Holistic Therapies in Veterinary Medicine
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Holistic Therapies in Veterinary Medicine

Health & Safety

Holistic veterinary medicine offers a gentler alternative to traditional veterinary treatment, and is increasingly practiced amongst veterinary surgeons. For owners apprehensive about the side effects or discomfort associated with certain procedures, holistic therapy is an appealing choice either as a secondary or even primary form of treatment. This article will cover three types of holistic veterinary therapy: homeopathy, herbal remedies, and aromatherapy. If you are considering holism as a treatment for your pet, know that in the UK alternative medicine still constitutes an act of veterinary surgery and therefore should only be carried out by a qualified veterinary surgeon.

What is holistic therapy or holism?

Holism refers the practice of taking a broad, all-encompassing view of health. Rather than treating a medical problem in isolation, holistic practitioners take many factors into consideration when determining the course of treatment for a patient. Environment, diet, and behaviour all come into play when determining which remedies or modifications are appropriate. Your vet may pick and choose between therapies, or even combine them with traditional medicine as a complementary treatment. There are of course situations in which holistic therapy may not be suitable as a primary treatment, for example if your pet requires an orthopaedic operation or has a problem which can only be corrected surgically. However it can be used to reduce pain or side effects associated with traditional procedures.

Are these techniques proven to work?

Though many holistic practices have been used and developed for thousands of years, studies confirming the benefits of alternative remedies have been limited. On case-by-case basis, there may be many advantages to trying these methods, especially as complementary remedies to the side effects of traditional drugs or for their general principles of improving the body's health as a whole. Whether or not these methods produce notable therapeutic effects, it's important to only start new treatments after discussing them with a professional; you should work closely with your vet to track your pet's progress during treatment.

How do I find a reputable holistic practitioner?

Anyone offering to prescribe holistic treatments for your pet should be a qualified veterinary surgeon listed with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons [RCVS). All legally practicing vets in the UK are governed by the guidelines imposed by the RCVS, protecting you and your pet from any misconduct. A reputable holistic vet will be willing to discuss all the options open to you and your pet, as well as offer practical advice in response to any apprehensions you may have. Generally speaking, the vet should always see your pet in person so that he can make a good assessment of his weight, physical condition, and overall health.

What is homeopathy/an herbal remedy/aromatherapy and how can it help my pet?

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is the practice of curing likes with likes. Agents are chosen based on symptom matching: substances that cause ill effects in the healthy are thought to cure them in the sick. Rather than rely on traditional medication and therapies, homeopathic veterinary surgeons work to find appropriate stimuli to induce the body to heal itself. Therapy involves the use of specially made medicines, produced from both natural and man-made materials. These materials are diluted down at an appropriate rate in order to cancel out any toxic effects whilst encouraging the body to produce its own healing response. All homeopathic treatments are complemented by adjustments to the diet and lifestyle of the patient in order to further promote good health.In theory homeopathic remedies can be used to treat the same diseases as traditional medicines, with the added bonus of being gentler and less likely to induce negative side effects. Therefore, this type of therapy is a popular choice for pet owners with animals suffering from chronic or reoccurring conditions. The exact process by which homeopathic remedies work is unknown, however there have been studies comparing the results to the placebo effect. Still, homeopathy has proven to be a popular alternative therapy for humans and animals.Homeopathy can be practiced on horses, cats, and dogs.

Herbal remedies

This is an umbrella term used to describe varying methods of treatment using whole herbs or herbal supplements. Different types of treatment may include Chinese herbs, Western herbs, or Ayurvetic herbs from the Indian subcontinent. The main principle behind herbal remedy is that herbs can alleviate physical, emotional, and mental suffering. Herbalists target more than just the problem site by taking a holistic approach and working to improve the animal's health as a whole; clean diet, exercise, and a stress-free lifestyle are all integral parts of a herbalist approach.Herbal remedies can be used to cover a wide range of ailments in many different species, helping with everything from parasite infection to osteoarthritis. Always consult your vet before using any supplements, especially if your pet is already on other medications or has any dietary sensitivities. Due to the lack of studies on the effects of herbs, it may be best to use these as a complementary treatment whilst your pet undergoes traditional therapy.

Aromatherapy

This method involves the use of herb-derived essential oils, which may be delivered via inhalation, topical application to the skin, or (rarely) ingestion. These oils are typically used to relieve stress, nausea, irritating skin or hair conditions, or promote a sense of wellbeing. In humans, aromatherapy has been found to reduce chronic pain or side effects associated with harsh treatments such as chemotherapy or steroids. Animals suffering from arthritis, joint-conditions, or cancer could especially benefit from aromatherapy. When applying oils to the skin, it is essential to use a carrier oil and be especially cautious about dilution ratios. If in doubt, do not proceed. Aromatherapy can be used in both large and small species, however it is generally not recommended for pregnant animals or cats due to their fastidious grooming habits. As with any form of herbal remedy, always work with your vet to prevent unwanted drug interactions or potentially toxic effects - inappropriate usage can cause rashes or even nerve damage.

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