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Healthy Pets

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Pets

Should your pet try acupuncture, homeopathy, or herbal medicines?

Acupuncture continued...

Although her colleagues might consider it "crap," Looney says, acupuncture is relatively inexpensive and appears to be harmless.

In the short term, Looney says, she can tell acupuncture helps an animal feel better immediately by an increase in appetite and the way a dog wags its tail and carries its ears.

"We get animals through a rough time and maybe occasionally they need a realignment. We have a lot of big dogs that feel better after their treatment," she says.

Herbal/Botanical Medicine

Herbalists believe certain herbs and plants are of therapeutic value because of their unique combination of ingredients.

Veterinarian Susan Wynn, DVM, of Georgia Veterinary Specialists in Sandy Springs, Ga., has been in practice for 23 years and says she uses herbal remedies to treat various pet maladies. She uses plants like devil's claw, and turmeric, all of which come in various ingestible forms and can be used to reduce inflammation or manage bowel disorders like colitis.

"Herbs can be considered in any situation," Wynn says, but "I don't use them much if there's a safe and well-proven conventional drug." If an arthritic dog, for example, doesn't respond to a conventional treatment, she might try an herbal formula.

Unlike nutraceuticals, which are isolated compounds of a natural substance, herbs offer a more natural complex of chemicals and have a broader physiological effect, says Wynn, who devotes most of her practice to complementary/alternative therapies and nutrition.

Randomized, controlled trials of selected herbal remedies have been published, and some positive effects have been reported. But because herbs are not regulated in the same way as approved drugs, practitioners must be sure that suppliers adhere to stringent standards of authenticity and preparation.


Homeopathy is a complementary/alternative therapy developed more than 200 years ago for use in people.

The theory behind the practice is that "like cures like" -- that symptoms of disease can be treated with preparations, in low concentrations, that cause the same symptoms. The preparations are codified according to the malady.

Veterinarian Shelley Epstein, VMD, CVH, of Wilmington Animal Hospital in Wilmington, Del., is a certified homeopath who uses homeopathic remedies for acute and chronic conditions ranging from ear infection to epilepsy to asthma to cystitis. She works alongside more conventional practitioners and understands that homeopathy won't treat advanced cancer, for example.

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