Max was a mess. The 10-year-old Cocker Spaniel suffered from a host of allergies and residual pain from two prior leg surgeries. He was also 10 pounds overweight.
Friends of the pooch’s owners urged them to euthanize him, citing the high cost of his medical care and the probability that he would soon deteriorate further. But Max’s human family didn’t listen to them.
Instead, they took him to a holistic veterinarian, who promptly put the dog on a treadmill in water for some joint-friendly exercise. She also recommended changing his food and said his snacks should be limited to green beans. In six months, he stopped sneezing, again enjoyed daily walks and had shed 11 pounds. He lived until the ripe old Cocker age of 14 ½.
Not so many years ago, veterinarians scoffed at their colleagues who used alternative health treatments on their furry clients. While some still remain skeptical, the shift in American culture toward healthier living and alternative medicine has infiltrated many vet practices.
According to the Washington Post, animals suffering from ailments such as allergies and arthritis have a good chance of being treated with therapies such as Chinese herbs and acupuncture. Jordan Kocen, a Fairfax, Virginia veterinarian who practices alternative therapies, indicates that dogs, cats and rabbits are all good candidates for alternative health care. Homeopathic remedies are often effective in treating a cat’s asthma, and acupuncture can be helpful for a dog with arthritis, he added.
Often pets who receive alternative treatments do so because their owners already had an interest in alternative medicine for their own health. Others are the beneficiary of this type of health care only when traditional medicine hasn’t worked. Many large veterinary clinics provide both standard and alternative types of medical care.
One of the problems in assessing the effectiveness of alternative health care for dogs can be the owners’ desire to believe that it will help their pets. Sometimes they’re so eager to see an improvement that they perceive there’s been a positive change when none has in fact occurred.
There are no official records of how many veterinarians practice alternative health care in the United States. However, a Maryland vet noted that while only around 30 used to attend annual holistic veterinary conferences with her some years ago, the number has now grown to 800.
Alternative health treatments aren’t limited to homeopathy and acupuncture. Depending on their condition, dogs might also receive deep-tissue massage, chiropractic treatment or ozone therapy for cancer.
Most pet insurance covers some alternative procedures, the Post reports. Acupuncture, which runs around $95 per session in many urban areas, is usually one of them. Typically, the dogs’ owners pay the vet, then seek reimbursement from the insurance company.
Many vets who practice only traditional medicine are willing to provide a referral to a practitioner who uses alternative health treatments if there is one in the area. Contacting the nearest school of veterinary medicine and asking for a few names can also result in referrals.