Alternative Veterinary Medicine

Alternative Veterinary Medicine in Senior Dog Health

The Senior Dogs Project was convinced of the efficacy of alternative therapies when our 13-year-old Golden Retreiver “Misty,” who had been diagnosed with arthritis, was suddenly unable to stand or walk one morning.  We lifted her into our SUV and raced her over to the office of a specialist we knew.  Although he was not a veterinary therapist, he was trained in a hands-on technique for humans called “Hilot Therapy.”  And, as a dog lover, he knew quite a bit about canine anatomy and dogs in general.  We could not carry her up to his office, so he came down and treated her while she lay in the back of the SUV.  He treated her for about 15 minutes, and we could see that she was gradually looking calmer and more comfortable.  After the treatment, we lifted her and put her onto the sidewalk, at which point she was able to both stand and walk normally.  Subsequently, we made regular appointments with a veterinary acupuncturist, and she had good mobility for the rest of her life.

There is a growing trend toward approaching the problems of the aging dog through “holistic” or “alternative” medicine. A holistic veterinarian uses all appropriate treatment modalities to keep your dog healthy. These may include nutrition, herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage, as well as traditional medicines. The popularity of the holistic approach has been growing in recent years because it offers an adjunct to the standard or traditional treatments for canine health problems and provides some good choices for older dogs. 

Here’s a recap of various modalities and current trends:

Acupuncture is gaining acceptance in the veterinary medical community as an effective alternative therapy for relieving the pain of arthritis and to increase joint mobility.

Homeopathy, chiropractic, and holistic healing are not as well accepted or given as much credibility as acupuncture. Anecdotally, however, there is support for them.

Two Hands Four Paws, Los Angeles, CA, is a veterinary center for therapies such as massage and hydrotherapy, offering rehabilitation for dogs with weight or mobility problems.  Lots of good information on the website!  And their foundation offers help to animals whose guardians could not otherwise afford to pay for treatment.

CBD Oil — The latest entry in the field of alternative medicine for dogs is a substance derived from  hemp.  The AKC site states the following:

“While there’s no definitive scientific data on using CBD to treat dogs, there’s anecdotal evidence from dog owners suggesting it can treat pain, especially neuropathic pain, as well as helping to control seizures.

“According to Dr. Klein, CBD is also used because of its anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation, anti-anxiety impact, and for possible anti-cancer benefits, although there’s no conclusive data on this use.

“The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) is currently sponsoring a study, through the Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, that will evaluate the use of CBD in treatment-resistant epileptic dogs. The CHF hopes that this will be the first study to gain scientific data on the use of CBD in dogs with this condition.”

For more information on holistic medicine, see the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association website.

You may also wish to visits the websites of the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, Hillsdale, IL, or the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, Nederland, CO.

An excellent book on acupuncture and Chinese medicine for animals: Four Paws, Five Directions, by Dr. Cheryl Schwartz.

Here’s the link for you to print out a chart that summarizes the Senior Dogs Project’s  Ten Tips to Keep Your Senior Dog Healthy.