Veterinary Care: Alternative


Pets are important members of the family, and we want them to have the very best. In a time when increasing numbers of people are using alternative medicine for their own healthcare, it follows that we’d do the same for our furry family members. Happily, what was once esoteric and obscure is now mainstream and readily accessible — for people and pets.

What is alternative veterinary care?

The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association says, “The techniques used in holistic medicine are gentle, minimally invasive, and incorporate patient wellbeing and stress reduction. Holistic thinking is centered on love, empathy, and respect.”

Holistic or “alternative” care methods include acupuncture, massage, Chinese medicine, herbs, aromatherapy, chiropractic, low-level or cold/laser therapy, stem cell therapy, and more. These days, alternative practices are often used in conjunction with conventional Western medicine. Often providers will work together to develop the best plan for a pet, whether to support an existing condition, minimize or slow the effects of aging, or combat disease.

Alternative options are not just for illness or repair, though. Like people, pets benefit from an occasional tune-up for health maintenance. 

Do all vets offer alternative care?

Not all veterinarians are trained in holistic practices. Likewise, not all holistic providers are veterinarians. Some arts do not require veterinary schooling, such as acupuncture, massage, and bodywork.

Why seek alternative care for my pet?

Some alternative care options can help accelerate healing. Others can provide added comfort for chronic conditions. As an example, aging pets who start to experience stiffness or arthritis can benefit from chiropractic adjustments, bodywork, massage, and more.

How do I find a practitioner I can trust?

Use professional resources. Ask your primary veterinarian for a referral. Check the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association website for recommendations. Always do your homework and check references. In your network of pet associates, you’ll likely find personal referrals, too.

Are essential oils safe?

Like so many things, quality can make a difference. Research essential oils and purchase only through reputable sources. Practitioners caution that essential oils — like any health treatment — can be harmful if not used correctly. Always get expert advice. Under the guidance of a qualified provider, essential oils can be a wonderful tool.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture needles are very, very small — actually smaller in diameter than a cat’s whisker. Needles are inserted at the point where blood vessels and nerves intersect and help to improve circulation for healing while also releasing natural hormones in the body. Many pets find acupuncture relaxing and even nap during treatments.


American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association *

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy *