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Pet Health Articles
Alternative Health Care for Dogs

By Darcy Lockman
Visits to the acupuncturist and the chiropractor aren’t just for humans anymore.

Interest in alternative health options for dogs has grown so much that the American Veterinary
Medical Association now recognizes alternative medicine as a valid form of treatment, as do the
800-plus members of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.  But what exactly are
the options — and when might they be right for your canine companion?

What’s Available
According to, Michael Dym, DVM, a New Jersey-based veterinary homeopathy specialist, when
vets talk about alternative health care, they’re typically talking about the following:

Acupuncture involves placing needles into the body’s energy channels to relieve pain, increase
blood flow, relieve muscle spasms, stimulate nerves and regulate the immune system. Though
the prick of a needle may cause momentary discomfort, many animals become immediately
relaxed, or even fall asleep, after the needles are in.

The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure by Amy
Snow, Nancy Zidonis, and Carla Stroh  is an easy to follow manual with
lots of illustrations, photographs and charts. Acupressure connects you
with 1000′s of years of natural healing and has proven to enhance
performance, health and overall well-being. This book gives you the tools
to participate in your dog’s optimal health.
Homeopathy is a system of medicine that looks at the patient’s entire emotional and
physical symptom history — from the beginning of a dog’s life onward — as one illness. A
sequence of herbal remedies is then prescribed over many months, or even years, to
stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself.
Dogs: Homoeopathic Remedies by George Macleod MRCVS
DVSM Vet FF Hom, a   veterinary surgeon and world expert on
homeopathy for animals,  was written for those dog lovers who are
looking for complementary methods to treat a variety of canine
ailments and conditions. It includes a complete introduction to
homeopathic remedies and their various uses as well as information
on their preparation and administration.
Holistic medicine also focuses on stimulating the body’s innate healing capabilities, but it does
so by looking at — and ultimately adjusting — everything that is going onto or into your pet’s
body, such as diet, vaccinations and oral and topical pesticides, like heartworm and flea
The Complete Holistic Dog Book: Home Health Care for Our
Canine Companions
byJan Allegretti and Katy Sommers  provides a
thorough grounding in homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine,
and herbal remedies provides practical techniques for treating
hundreds of common canine illnesses, injuries, and health problems.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners do a physical exam to determine where
there is too much heat or dampness in the body, indicating disease-causing blockages of chi,
or energy. Based on their findings, they prescribe a course of herbs to restore the energy
Head to Tail Wellness: Western Veterinary Medicine Meets
Eastern Wisdom
by Dr. Stacy Fuchino provides a revolutionary East-
West approach to veterinary care, blending the best medical practices of
both Eastern and Western medicine to bring pets’ internal and external
environments into perfect harmony, Whether it’s a matter of harnessing
the healing properties of food, eliminating harmful elements from a pet’s
surroundings, restoring an animal’s flow of energy, or treating
bothersome symptoms.
Veterinary chiropractic is relatively new for dogs that have vertebrae out of alignment or
other spinal problems. Treatment often is by hand or with a hand-held tool. Some dog
chiropractors believe spine misalignment is linked to other problems, including ear infections,
organ dysfunction and constipation.
The Well Adjusted Dog: Canine Chiropractic Methods You Can
by Dr. Daniel Kamen, a practicing chiropractor, explains how you can
use these simple techniques to help settle your dog’s aching bones. By
following the simple step-by-step instruction and clear illustrations in this
book, any dog owner can incorporate these alternative methods of
healing as a supplement to regular veterinary visits.
When to Visit the Holistic Practitioner

“From puppyhood on,” says Dym. “A holistic veterinarian can help you make the best choices
for your dog from the beginning [of its life].”

The second best option is to visit an alternative practitioner as soon as your dog begins
manifesting symptoms of a chronic illness (skin diseases and allergies being the most common
of these for dogs, but any chronic or infectious symptoms that are not mechanical — e.g. a
malformed hip — can be addressed with alternative treatments). What is key is to get an
opinion from a holistic veterinarian before beginning any potentially long-term conventional

If you or your dog become unable to tolerate a conventional treatment, it is not too late to
see an alternative practitioner, though what they can offer at that point may be limited. “I get
a lot of visits from people at the end of their rope,” says Dym. “After years of therapies, I’ll tell
them that I can improve their animal through supplements to help with the negative effects of
the medications, but in some cases, by that point, the bodies are too sick to get healthy on
their own. In those cases the patients may still need their medications to allow them to live

What to Expect From Alternative Treatment
While traditional practitioners will give your canine drugs to suppress its symptoms, a
practitioner of alternative medicine will determine root causes, and prescribe dietary and
lifestyle changes — as well as possibly herbs, acupuncture or chiropractic treatments — in
order to eliminate the problem altogether. Says Dym, “Clients will spend hundreds, if not
thousands, of dollars on drugs to suppress symptoms, but these drugs are Band-Aids. They
don’t work at making the immune system stronger.”

Once you and your pet have started an alternative treatment, a good deal of patience may
be involved. “Treatment can last months, and improvement might not be immediately
evident,” explains Dym. “Before choosing, say, homeopathy and acupuncture, pet owners
should become comfortable with the fact that medicine does not have to be about, for
example, killing bacteria, but rather about helping the body be better able to withstand that
bacteria.” That understanding will enable a smoother treatment relationship between doctor
and dog owner.

When to be Conventional
Alternative treatments, of course, are not always the best medicine. “You need conventional
medicine when there are mechanical things, like malformed joints — there are wonderful
orthopedic treatments for dogs. Additionally, if there is too much pathology, or a condition
requiring surgery, conventional medicine is also more viable, though homeopathy can help
with the healing process,” says Dym. Consult with your veterinarian, or a specialist, when in
doubt as to whether an alternative treatment might be right for your pet’s specific condition.

Darcy Lockman is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times and
Rolling Stone. She lives in Brooklyn, with the prettiest pug dog in the five boroughs.