Holistic Pet Care

By Cate Burnette

A General Overview of the 4 Most Common Alternative Vet Therapies

More and more pet parents are searching for alternative forms of therapy when it comes to the veterinary treatment of the animals. The term “holistic” pet care – when related to veterinary tactics – generally refers to trying to be as minimally intrusive as possible when it comes to treating various ailments within a pet.

The primary advantages holistic veterinarians hope to convey is that through less intervention involving technology or medicine, the more effective and cost-friendly this type of technique will be toward comforting an animal and its family during a time of illness and stress.


Types of Holistic Veterinary Medicine

There are a number of differing alternative therapies available for sick pets. We will go over 4 of the more common treatments here, although your holistic vet may offer other therapies that he or she feels will be more effective for your individual animal.


  • Acupuncture: Veterinary acupuncture is a holdover from Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) that has been practiced on animals for thousands of years. Originally performed on military horses, the demand for modern veterinary acupuncture for use on companion animals has steadily increased over the last 20 years. Used mainly for functional problems involving pain, paralysis and non-infectious inflammation, vet acupuncture can treat patients with arthritis, hip dysplasia, feline asthma, non-infectious diarrhea, and lick granulomas (hot spots).Veterinarians in this country are trained, certified and governed by the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture and approved by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) for the management of pain in cats and dogs.


  • Massage Therapy: Massage therapy for animals is a touch technique that causes the pet’s body to release endorphins, a natural body product that relieves pain and lowers stress levels. Used on both companion animals and horses, therapists claim that massage can increase the circulation improving joint flexibility and muscle tone, help eliminate toxins and wastes from the body, improve the condition of skin, gums, coat and teeth, and positively affect the behavior of nervous, aggressive or anxious animals.The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure & Massage (NBCAAM) was founded in 2008 to establish and uphold professional standards for animal acupressure and massage practitioners. Pet massage therapists do not have to be licensed veterinarians, but they must pass national core competency examinations to be certified in this country. Your veterinarian or the NVCAAM can help your find a certified pet message therapist in your area.


  • Nutrition and Dietary Changes: Just as in human medicine, veterinary nutritionists use common foods and nutrients to prevent and treat diseases in our pets. They teach pet parents how to read pet food labels to find optimal products, how to make homemade meals for sick and ailing animals, which vitamins and minerals will combat certain chronic disorders and which foods are hazardous to a patient’s health.Obese pets, animals with chronic kidney and cardiac disease, cancer patients, animals with arthritis and hip dysplasia, intestinal disorders and skin conditions can all be helped often with just a simple change in diet or nutritional plan.To find a qualified veterinary nutritionist, consult with your vet or visit the website of their governing body, the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition.  


  • Chiropractic Care: Veterinary chiropractors are licensed veterinarians who have undergone post-graduate animal chiropractic training and been certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association.Vet chiropractors manually manipulate the neuro-musculo-skeletal systems of pets in an effort to treat animals with stiffness, tension, pain and even organ dysfunction. As an alternative to regular veterinary care, animal chiropractic adjustment can promote optimal function of the nerves, muscles and tissues supporting the joints, resulting in improved movement, stance and flexibility. Vet chiropractors claim that this alignment promotes increased agility, endurance, and overall performance for sport animals. Broader benefits include superior immune function, healthier metabolism and a vibrant nervous system, facilitating your companion animal’s natural ability to heal.


Official Guidelines

The American Veterinary Medical Association officially describes alternative veterinary practices as “Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine (CAVM).” While the AVMA has recognized these types of therapeutic methods for usage, they have still implemented various guidelines that call for appropriate evaluation of each alternative procedure, insisting that programs dedicated to promoting CAVM practices need to demonstrate “a substantial body of scientific knowledge.”


As the official AVMA guidelines state, these recommendations include:

  • “Veterinarians should ensure that they have the requisite skills and knowledge for any treatment modality they may consider using.
  • Diagnosis should be based on sound, accepted principles of veterinary medicine.
  • Proven treatment methods should be discussed with the owner or authorized agent when presenting the treatment options available. Recommendations for effective and safe care should be based on available scientific knowledge and the medical judgment of the veterinarian.
  • Owner consent should be obtained prior to initiating any treatment, including CAVM.
  • Medical records should meet statutory requirements. Information should be clear and complete. Records should contain documentation of client communications and owner consent.
  • Veterinarians should be aware that animal nutritional supplements and botanicals typically are not subject to pre-marketing evaluation by the FDA for purity, safety, or efficacy and may contain active pharmacologic agents or unknown
  • If a human health hazard is anticipated in the course of a disease or as a result of therapy, it should be made known to the client.”

According to a recent article in the Dallas Morning News, in Texas, holistic therapies must either be offered or approved by your TVMA-licensed veterinarian.


Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

Dog drinking water out of bowl

Dehydration & Pets

By Cate Burnette


When Texas summers get as hot as they normally do, all pet parents need to watch out for our dogs and cats becoming dehydrated from a lack of body water. Dehydration occurs when the total body water is less than normal and involves loss of both water and electrolytes (minerals such as sodium, chloride and potassium).

When there is not enough body water, fluid shifts out of the body cells to compensate, leaving the cells deficient in necessary water. This leads to dehydration. The severity of the dehydration is based on the magnitude of these body water shifts. Pets normally lose fluid through breathing, panting, urinating and defecating and those fluids must be restored regularly to maintain optimum health.


Causes and Symptoms of Dehydration

There are a number of ways your dog or cat can become dehydrated. Your pet may not be eating or drinking enough to take in appropriate amounts of water. Dehydration can cause the loss of appetite and, in a frustrating cycle, your animal loses even more body water when she won’t eat or drink. Illnesses that cause bouts of frequent vomiting or diarrhea and/or high fevers can result in your pet becoming dehydrated. Any dog or cat that is overheated may also be suffering from dehydration.

So what are some of the symptoms that you need to watch for?

There are basically 3 levels of clinical dehydration, with the final levels being the most serious.

Beginning Signs

  • Excessive panting and warm skin
  • Dry mouth, nose and gums
  • Visibly tired, less animated
  • Sunken eyes, lack of moisture

Intermediate Signs

  • Loss of skin elasticity – If a gentle pinch of shoulder or neck skin doesn’t immediately pop back into place, your pet is probably dehydrated. As the tissue under the skin loses moisture, the skin moves back more slowly. In extreme cases, the skin doesn’t pop back at all.
  • Delayed Capillary Refill Time (CRT) – Place your thumb or index finger firmly against your pet’s gums so that they whiten. Remove your finger and count how many seconds it takes for the gums to become pink. Any time longer than 2 seconds is a sign of dehydration and/or other illness.
  • Rectal temperature greater than 105º F

Final Signs

  • Your pet is wobbly and unsteady on her feet
  • You notice hind end weakness


How to Prevent Dehydration

Maintaining a constant body fluid level is as important in animals as it is in humans. The Humane Society of the United States issues these tips for keeping your pet hydrated in even the warmest weather.

  • Leave several bowls of water around the house so that your cats and dogs get enough to drink.
  • If you notice your pet hasn’t had a drink in a while, start by allowing her to have a few sips of water every few minutes. Overdrinking can easily lead to nausea and vomiting and losing even more fluids that she needs.
  • After strenuous exercise, monitor the amount of water your dog drinks and don’t allow overdrinking.
  • Take a collapsible bowl and plenty of cool water with you when you’re exercising or playing outside with your pet. Allow plenty of down time (especially on hot days) and find a place for shade so your pet can cool down.
  • If your dog or cat is outside for any length of time, ensure there are bowls of clean, cool water available for drinking.


What can I do if I suspect my pet is dehydrated?

  • Give an electrolyte (such as Gatorade®) mixed with water if your pet is showing the early signs of dehydration. While water helps in replenishing a lot of nutrients, electrolytes can do the job more quickly.
  • Animals who have gone a long time without drinking water may have a hard time holding it down. Allow your dog or cat to lick ice. She’ll rehydrate herself as the ice melts.


  • If your pet refuses to drink for any extended period of time, see your veterinarian immediately!


Veterinary Treatment of Dehydration

The veterinary care for moderately and severely dehydrated pets revolves around the administration of supplemental fluids. Typically, fluids are given either subcutaneously (SQ) under the first layer of skin or intravenously (IV) through a vein. The latter requires hospitalization and the insertion of an intravenous catheter. Your vet can determine the amount of fluids to be given and the route of administration in the best interests of your pet.



Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.


dog paw wrapped in gauze hand of human

Cuts, Scrapes & Injuries On Your Pet

By Cate Burnette

Minor Injuries You Can Care For At Home

When a pet sustains an injury, concerned pet parents often have a lot of the same questions as human parents, such as, “How bad is this, really? What should I do to treat this? Is this an injury requiring immediate professional medical care, or can it be dealt with at home?” That’s why it’s good to have an understanding of what the difference is between a major and a minor injury in your furry companion.

What is the difference between a major trauma and a minor injury?

Major traumas include:

  • Bite wounds
  • Puncture wounds
  • Burns and scalds
  • Snake bites of any kind
  • Deep lacerations
  • Broken bones

These injuries should NEVER be treated at home and your pet needs to see your local veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately. A deep cut can get infected and require stitching and even small burns or scalds can send an animal into shock. Snake bites – both poisonous and non-poisonous – can cause pain and extreme inflammation and, of course, broken bones necessitate professional care.

Minor injuries are issues like torn nails, bruises, skin scrapes, insect bites or stings (without allergic reaction), and/or minor intestinal problems such as occasional constipation or diarrhea. You can treat most of these matters at home and contact your vet if you have any concerns.

Home Treatments for Minor InjuriesInjured orange cat with paw wrapped in gauze in the hands of a vet with gloves

As concerned pet parents, you know that your veterinarian needs to be called for traumatic wounds, ongoing illnesses and sudden, acute disease symptoms. However, for any inconsequential injuries, there are treatments you can do at home with items from your medicine cabinet and kitchen to help your pet heal quickly and pain free.  


  • Bumps, Bruises, Twists, and Sprains – Tenderness, swelling, limping and mild to moderate pain can indicate a bruise, sprain or strain of limbs and paws. Keep your pet quiet and restrict exercise by crating if necessary. If the signs continue for more than 2 or 3 days, contact your veterinarian.
  • Torn Toenails – Dogs and cats can slice up their nails in a variety of ways. Everything from a too-close nail trim that nicks the quick, to running outdoors over sharp rocks. When the bleeding doesn’t stop, dip the hurt nail into a tiny amount of styptic powder, typically found on the shaving aisle found in most commercial pharmacies. If you don’t have styptic powder available, corn starch or regular baking flour will also curtail the bleeding.
  • Cuts and Scrapes – Please Note: If the injury site is swollen, bruised or bleeds excessively, you must assume your pet has sustained a bone break or sprain and you should allow your veterinarian to provide treatment and pain meds immediately. For minor cuts and scrapes with no other signs, clean the site of dirt with a cloth or towel and a non-stinging antiseptic diluted in warm water. Apply a cold compress (you can use a bag of frozen veggies) and keep it in place for a few minutes to alleviate any inflammation and pain. Place a dab of 3-in-one antibiotic ointment on the cut and bandage lightly to keep your pet from licking the area. Contact your vet for further advice and additional treatment.
  • Bug Bites or Bee Stings – Bug bites or stings typically occur around the face and head of a dog or cat. Once you notice the area, apply a cold pack to the bite to reduce swelling and itching. Look for a stinger. If one is still in the skin, use a credit card or other flat, rigid object (NOT tweezers) to scrape it out. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately if you notice any swelling in the head or neck area that can affect breathing or if you find a stinger in the tongue or the roof of the mouth.
  • Swallowed Objects – In many cases, if your dog swallows an inappropriate object, you can take a wait-and-see approach to watch if the item passes without any trouble. However, swallowing sharp objects, extremely large objects, or any type of long item, is very dangerous.  Additionally, cats often swallow tinsel, fishing line or thread that can become wrapped around the tongue. In those cases, or if your pet shows signs of consistent vomiting, has a distended or painful abdomen, or is not having bowel movements, contact your veterinarian for immediate emergency treatment.
  • Constipation, Diarrhea, Hairballs, and Other Minor Digestive Issues – Most pets, at one time or another, experience digestive upsets that last for a few days and disappear. If these upsets are not related to other major health issues, then a dose of canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling) can do the trick. Veterinarians recommend giving 1 teaspoon per every 10 pounds of body weight either as a treat or in the normal diet one or two times a day until the issue resolves. Pumpkin is rich in a soluble plant fiber that eases the pains of both constipation and diarrhea.


If the symptoms of any injury or trauma are excessive – or continue for more than 1 or 2 days – contact your veterinarian for treatment. Remember, if your pet is sick or injured, it’s important to protect yourself and anyone else who may be caring for or handling her, so using a muzzle on dogs or a pillowcase on cats may be necessary. Even the most docile and gentle of pets can bite in response to pain or fear.


Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

dog on pool float

Preventing Sunburn for Your Pets

There’s something about a sunny day that inspires us to get outside and into the sunshine. For domestic animals, the sunlight does more than encourage a long walk or an opportunity for a long, peaceful catnap. When outside, however, the ultra-violet rays from the sun can be dangerous for dogs and cats, because just like humans, they run the risk of sunburn.  Some people think that because our pets have furry coats, they are protected from the sun’s harmful rays, but this simply isn’t true.

Similar to humans, dogs and cats have certain areas that are vulnerable to sunburn. Some of the most susceptible areas for pet sunburn include the nose, around the eyes, on the front and back of the ears, underneath the paws, and the underside of the belly.  

How can you tell if your pet is sunburned? First, you may observe redness around the area in question.   Also, the nose, belly, ears or eye areas are tender to the touch.  Finally, you may notice dry or cracked skin, and if severe enough, you may even see hair loss on the affected area.  If your pet gets sunburned, you can apply Aloe Vera gel to cool and soothe the area.  

Prolonged exposure to the sun will negatively impact any living creature. Over time, serious sunburns can cause painful skin conditions such as sores and abscesses, which could lead to infections or skin cancer.

You can protect your pet from sunburn by applying an over-the-counter sunscreen or visiting your veterinary clinic for prescribed sunscreen made just for animals.  Just like you would your family, keep your pet’s time in the sunshine limited, seek shade and apply sunscreen, especially after a dip in the water.


Calico cat looking up

Pet First Aid for Insect Bites

With the weather finally warming up, we all want to get outside and enjoy the sunshine with our dogs and cats. Barbecues, walks in the park, and just lounging in the back yard sunshine are so much more fun when our pets are right there with us. Responsible, loving VIP pet parents should be aware of how to give pet first aid for insect bites that can cause their furry companions so much painful, itchy trouble.

Fleas and Ticks

Since nasty fleas and ticks lurk in tall brush and grasses, it’s important to keep your lawns mowed and trim. Your vet can prescribe safe, spot-on topical treatment to protect your pets from these irritants or you can research on-line for the best all-natural organic products to purchase.

  • Flea bites can cause excessive scratching, hair loss, scabs, hot spots and tapeworms (an intestinal parasite), as well as anemia from blood loss in both cats and dogs. You’ll know your pet has tapeworms if you see what appear to be tiny grains of white rice around the anus or under the tail. You may also notice those same “grains of rice” moving and squirming in fresh feces. Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate de-worming medication for the tapeworms.

If you notice your dog or cat has fleas, a warm bath with a flea-repellant shampoo may be recommended. If you want to go the organic route, look for a shampoo containing dandelion, eucalyptus, and other pest-repellent herbs and oils.

  • Tick bites can cause similar skin itching and lead to a variety of complications from diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Cytauxzoonosis and Babesia. Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be passed on to humans and be debilitating and hard to cure. Without veterinary intervention, your pet can become seriously ill and die from these tick-borne diseases.

Any tick you find on your pet needs to be carefully removed by squeezing the head with a pair of tweezers and gently pulling backwards away from the skin. Kill the tick with a drop of alcohol in a sealed bottle and save it for your vet should you notice your dog or cat becoming lethargic, not wanting to eat, or showing other signs of disease.

The scratching and itching that results from flea and tick bites can be relieved by dabbing the spot with witch hazel made with ethanol, the alcohol contained in consumable liquors, or vegetable glycerin, an edible coconut oil derivative that is used in natural soaps and cosmetics for its emollient, skin-soothing qualities.

Or, you may want to try this homemade recipe using a spray bottle and ingredients found at your local organic store:

  • 4 Tbsp. witch hazel
  • 2 Tbsp. aloe vera gel
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable glycerin
  • 1 Tbsp. hemp seed oil (or coconut oil)
  • 1 tsp. colloidal silver (can be found in your local health food store)
  • 2 drops geranium essential oil
  • 6 drops lavender essential oil
  • 6 drops cedarwood essential oil

Add enough water to fill the spray bottle. Store in the fridge for a longer shelf life.

Bees and Wasps

In most cases, you’ll notice swelling and tenderness where your dog or cat was stung, and the stinger might still be stuck in your pet. Remove the stinger as soon as possible so that the venom stays localized and doesn’t get a chance to spread. Use a credit card, not your fingers or a pair of tweezers, because the venom sac may rupture, exposing your pet to more venom.

To reduce the swelling and the pain, apply a cold compress to the sting site. You may need to hold it on to the area for a while for the compress to be effective. If your pet is amenable, you may even be able to use an old towel or strips of cloth to wrap and hold the compress around the site. **Please note: Keep a protective layer of cloth between ice or frozen compresses and sensitive skin.

Fire Ants

Fire ants, those aggressive pests, spring up every summer and can cause problems for both pets and their humans. Your animal’s reaction to the bites can vary from mild to severe, with the most common symptoms showing up as immediate pain upon being bitten followed by severe itching. Your dog or cat may lick or bite the area around the bite causing further irritation.

For immediate relief, mix a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the ant bites. Apply an ice pack or cold compress to the skin as discussed in the section on Bees and Wasps. In severe cases, a dose of 1 to 2 mg. of plain Benadryl™ per pound is a good, safe remedy for itchy animals. **Please note: Check with your veterinarian before administering any over-the-counter medications.

Do NOT hose down your dog if covered in fire ants. This causes the ants to panic and bite down harder. You’ll need to keep an eye on any bite and watch for signs of infection.

**Warning – Particularly for Bee/Wasp Stings and Fire Ant Bites**

See your veterinarian or emergency vet center immediately if you notice your pet agitated, having difficulty breathing, drooling, scratching at the face or nose, showing increased swelling of the mouth, throat or nose, vomiting, or having diarrhea or seizures. These are all signs of anaphylactic shock – a true veterinary emergency.

Pet Safe Lawn Products To Repel Pests

Many organic, natural lawn care products are highly efficient, have no adverse affect on the environment and are NOT harmful to animals, plants, humans, aquatic life, honeybees, earthworms, beneficial insects and birds. Look for product labels that say they are produced in accordance with NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) guidelines. The materials used in the production process are derived from naturally occurring and sustainable sources and are consistent with organic principals.

Natural pest repellents such as garlic and pepper sprays will repel many insects. Combine the repellent with water in the blender and then strain out the fiber. Or use insecticidal soap, effective against many problematic insects.

Traps, which allow the pest to walk in, but not walk out, can effectively control wasps, bees and a number of other pests. Put insect traps on the periphery of your lawn so the pests will be disarmed before – rather than after – they invade your property.

For fleas and other insects with shells, try diatomaceous earth, a fine silica powder made from the fossilized shells of minute creatures called diatoms. The razor sharp powder destroys the shells of crawling insects, but does not harm earthworms, pets, or humans.

VIP Pet Services takes Pet First Aid for insect bites seriously. Our pet sitters are trained to be on the lookout for any signs of distress in your furry family members during their visits. Please make sure to keep your pet’s profile up to date in Leashtime and mention any known allergies to your sitter directly. Contact us or leave a comment if you have any specific questions for Cate.