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.
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.