August 30th marks National Holistic Pet Day. Along with standard veterinary care, holistic medicine provides alternative treatment options and preventative care for a more well-rounded approach to your cat’s health. So, what does holistic pet care encompass, and is it right for your cat? Check out 8 alternative therapies for your pet below.
What is holistic medicine?
Holistic medicine is an umbrella term for a variety of therapies that attempt to treat the overall well-being of your pet, rather than focusing on a particular issue. This includes encouraging changes in your pet’s diet and lifestyle to help ward off illnesses like obesity, arthritis, and diabetes.
Sarah Wooten, DVM, cautions, “Remember—holistic treatments are never a substitution for regular preventive care, including yearly examinations, parasite control, and vaccines.”
What is a holistic veterinarian?
A holistic veterinarian considers your pet’s overall health, using both traditional and alternative therapies. Most holistic veterinarians advocate for “integrative medicine,” which blends conventional and holistic veterinary care. In addition to completing their education at an accredited veterinary school, these vets are likely to be certified in Veterinary Acupuncture, Animal Chiropractic, herbalism, among other therapies.
8 holistic pet care therapies
If you’re familiar with holistic treatment options for humans, then you’ll probably recognize a lot of these alternative therapies for pets.
Acupuncture is the ancient practice of inserting thin needles in specific points of the body to relieve pain and pressure. Cats and dogs with arthritis, back pain, muscle spasms, or other conditions may benefit from acupuncture. Only a board-certified veterinary acupuncturist should perform this therapy (as opposed to a human acupuncturist). Vets may practice several different techniques and instrumentations of acupuncture, including traditional needle, electrostimulation, laser acupuncture, and injection therapy.
CBD for pets
CBD is a cannabinoid, a type of naturally occurring chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive effects; when consumed by cats or dogs (via CBD oil, capsules, or treats), it may offer relief from pain, inflammation, anxiety, and more.
Although you can give your pet CBD at home, it’s best if you first talk to your veterinarian—holistic or otherwise. That’s because CBD could potentially interfere with other medications that your pet is on. CBD isn’t regulated on a federal level, so vets aren’t legally allowed to prescribe or administer it. However, as studies corroborating the benefits of CBD for pets increase, vets are more likely to recommend treating your pet with this natural compound.
Vets certified in Animal Chiropractic and Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy can help provide relief from pain, joint discomfort, arthritis, and chronic injuries in your pet. Like a traditional chiropractor, a certified holistic veterinarian will make spinal adjustments by hand or with an adjustment instrument.
Veterinary herbal medicines include Western herbs, traditional Chinese herbs, Ayurvedic herbs from India, and more. Herbal medications can be given as tablets, granules, and liquids. One popular herbal remedy for pets is Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, a natural stress reliever made from spring water infused with wild flowers. Veterinary herbalists may also suggest valerian for stress relief, witch hazel for acne, echinacea for immune health, calendula for anti-inflammation, among others.
Learn more about which herbs are safe for your cat.
Low-level laser therapy
Also called photobiomodulation, laser therapy uses specific wavelengths of light to stimulate cellular activity and speed up recovery of damaged cells. This helps treat and reduce inflammation in everything from anal gland abscesses to arthritis and back pain. Many pets experience positive results in 1 to 3 treatments of laser therapy.
Known as orthomolecular medicine, the goal of mega-nutrient therapy in pets is to raise the level of beneficial nutrients in the body and reduce the level of toxins. Mega-doses of certain supplemental minerals, vitamins, and nutrients may help prevent disease and slow the aging process; these include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, B-complex vitamins, and coenzyme Q10. This treatment should only be pursued under the supervision of a trained veterinarian.
Yes, there is physical therapy for pets! The goal of rehabilitation is to restore your pet’s body to normal function after illness, injury, or debilitation. Physical therapy for cats and dogs can take many forms, including range of motion exercises, balance exercises, hydrotherapy, electrical stimulation therapy, ultrasound therapy, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, massage, stretching, and more.
Stem cell therapy
Stem cell therapy uses stem cells derived from your pet’s own fat or plasma to treat traumatic and degenerative diseases. Pets suffering from osteoarthritis, fractures, muscular dystrophy, autoimmune problems, and other disorders may find relief with stem cell therapy—although some studies have shown that treatment must be repeated to maintain the benefits.
So, is holistic pet care right for your cat? If you’re interested in exploring alternative therapies for your pet, talk to a holistic veterinarian in your area about the best options. Keep in mind that many traditional vets practice some aspects of holistic pet care, as well. And remember: Alternative medicine is never a substitution for regular preventative care.