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Alternative Medicine For Animals

Disclaimer: Before trying any alternative medicines it is recommended that professional veterinary advice is sort first. The Digglers ~ Pet Memory Website do not either approve or endorse any of the linkages or information mentioned on this page.

Christopher Day MA VetMB CertIAVH VetFFHom MRCVS

There has been a popular surge of support for natural medicines, whether in human or animal fields, over the last two decades. This is running side-by-side with the new environmental and health awareness, that is already becoming a feature of the 21st Century.

Homoeopathy (a.k.a. Homeopathy or Homoopathy), Herbs and Acupuncture are the most well-known of the natural therapies used. They will be briefly described here. There are, however, several other worthwhile branches of alternative medicine, also referred to as holistic, natural or complementary medicine. Identity problems aside, what is embraced by these therapies is a common thread, that of applying a stimulus to the body's own healing powers. Herbs alone also exert a direct pharmacological effect and did, in fact, spawn conventional medicine.

The therapies that I use are Homoeopathy, Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Herbs, Tissue Salts, Aromatherapy, Bach Flowers, Laser, Ultra-sound, Chiropractic, Nutrition. I add nutrition because, without it, I believe there is no good medicine. As a basis of all my work, I recommend a natural, clean, fresh, varied, preferably organic diet, suited to the evolved needs of each species.

Tales abound, of cures by alternative medicine, where conventional medicine has failed. The underlying theme, however, is that a condition is only curable if a) the body has a mechanism of repair or rebalancing, b) we are able to find an appropriate stimulus for that mechanism and c) we take all possible steps to remove the obstacles to recovery. If these three things are in place, we can witness a cure, no matter what the conventional prognosis or the name of the disease or disorder.

Homoeopathy utilises the principle: 'Let likes be cured by likes'. This means that, in practice, we take a substance to cure a particular syndrome that has the power to provoke similar symptoms in a healthy body. This principle was worked out by Hahnemann, in 1790. He took quinine, a substance known to be well able to cure malaria, and was astounded to discover that it produced, in him, a healthy person, signs and symptoms indistinguishable from malaria. The use of each of the several thousand homoeopathic medicines, that we have today, is based on this same principle. The prescription is individualised for the patient, using information not just about the main disease but also about the patient himself. This methodology is crucial to its success in chronic disease. The use of homoeopathic medicines is without side-effects, does not require animal experiments, is able to achieve a real cure, in many cases, without 'suppression' of symptoms and does not stimulate bacterial resistance. There are more than one hundred vets using homoeopathy, in the UK and more than ten times that many world-wide. Any disease that is curable can benefit from homoeopathy. Relief can even be obtained in diseases for which there is no cure. Common areas of success are in skin disease, auto-immune disorders and in chronic diseases of many types. It also has immense value in first-aid treatment of injuries and minor ailments, Arnica, for instance, being the famous injury remedy. No one who has tried using Arnica for injury will ever be without it, for self or animal treatment.

In herbal medicine, we exploit the combinations of pharmacologically-active ingredients of plants, to achieve a balancing and healing effect. Herbal medicines can evoke side-effects, if wrongly used and some can be downright toxic. Animals on some herbal medicines could fail a competition 'dope' test. Many modern drugs were originally derived from herbs. Aspirin, Digoxin, Vincristine and Atropine are among them. Many herbal preparations are vigorously marketed for animals. Ideally, however, herbal medication should be designed around an individual patient, not taken 'off the shelf'. It is also important to warn that herbal medicines can summate with conventional drugs of similar purpose, leading to the danger of overdose if the two are combined.

Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It works on the principle that, in health, energy should be balanced between Yin and Yang and flows rhythmically around the body in certain 'meridians' or 'channels', disease occurring if the flow or balance is disturbed. Putting needles in certain points along these channels, often remote from the perceived site of the problem, can achieve re-harmonisation and, therefore, restoration of health. Other methods of stimulation are also possible, including heat (moxibustion), laser and massage (acupressure). Acupuncture is best used alongside an integrated herbal and dietary programme, as originally intended in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Needling alone can have effects, but they can fall far short of the best responses achieved in a full holistic programme. The most rewarding areas for the use of acupuncture are arthritis, pain control, paralysis and vertebral disc disease.

When seeking treatment with natural medicine, it is important to remember that only qualified vets may legally treat animals. This applies just as much to Aromatherapy, Bach Flowers and Tissue Salts, as to the 'big three'. Exceptions are made for chiropractic, osteopathy and physiotherapy, carried out on the recommendation of a vet and under veterinary supervision.

© Christopher Day - March 2002

Further Reading

  • Cats: Homoeopathic Remedies - George Macleod - C W Daniel
  • Dogs: Homoeopathic Remedies - George Macleod - C W Daniel
  • The Treatment of Horses by Homoeopathy - George Macleod - C W Daniel
  • A Veterinary Materia Medica - George Macleod - C W Daniel
  • Homoeopathy, First-Aid for Pets - Christopher Day - Chinham Publications
  • Homoeopathy, First-Aid for Horses - Christopher Day - Chinham Publications
  • Feed Your Dog the Natural Way - Christopher Day - Chinham Publications
  • Homoeopathic Treatment of Small Animals, Principles & Practice - Christopher Day - C W Daniel
  • Homoeopathy (for horses) - Christopher Day - Kenilworth Threshold Picture Guide
  • Natural Remedies (for horses) - Christopher Day - Kenilworth Threshold Picture Guide
  • Natural Remedies for your Cat - Christopher Day - Piccadilly
  • Homoeopathic Medicine for Dogs - H G Wolff - Thorsons
  • Homoeopathic First-Aid Treatment for Pets - Francis Hunter - Thorsons
  • Homeopathic Care for Cats & Dogs - Don Hamilton - North Atlantic Press