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Alternative Therapies For Dogs You Need to Know About

Some pet owners positively swear by holistic care. Learn more about how therapies like acupuncture and herbal treatments can supplement traditional veterinary care.

Holistic therapies for dogs are on the rise

While traditional veterinary care should always take precedence, pet owners are increasingly open to the idea of holistic treatments for their dogs. Many of the tried and true holistic therapies that enthusiasts have trusted for decades are adaptable to suit canines. Advocates for holistic medicine credit treatments like acupuncture and massage therapy credit them with benefits ranging from pain relief to elevated mood and beyond. 

The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association was established in 1982. Starting with just 35 vets, the organization has grown to include over 1,500.

Holistic therapies for dogs are on the rise

Pet care experts noted a rising interest in holistic treatments nearly a decade ago. In 2015, an estimate from the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association suggested that around 6% of veterinarians offered some type of alternative, holistic care. Today those numbers are on the rise thanks in part to millennial pet owners. This generation of animal lovers regards pets as part of the family and is driving a new trend toward holistic pet care. About 1 in 3 pet owners fall within the 21 to 41 age group and over half of these millennials report familiarity with holistic treatments. It’s likely that many are already administering them or looking forward to a conversation with their vet. 

From chiropractic to aromatherapy: Types of holistic therapy for dogs

The world of holistic therapy for pets is broad, including a range of topical treatments and medications. We recommend contacting your veterinarian for advice before exploring any holistic treatment for your dog. 

Dog massages 

Whether you take massage therapy into your own hands or visit a professional pet masseuse, a good session can provide many benefits for your pet. Massage can be used to ease sore and stiff muscles, help digestion, and support the health of your dog’s natural immune system. It can even help lower blood pressure and soothe persistent symptoms of anxiety, just like it does in humans. It is a great way to relieve the pain of sprains and muscle strain in your dog, so active pets may especially enjoy massages. 

Dog-massages

Potential benefits:  Relief for dogs with sprains, aches and pains, anxiety, high blood pressure, immune system concerns.

Chiropractic treatments for dogs 

Chiropractic therapists know how to manipulate the spine and bones safely to relieve skeletal, joint, and muscular problems. Chiropractic treatment for dogs is far gentler than its human equivalent, but is administered with a similar goal in mind. The intention of chiropractic care is generally to reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental pain treatments.   

Potential benefits: Relief for dogs with joint pain and mobility issues, spinal issues, musculoskeletal problems.

Aromatherapy for dogs 

To administer essential oil therapy to dogs, owners can use a mist spray or diffuser. For topical treatments, diluted oil can be added to massage lotions or used during bathtime. Owners should exercise caution and familiarize themselves with the number of essential oils that are potentially toxic to dogs. These include citrus, cinnamon, ylang ylang, peppermint, wintergreen, pine, pennyroyal, tea tree and sweet birch oils. Never use these on your dog or in a diffuser. 

Aromatherapy for dogs

Aromatherapy is an especially popular choice for soothing unruly dogs, like pups suffering from separation anxiety or feeling fearful as a result of noises like thunder. A little lavender oil can make stressful car travel a breeze while keeping unpleasant canine odors at bay. Remember that human and canine tolerances for essential oils are much different. Always consult the experts before introducing any strange new scent or sensation to your dog’s world. 

Potential benefits: Relief for dogs suffering from stress, anxiety, hyperactivity, aches and pains, and more.

Herbal treatments for dogs 

Aloe vera, chamomile, calendula, ginger, goldenseal, milk thistle, valerian and Californian poppy are just some of the herbal remedies that advocates for herbal veterinary care might recommend to treat any number of ailments: 

  • Topically, aloe vera can be applied to burns and stings. It should, however, never be ingested. Make sure to bandage any aloe-slathered areas well.   
  • Ginger root can soothe upset stomachs as part of a tea.
  • Valerian, chamomile and Californian poppy help treat hyperactivity, anxiety,  asthma and worms, respectively. They are available in teas, tinctures and extracts. Just make sure you’re careful to adjust dosage based on breed and size. 
  • Goldenseal’s antibacterial powers help fight eye infections and stomach issues. 

Contact your veterinarian and a local holistic practitioner for advice before exploring any herbal treatments at home. 

Potential benefits: Relief for dogs suffering from stress, anxiety, upset stomach, sleep-related issues, pain, and sore muscles.

Acupuncture and acupressure for dogs 

Acupuncture-and-acupressure-for-dogs

The ancient science of acupuncture is potentially as helpful for dogs as it is for their people. Acupuncture is often used to treat dogs with hip dysplasia or degenerative joint disease. It can help ease pain to increase the affected joint’s range of motion and improve mobility. Chronic back pain and spinal cord conditions are also commonly targeted with acupuncture. A therapist may also use acupuncture to treat lesions caused by excessive, repetitive licking. Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles into the skin increasing blood flow to the tissues and oxygen levels throughout the body. The whole process, enthusiasts insists, aids in the detoxification of the body. 

Potential benefits: Relief for pain, anxiety, stress, arthritis, and joint inflammation.

Acupuncture is believed to have originated in India over 7,000 years ago. The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, however, wasn’t formed until 1975.

Nutritional supplements for dogs 

As an addition to a balanced diet, nutritional supplements often provide an added boost or help make up for deficiencies in dogs who don’t get all the vitamins and minerals they need. Dogs with specific ailments may see improvements in their symptoms with the addition of small amounts of supplements to their typical foods. Supplements formulated for heart health, joint support, and digestive care are just a few of the options you’ll find in your research. Talk to your vet about supplements if you’re concerned about elderly or pregnant dogs in particular.  

Potential benefits: Relief for dogs suffering from conditions of all sorts, from skin ailments to gastrointestinal distress.

Support your dog with holistic care  

Now that you know a bit more about how to supplement veterinary care with holistic medicine for dogs, it’s time to learn about adding insurance to your pet healthcare plan. Whether you’re a skeptic or an avid believer in the power of alternative veterinary care, Animalia has you and your dog covered.


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