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Do Alternative Therapies Work For Pets? - Articles Surfing
Natural and holistic therapies are not new but even their use in humans has only recently gained popularity in the UK. More and more people are shunning traditional medicine not only for themselves but for their pets. According to Direct Line Insurance over 750 000 of the UK's dog owners use alternative or complimentary treatments - with 30% doing so on recommendation from their vet.
So, why have some of the oldest and most natural treatments only recently seen a revival and do they actually work?
Part of the answer is they never went away. Holistic treatments such as acupuncture and herbs are still the mainstream in many eastern countries such as China, inclusive of their pet population. It seems to be a predominantly Western attitude to have adopted traditional medicines as we know them. Some orthodox medics frowned on them as 'quack' methods, a seemingly odd approach as many of the pharmaceutical drugs available today are derived from plants - the basis for herbalism. However, they have stood the test of time and been documented throughout history, one of the oldest books of acupuncture in animals, is 'bo le zhen jing' (Boles Canon of Veterinary Acupuncture) an equine acupuncture book believed to have been written between 659B.C and 621B.C.), so is it likely they would still be mainstream in other cultures if they didn't work?
The main objection to natural therapies by most opposing doctors and vets, are that they are untested, unproven and unregulated. That may have been true once but now as more veterinarians are aware of the impact of modern life on pets and the need to treat the 'whole' not just the symptom, alternative therapies are being more widely used by those best able to judge their worth.
The limitations of orthodox medicine particularly with long standing conditions has caused some vets to look for alternatives and as a result it seems many are being more readily adopted as essential first point of calls rather than as solely 'complimentary'. - "Within months of qualifying in 1992, while still in Beeford, I was beginning to question the wisdom of conventional medicine. I could not help thinking, "Is that all there is to treat animals?" says Nick Thompson, a qualified vet from Bath, who uses herbs, acupuncture and homeopathy in both small and large animals.
Acupuncture - is already recognised by the American Veterinary Medical Association as suitable for the 'treatment of numerous conditions in animals' It also says 'Veterinary Acupuncture and acutherapy are now considered an integral part of veterinary medicine' (1)
It's very effective in managing pain and research in 1989 reported that out of 191 dogs with disc disease in their spines that out of those treated with acupuncture
* 85 dogs with only back pain - 94% recovered
* 37 dogs with back pain, lack of 'hind leg co-ordination and use' - 89% recovered
* 59 dogs with paralysis, unable to stand or walk or bear weight, but pain response present - 79% recovered
* 10 dogs with paralysis, unable to stand or walk or bear weight, and pain sensitivity absent - 20% recovered (2)
Homeopathy - is based on the concept 'like cures like'. Hippocrates is credited to be the first to use it in 400B.C.when he noted that herbs given in a low dose tended to cure symptoms that they created when given in a large dose. (Not unsimilar to modern day vaccination principles). There is very little research so far, but of the trials completed there is positive evidence for its use in kennel cough in dogs, Cushing's Disease in dogs and horses and in conditions found in other animals. A more dramatic use featured in the case of a Collie with ivermectin (a wormer) poisoning - his prognosis was poor - but the 'like cures like' principle was used and the vet gave a homeopathic dilution of the poison. The dog's condition improved rapidly and the dog recovered within a week. (3)
Herbs - have probably seen the greatest acceptance into conventional care. Their potency has been acknowledged by the National Office of Animal Health issuing license under its Controls of Animal Medicines to the Dorwest Herbs range. Before an animal medicine can be sold in the UK it must be approved by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate who must be satisfied that 'the product is safe, it works, and that it is of good quality'. The range of conditions treated is varied and includes epilepsy - given in conjunction with orthodox drugs, veterinary surgeons have found that it is possible to reduce the quantity of epileptic drugs required and thereby the side-effects often experienced.
In light of some of the startling results being seen in the veterinary profession, the objections that just because alternative medicines were seen as 'natural' did not mean they were safe, seems to have some ground.. Some herbs such as garlic, valerian and ginseng can cause problems such as bleeding and low blood sugars when a patient is given a general anaesthetic (4). With the potential to have undesirable effects, their adoption into mainstream veterinary care can only be seen as a positive move, even by their opponents. As research slowly catches up, whether it is undertaken by those who wish to disprove it as bunkum or those who want confirmation of its abilities the outcome can only be of help to our pets.
(1) Sarah Probst, University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine
(2) Janssens and Prins, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (1989) 25, 169-174).
(3) R J Optimeer. How The Similia Principle of Homeopathy Resolved An Emergency. Case History of Ivermectin Poisoning in a Collie. (1997) 122, 36-9)
(4) The Journal of the American Medical Association 2001;286:208-216.
Day CEI. Isopathic prevention of kennel cough ' is vaccination justified? J Int Assoc Vet Hom 1987; 2: 45-51.
Elliott M. Cushing's Disease: a new approach to therapy in equine and canine patients. Br Homeopath J 2001; 90: 33-6.
Tijdsrift Voor Diergeneeskunde 1997
Direct Line Insurance Press Release - research carried out 11-15 May 2006
http://www.noah.co.uk - National Office of Animal Health
http://www.holisticvet.co.uk - Nick Thompson BSc.(Hons), BVM&S, VetMFHom, MRCVS. Research papers and further information on the HolisticVet practice can be found at his website.
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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