Over the past several months I have become increasingly interested in natural treatments for our dogs. A lot of this interest stems from the powerlessness I felt losing Paige to cancer and it is also motivated by my desire to prevent future problems in Lily, Milo and Winnie. I will be exploring various 'natural' treatment methods over the coming months, but first let's start by better understanding what is meant by natural healing.
It can be a bit overwhelming when trying to wrap your head around the various ways we can care for our dogs without using conventional medicine (conventional medicine referring to the treatment of patients using drugs and/or surgery). After all you see terms such as holistic care, homeopathic remedies, naturopathy, herbology, alternative medicine and the list goes on and on.
It's not that I don't believe in conventional veterinarian care, because it has saved many lives, but I'd like to better understand if more can be done for our dogs and if we can avoid using treatments that harm our dogs in the process of trying to heal them.
In my mind naturopathic and holistic are interchangeable terms under which all other terminology tends to fall. In a nutshell, holistic care considers the whole dog physically, psychologically, socially and spiritually. It encompasses the belief that a dog's wellness goes beyond what is happening physically within the body in terms of illness or disease, to include the relationship of these physical conditions with our psychological, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental state. There are numerous treatment methods that fall under the umbrella of holistic care and can include acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, herbology, homeopathy, aromatherapy, nutrition and the list goes on.
I love the notion of considering the whole dog (mind, body & spirit) when assessing and treating a dog holistically because I have always felt that there is more to recovery than what is shown in black and white. For the same reason a vet can tell you that your dog has a month to live and they end up living for years, there is an element of their being that you can't simply quantify or predict. This unknown element is what makes miracles possible and perhaps if we look to heal our dogs using this multi-dimensional approach then we can help strengthen them in ways we never considered possible.
In addition, holistic medicine treats every dog as an individual, catering treatment plans to suit their specific needs rather than an approach that treats the symptoms without consideration of a dog as a unique being. Having senior dogs typically means a lot of veterinarian interaction and I can't tell you how many times I have said "well you don't know my dog" when getting bad news. Using a holistic approach, knowing my dog matters.
I believe that we can all use elements of the holistic approach ourselves with our dogs which we will discuss in future posts, but you can also take your dog to a holistic veterinarian who has in-depth expertise and can map out a treatment plan encompassing a variety of natural methods based on your dog's needs. There are also many clinics that offer both conventional and holistic veterinarian care which would give you the best of both worlds.
One of the best things we can do is expand our knowledge and keep an open mind to alternative options. I will continue to do my homework and share my findings along the way. There is so much information and so many different ways to treat our dogs, it gives me great hope that longer, healthier lives are possible for our four-legged family.
Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.