Skip to content

Healthy Pets

Font Size
A
A
A

Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Pets

Should your pet try acupuncture, homeopathy, or herbal medicines?
By
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

Holistic veterinarians say they believe in what they do, despite a lack of scientific evidence that the tools of their trade -- acupuncture, herbal medicines, homeopathy, and other complementary/alternative therapies -- prevent or cure illness in pets.

For them, the proof is in the way an arthritic dog bounds out of the office after a round of acupuncture, or how a dog's dangerous fungal infection clears up completely with homeopathic treatment.

Recommended Related to Pets

After One Pet Dies: Should You Get a New One?

Losing a much-loved pet is never easy. But even harder for many is being without a four-footed companion. Veterinarian Sheri Morris, DABVP, of Willamette Valley Animal Hospital in Keizer, Ore., offers a few thoughts about welcoming a new furry friend into your life. Woe begone. Finish your grieving first. You can't simply replace a lost pet. You have to be ready for a new personality. "People need time to miss their pets and to think about them," says Morris. When you find yourself wanting a...

Read the After One Pet Dies: Should You Get a New One? article > >

But holistic veterinarians also understand the limits of such therapies and say they use them alongside more conventional ones.

"We talk about 'complementary' rather than 'alternative,' because each type has something good that contributes to the whole," veterinarian Nancy Scanlan, DVM, CVA, MSFP, tells WebMD. Scanlan uses acupuncture, massage, and herbal remedies in her practice at Shasta Lake Veterinary Clinic in Shasta Lake, Calif.

With scant funding for clinical studies to test the effectiveness of such therapies, holistic veterinarians say they will continue to go with their gut, using less invasive and more natural approaches to boost the health of their furry patients.

WebMD asked practitioners how they use complementary/alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) and what works. Here are their answers.

Acupuncture

Scanlan, who works closely with the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, says acupuncture has overtaken herbal and homeopathic medicine in popularity among vets.

Used most often to treat pain, acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapeutic technique in which small-gauge needles are applied to various points on the body to stimulate nerves, improve appetite, increase circulation, relieve muscle spasms, and reduce nausea. The needles can be used with or without an electric current.

The results from research into veterinary acupuncture ranges from inconclusive to somewhat promising. One recently published report found significant improvement in the mobility and spinal posture in a cat with intervertebral disc disease that did not improve with high doses of cortisone.

Cornell University veterinarian Andrea Looney, DVM, DACVA, became a certified acupuncturist in 1994. She uses acupuncture mainly to control pain in animals, especially if it is arthritis-related. Used with physical rehabilitation and a good diet, she considers acupuncture as effective as nonsteroidal pain relievers "without all the ill effects."

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

Puppy digging hole
Are you putting your pet at risk?
Cat looking at fish
Things we can learn from our pets.
 
dog and kitten
27 ways pets help your health.
tick
Get the facts about prevention.
 
Woman holding puppy
Article
Sad dog and guacamole
Slideshow
 
Siamese cat eating from bowl
Slideshow
cat on couch
Evaluator
 
Cat People vs Dog People Slideshow
Slideshow
Kitten playing
Quiz
 
Orange cat nuzzling woman
Slideshow
German shephard reading a book
Quiz