Alternative medicine, homeopathic remedies, experimental treatment… with names like that, it’s no wonder that the concept of holistic pet care gives some owners pause. But more and more veterinarians and animal experts are recommending herbs, oils, and other substances for curing our pets of what ails them.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “holistic” is defined as “relating to or concerned with integrated wholes or complete systems rather than with the analysis or treatment of separate parts.” Think about it: how many times do we hear about a medicine that cannot be taken at the same time as something else, or has so many side effects that it requires another medication to offset it? Doesn’t it make more sense to take something that won’t harm another part of your body while it’s busy fixing another?

That’s why holistic solutions are gaining more acceptance with pets. It’s been proven that many natural, substances, whether found in the earth or produced by the body, can give an immune system a well-needed boost. Just as it works for humans, so it can for pets. The focus is on total wellness.

  • Herbs and other plants: Peppermint, ginger, slippery elm, and catnip are effective for treating nausea and certain digestive ailments. (Not all cats have the stereotypical “crazy” response to catnip, and its effect on dogs also varies.) Saw palmetto is recommended for prostate conditions, in humans as well as dogs. Cranberries also help bladder infections, and pure honey is loaded with nutrients and minerals that help fight infection.

  • Dietary supplements: Glocosamine is not approved as a drug by the FDA, as it is not considered to “cure” any disease or condition. However, if taken in moderation as a dietary supplement, it has been shown to ease joints and cartilage. As our dogs get older and begin to exhibit arthritic symptoms, glucosamine can help.

  • Aromatherapy: Our pets have powerful noses, so they’ll be certain to respond to the scent of certain oils. Because they have such a sensitive sense of smell, these can be used in very small doses.

  • Massage therapy: There is a school of thought that recommends chiropractic treatment for animals, but specific massage techniques can aid your pet’s circulation, flexibility, and overall comfort.

  • Acupuncture: This treatment raises eyebrows, especially in America, since people are divided as to whether it really works. More to the point, many of us hate the idea of any kind of needles, and wouldn’t want to subject our pets to that. But skilled, licensed veterinary acupuncturists are out there, and may be able to provide relief.

  • Diet and exercise: These are possibly the least controversial of all holistic remedies. A homemade food diet, prepared fresh, can provide wonderful health benefits over more processed products. And exercise works wonders for a dog’s muscles, lungs, and brain.

While these have all been known to have positive results, always consult your veterinarian before giving any treatment to your pet. Proper diagnosis will tell you if the trouble is more serious. Some ailments simply demand a more aggressive approach.

  • Published:
  • Updated: 12/8/2023: 4:03:15 PM ET
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