Integrative Medicine for Pets

Tuki Talks

Hi friends – Tuki here on my perch at the Potter League. I’ve been hearing people talk about using different treatments to help their pets with things like pain, anxiety, seizures, and other medical conditions. Now, we birds don’t have a lot of anxiety, but there are dogs and cats here that suffer from these issues and their people would do anything to help them. 

Integrative medicine used to be called complementary or alternative medicine and is typically based in practices from other cultures. Many people, veterinarians included, believe that these complementary or alternative therapies should be ‘integrated’ with regular veterinary care such as medications, surgery, and physical therapy so they are more commonly called ‘integrative’ medicine or treatments today. Here are some examples that you may want to discuss with your veterinarian. 

Acupuncture/Acupressure. Acupuncture and acupressure work on the same principles, the difference being that acupuncture uses needles and acupressure uses the hands. Both have been practiced for centuries in China and are based on the concept that a person’s (or animal’s!) life force, ‘chi’ circulates through the body on channels or ‘meridians.’ An imbalance in the flow of the chi can result in health problems. Stimulating certain points along these meridians with pressure or needles can restore the normal flow of the chi and help the body heal. Acupuncture and acupressure can be used for many different problems including arthritis, muscle injuries, and anxiety. They should be done by someone who is trained to perform these procedures on animals. 

Chiropractic. Chiropractic treatments for pets are similar to those used for their people. Force is applied to the joints to reduce pain and improve movement. It is typically used for arthritis and muscle injuries. The number of treatments a pet will need depends on the problem being treated. A dog with a minor muscle strain will likely need fewer treatments than one with arthritis. 

Homeopathy. Homeopathy was developed over 200 years ago. The theory behind homeopathy is ‘like cures like,’ so the symptoms of an illness are often treated with a lower concentration of whatever has caused the symptoms. Homeopathy is sometimes used to treat infections. 

Massage therapy. Just like for people, massage therapy can ease stress and anxiety and help relieve pain in dogs. We birds don’t really care for it (and I imagine most cats wouldn’t like it either), but I’ve heard that most people and some dogs love it! If you have no experience with message, take your dog to a trained animal massage therapist to be sure you are treating the right areas and not causing more issues. 

Herbal and other supplements. Some herbal supplements that work for people may also work for pets. For example, omega-3 fatty acids can act as an anti-inflammatory in pets with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.  

Hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy is particularly helpful when recovering from injuries or surgery and treating pain. Joints are more buoyant in water so there is less pain when exercising them to support healing and improve movement. Hydrotherapy is a bit more than just going swimming so if your pet has an injury, talk with your vet about whether hydrotherapy is appropriate. 

CBD (cannabidiol) oil. CBD oil has become very popular with people and many of them think, ‘If it helps me, why can’t it help my pet?’ Well, it may help, but there is very little scientific data about the use of CBD oil in pets. CBD is one of the compounds found in the cannabis sativa (hemp) plant. Hemp is in the same family of plants as marijuana but it doesn’t contain the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) so it doesn’t have the same psychoactive properties (in other words, it doesn’t make you ‘high’). Most CBD products are made from hemp. Hemp is not toxic to dogs, but marijuana is, so if you decide to use CBD oil for your pet, be sure it is made from hemp. If you or any family members use marijuana edibles, be sure that your pet does not have access to them. 

The majority of reports about CBD’s effectiveness come from people who have given it to their pets for various conditions, including pain, anxiety, and seizures. Unfortunately, CBD is not regulated so the purity of the products can’t be guaranteed. There are no companies currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide veterinary CBD products. 

Most of the studies on CBD products have used CBD in conjunction with traditional anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsant medicines. The American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Health Foundation is currently sponsoring a study by Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine to evaluate the use of CBD for dogs with drug-resistant epilepsy.

Hopefully, this information will help keep your pets healthy and you happy!

Before starting any of these treatments, remember to talk with your vet first so these treatments can be used safely and effectively for your pet! 

‘Til next time, your friend, 


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