Complementary and Alternative Therapy

canine acupressure meridian chartComplementary and alternative medicine (CAM) covers a variety of approaches to injury and disease which can be used alongside conventional medicine or in some cases replace it.  Some of the therapies are becoming increasingly popular in the West, e.g. acupuncture. 

With a history extending considerably longer than Western medicine, sometimes thousands of years, the techniques are based on the holistic approach, i.e. it is not just the condition but the whole patient that is treated.

The medicine used is 'natural' medicine.

What are the main types of complementary therapy used in veterinary practice?

Acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal medicine are probably the most well known holistic therapies. Others such as magneto therapy, Bach Flower remedy and physical therapy methods are all becoming increasingly popular. Physical therapy includes massage, chiropractic and also physiotherapy. Physiotherapy today is an established part of conventional veterinary medicine and can be considered an interface between conventional and holistic therapies. 

When is holistic therapy used?

Acupuncture is probably the most widely accepted veterinary holistic treatment. It is used as a first line approach by those who have knowledge and faith in holistic medicine. Both in human and veterinary medicine it is used by increasing numbers who realise the benefit of acupuncture as an alternative therapy after conventional methods have failed to afford relief particularly in the case of long standing chronic conditions, e.g. spinal pain, arthritis etc.

"Acupuncture is probably the most widely accepted veterinary holistic treatment. It is used as a first line approach by those who have knowledge and faith in holistic medicine."

Veterinary acupuncture

Acupuncture is an important part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which also includes herbal medicine and natural diets. There are an increasing number of conventionally trained veterinarians who are trained in the use of acupuncture.

Very fine needles are inserted into specific target points to alleviate or eliminate signs often occurring in organs some distance from the insertion points. In certain conditions it is of great benefit particularly in respect of pain relief.


Homeopathy is also an ancient system of medicine, based on the theory of treating like with like.  Very dilute concentrations are used and in consequence it is a very safe therapy. The mode of action in Western terms can perhaps most simply be conjectured by thinking in terms of vaccination. Here a safe dose of the agent causing the disease is administered to the animal in order to stimulate the body to build up resistance. The theory behind homeopathy depends not upon the original material but on the energy used to create the preparation.

Today there are approved qualifications in veterinary homeopathy. An increasing number of veterinarians are interested in the technique and routinely employ homeopathic methods on patients under their care.

veterinary herbal medicineVeterinary herbal medicine

From a Western viewpoint herbal medicine is more easily understood since many modern drugs were originally derived from plants. However Herbal Medicine utilises the natural properties of plants which, used medicinally, are presented in a less purified and refined form and in much lower concentration. It is possible that in unskilled hands herbal medicine can cause harm if inappropriately administered.

Is it necessary to always obtain treatment involving alternative therapy through my veterinarian?

This depends on individual circumstances but it is always prudent to discuss it with your veterinarian in the first instance. Whilst alternative medicine is becoming more popular, it is fair to say that the role of alternative medicine is still controversial and your veterinarian can advise you when it is and is not appropriate to consider its use. We are more than willing to help and, if you wish, will do our best to arrange a consultation with an expert in an appropriate holistic field.

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