameness, performance as well as conditions of the musculoskeletal system and soft tissue injuries.
Massage, Myofascial Release, and Trigger Point therapy are used to relieve tension and improve muscle function. Massage techniques are used to relieve muscle tightness resulting from injury, surgery, poor conformation, or athletic performance.
All complementary animal practitioners should work alongside your vet as it is against the law for any animal therapist to treat an animal without veterinary permission. Once the problem has been diagnosed, the vet, owner and therapist can work together to select a treatment programme which hopefully will return the animal to full health.
If an underlying problem goes undiagnosed then regular trips to the animal practitioner will only delay the recovery and cost money. The sooner the problem is diagnosed by a veterinary surgeon, the sooner the correct therapy can be started which is obviously better for the animal.
For more detailed information about Complementary Therapies for animals see The Back In Balance Practice or Natural Animal Health
Jill Firth is a lecturer in Animal and Equine Science and a qualified and experienced McTimoney Animal Therapist working with many of the Vets throughout Yorkshire.