Sunday, April 7, 2013



Hardly a week goes by during which Helpful Buckeye does not receive an inquiry about some form of "alternative" medicine.  As these approaches to human medicine have grown in popularity, so too have they gained interest among pet owners.  Just as with any topic that lies out of the mainstream of interest, these approaches to medicine have met with curiosity, serious interest, questioning, and outright disbelief. 

Helpful Buckeye's goal this week is to take a closer look at these alternative forms of medicine and try to help you decide if they might help you and your pets.

Holistic Medicine Trends
By: Dr. Amy Wolff

Holistic medicine is a controversial subject. There are passionate opinions on both sides. Opponents claim that if "alternative" treatments really worked, they would be more widely accepted and many illnesses and ailments would have been cured long ago. This side of the debate feels that herbs and medications are often used inappropriately without adequate training and understanding of the potential side effects or dangers and without scientific evidence that they actually work. These treatments have not been thoroughly investigated nor tested for efficacy or safety and in some cases may actually be harmful.
Proponents feel that holistic treatments provide a more "natural" way to heal the body in a world full of chemicals, preservatives and synthetics. Many times, "alternative" treatments are used to augment more traditional treatments and are not commonly used as the only treatment.
The final decision to add alternative treatments to your pet's current regime should be decided between you and your veterinarian. Remember, these treatments are best used in conjunction with traditional medicine and should not be used to completely replace proven, effective treatments.
Just what does the term holistic really mean? The word holistic means the body as a whole. With regard to holistic medicine, the pet's environment, lifestyle, disease, relationship with the owner or other pets, current medications as well as nutrition are taken into consideration when determining the best treatment for the pet. Another term often used to describe holistic medication is alternative treatments. Treatment options vary and may include homeopathy, herbal medication, acupuncture or even nutritional changes.
Holistic medicine alternatives have become more commonplace treatment options in veterinary medicine. The goal of holistic medicine is to promote wellness, not just to treat the symptoms of a disease. It is most often used to augment traditional medical therapy or surgery.
Homeopathic Remedies
Homeopathy is often misunderstood. It is not the same as holistic nor is it the same as herbal treatment. The system of homeopathy used today was originally developed by a German physician in the mid 1800s. The basic principle behind homeopathy is that "like cures like." The primary concept of homeopathy is that medicine, plants, minerals, and drugs that cause illness can also be used to cure the illness. Symptoms of illness are thought to be the result of an internal imbalance.
Homeopathic remedies include the use of plants, vitamins, minerals and other natural substances to treat illness. Homeopathic practitioners believe that homeopathic remedies contain vibrational energy essences that work with the disease state and help heal the pet.
Herbal Medicine
The use of herbs for their medicinal value is an old practice that has regained new interest. Rather than the use of drugs, which can alter the body's natural immune defenses, these remedies are used to help stimulate the body to heal itself. Often, herbs are used in conjunction with traditional drugs to help heal an ill pet.
Many of today's commonly used drugs were discovered and isolated from plants. Taken in this purified and concentrated form, these drugs are fast acting but often have potent and undesirable side effects. The concept behind herbal remedies is to ingest an extract or dried form of a plant known for its medicinal properties.
Since the active compounds are present in smaller concentrations, the desired effect is often achieved with minimal side effects. Herbal medicines are available for a wide variety of problems and many people feel they are providing safer more natural medicine for their pets. Not all veterinarians dispense herbal medicines. If you are interested in supplementing your pet's diet with any herb, vitamin or mineral, be sure to check with his veterinarian first. Some pets may require smaller than recommended doses or be on medications that can cause interactions.
Some of the more commonly used herbal remedies include:
• Calendula for wound healing
• Raspberry to help with pregnancy
• Echinacea to stimulate the immune system
• Milk thistle for liver disorders
• Chamomile for wound healing and respiratory diseases
• Gingko to improve memory (mainly used in dogs)
• Lavender to promote restful sleep
• Oats to reduce itching - used in a bath
• Yeast as a skin supplement and for diarrhea
• Asian ginseng for low grade fevers
• Flaxseed for constipation and irritable bowel syndrome
These should be treated as medications and not given to your pet unless recommended by your veterinarian.
Popular but not recommended: 
• Garlic or onion - can result in anemia
• White willow - used to reduce inflammation but contains salicylates, which can be very irritating to the stomach, especially in cats. 
Acupuncture, Acupressure and Massage
As better health care and preventative medicine increases the life span of your pet, sadly some dogs and cats will acquire chronic diseases that may require periodic pain relief. Common examples of this are osteoarthritis and degenerative joint diseases. Dogs especially may have arthritis in hips, elbows, and spine that causes pain and limited activity as the pet ages. Anti-inflammatories prescribed by your veterinarian may control pain and inflammation but in some pets these drugs cause stomach upset and are not well tolerated. These pets may benefit from acupuncture, acupressure or massage to limit or relieve pain. Even pets treated with traditional medications may also benefit from the added help acupuncture and massage may provide.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of pain control that causes the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals by the brain. The stimulus for the release of these substances is accomplished with the use of fine needles placed in strategic locations on the body. It is generally a non-painful procedure, and well tolerated by many pets. Acupuncture is also thought to strengthen the body's immune system and help improve organ function.
Acupressure is a version of acupuncture, except that in place of needles, firm pressure is applied to pain relief sites. The amount of relief is generally less and of shorter duration than that of acupuncture.
Physical massage is often beneficial in relieving chronic pain or rehabilitating an injury. Your veterinarian can demonstrate how to massage a sore limb or use range-of-motion exercises to increase circulation, strength and flexibility. For pets with sore hips or elbows, these joint exercises often extend your pet's activity and comfort level. The use of heat or cold with massage may provide added benefit. For a more intense massage, consider consulting a certified massage therapist. These animal loving professionals are trained in the proper ways to massage and strengthen your beloved companion. Ask your veterinarian for further advice on massage therapy.
Nutrition is an important part of maintaining wellness in your pet. Some people feel that commercially prepared pet foods can contain excessive preservatives and chemical. There are a variety of natural pet foods available as well as some homemade diets. Be sure to ask your veterinarian before switching your pet's diet. Homemade diets are not as easy as they may seem. Consult with your veterinarian before making any changes.
Adapted from:

Dangers of Holistic Medication in Pets

The past several years has seen the growing popularity of the "holistic" health movement. That trend is growing in the world of veterinary care as well. Many pet owners seek to complement or even replace traditional medical therapy with holistic treatments.
Holistic medicine, including alternatives such as herbal/organic supplements, aromatherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and massage, are believed to support the body's ability to heal itself. In some cases, the implementation of these practices may improve your pet's condition. However, the same caution must be taken when using these alternatives as you would with conventional medicine. When used inappropriately, serious illness can result.
It is easy to be deceived by the words "natural" and "organic." We believe that if a product is natural then it must be safe to use. Remember that some extremely dangerous substances are natural. Cyanide and arsenic are natural compounds but they are certainly lethal. Care must be taken to understand the nature of any medicine and its potential side effects.
Natural Diets and Vitamin Supplementation
Some pet owners formulate and cook their pet's diet at home – for a number of reasons. Pets with special dietary needs are often prescribed modified diets that may be unpalatable; home cooked meals may be necessary. Commercial cat foods often contain flavorings, colors, preservatives, protein or carbohydrate sources that are poorly tolerated in some cats.
In addition, many people have ethical and moral objections to the ingredients used in commercial foods. They want to eliminate the use of animals as food sources, so they feed themselves and their pets vegetarian diets.
A vegetarian diet for dogs, which are omnivores, is possible. On the other hand, cats cannot thrive on a vegetarian diet. If you are considering preparing your pet's food at home, ask your veterinarian for recipes that give proper balance of nutrients and instructions for preparing and storing it safely.
There is also the general feeling that a home cooked meal is just better. Ingredients, preparation and freshness can be controlled when the diet is made at home. But it takes careful research to balance a home cooked meal with the necessary amounts of nutrients. There are many components to producing a well-balanced diet for your pet with regard to primary nutrients, vitamins and minerals. A common feeling is that if vitamins and minerals are helpful in small amounts, then large amounts must be better. Caution must be used here since overdoses of vitamins can cause serious illness.
An overdose of vitamin A can cause bone disease; large doses of vitamin C can cause stomach upsets; imbalances of vitamin D, phosphorus and calcium can lead to bone demineralization. If you include raw meats in the diet, bacterial contamination becomes a concern. The same goes for raw eggs. Raw eggs also contain a protein that interferes with the absorption of B vitamins.
Herbal Supplements and Cures
Medicines from plants have been used for thousands of years to prevent or cure a wide variety of ailments. Most drugs used in conventional medicine were originally derived from plant sources. While most plants used have beneficial properties, it is important to remember that the strength of the plant's active ingredients will vary with the variety of herb and the horticultural practices used to grow them.
Herbs can be sprayed with pesticides, fungicides or fertilizers. They may have been fertilized with improperly prepared compost, which can harbor harmful bacteria. They may produce more than one active compound causing unwanted side effects. They may worsen some medical conditions. There are no standards for quality control in production and dosages. Many have vomiting and diarrhea as a side effect. Onion, garlic, pennyroyal, and ginseng are a few of the commonly used herbal preparations that can cause toxicities if used inappropriately.
Even if your pet is taking an herbal supplement without complication, make sure your veterinarian knows what you are giving. Some herbs interfere with other health concerns and other medications.
Acupuncture, Acupressure, Chiropractic and Massage
Used as additions to pain relief and management of chronic conditions, acupuncture, acupressure and chiropractic can be extremely beneficial in making your pet more comfortable. Massage can be very helpful in helping rehabilitate injury and increasing range of motion. The biggest concern for this growing area of veterinary medicine is making sure you have qualified professionals who have completed recognized courses of study in the treatment of animal diseases. None of these procedures should be performed by novices.
Before beginning any health care program, talk to your pet's veterinarian. Many clinics are incorporating these strategies into your pet's total health care picture. It is unwise to go to your local health store and buy a variety of herbs and supplements to add to your pet's regimen without this consultation. Any illness or sudden change in your pet's behavior should have a medical check up before initiating any treatments, herbal or otherwise.
The Debate Over Alternative Therapies for Dogs
Practitioners of acupuncture and chiropractic undoubtedly believe in the merits of these treatments, as their swelling ranks will attest. But how do traditional veterinary practitioners view them? The jury is still out.
John Bonagura, DVM, DACVIM, Editor of Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy, one of the leading "western medicine" veterinary textbooks, suggests that before you embark on alternative treatments like acupuncture or chiropractic that you should "first be certain you understand the diagnosis."
In Bonagura's opinion, "using acupuncture or chiropractic to treat your pet for a serious infection, for an acute asthmatic attack, for heart or kidney failure or for uncontrolled seizures is both incorrect and dangerous, and most practitioners of alternative methods would not recommend such therapy."
Bonagura also advises that you "inquire about the evidence that objectively recommends an alternative treatment." While Bonagura believes that a number of alternative and complementary treatments will prove valuable, he says, "it is very difficult to find objective, properly conducted studies that assess the safety and effectiveness of these treatments in pets with naturally occurring diseases." He adds, "because many conditions improve with 'tincture of time,' the burden for all treatments - whether for traditional medicine or an alternative therapy - should not be our individual testimony, but carefully designed and unbiased clinical studies."
While veterinarians and pet owners await such information, there is no doubt that complementary and alternative treatments will continue to increase.
As with anything else we do in life, whether it's building a deck, planting a garden, investing your money, or taking care of your pets, we are most likely to follow the "tried and true" methods of previously successful efforts.  However, from time to time, there might be an innovative, alternative idea that offers another way to be even more successful.  If you have any thoughts of considering one of these holistic approaches to taking care of your pets, Helpful Buckeye suggests that you first talk it over with your veterinarian before pursuing it any further.
Please send any comments or questions to:
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

1 comment: