Watching our pets struggle with illness or injury is painful for puppy-lovers and feline fiends alike. But there are alternatives to conventional vets and their high-potency pharma treatments: a growing list of practitioners dedicated to holistic animal care. You can also use the herbal home remedies that keep our own bodies humming to help furry companions back to health.Boost weakened immune systems by adding fresh crushed garlic, echinacea and powdered vitamin C to your pet's food. For older animals, stir in other antioxidants like vitamin E and grape seed extract.
Stave off digestive difficulties and boost nutrient absorption by sprinkling probiotics on their dinner. Squeezing in capsules of salmon or herring oil can soothe itchy skin and dandruff.
When more complicated illness arises, alt vets can prescribe homeopathic and herbal remedies and offer chiropractic adjustments. Some even provide animal-friendly acupuncture to treat sore hips, stubborn urinary tract trouble and seizures.
Hands-on therapies like reiki and massage can relax and heal your four-legged comrade. "Tellington TTouch" uses circular hand and finger movements to speed the healing of injuries and ailments. It's also used by breeders to quell heavy barkers, jumpers and leash pullers. Integrated Energy Therapy, a new generation of hands-on energy work, helps owners tap into angel energy to turn around troubled behaviour.
To fill a pet's prescription you can find a slew of natural remedies specially formulated for animals at some pet stores. But beware, they are often merely marked-up versions of human herbs. If you opt to treat your tabby with self-prescribed human health-food-store goods, make sure to contact your vet first to find out which dosage is best.
what the experts say
"Arnica is a (homeopathic) first aid remedy that you can use for sprains or little punctures. Rhus tox can help itchy skin or sore joints. Bach flowers and flower essences mainly treat emotional conditions like anxiety or stress. (Dribble remedies under the animal's lips.) We also use them for detoxification. Whenever (pets) use antibiotics, we try to get them on the probiotics. Stress is the number-one cause of health problems in pets. Try some extra vitamin C. Herbals aren't that effective (at preventing fleas). There are some things that have some benefit, like giving them garlic. I used to advocate a lot of brewer's yeast but now don't, because a lot of dogs don't react well to it. It may very well aggravate underlying candida or chronic skin or gastrointestinal problems.'PAUL McCUTCHEON, DVM"If pets start getting a bit of arthritis, a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement can help. I use MSM, too. I usually start slowly and make sure there's no soft stool. I also give a combination of devil's claw with Boswellia and sometimes curcumin and turmeric. The results aren't as consistent as in pets on non-steroidal drugs, but it's another option if people don't want to get into (drugs) right away. Some bladder infections and oxelate crystals respond to cranberry or glucosamine supplements. If cats are prone to crystals or stones, Chinese herbs like polyporus combination can help for early stages when there's blood in the urine. I don't use a lot of echinacea or goldenseal - they're a bit hit-and-miss. When animals really need antibiotics, I give antibiotics."
IAN BUFFET, DVM"Brewer's yeast and garlic on pets' food can help repel fleas. I have an herbal de-wormer that has sagrada bark, barberry root, fennel seeds, fennel leaves and more. Yucca root is really good for stiff joints and arthritis. For gums and teeth you can use acidophilus to promote the right enzymes. A lot of people are labouring under the misconception that you have to buy dry food in big pieces or give bones to chip away tartar, but if pets' stomachs are producing the right acids, which in turn produce the right enzymes in saliva, that keeps their mouths clean. We have a stress product containing herbs like valerian, skullcap, St. John's wort, chamomile. You can give all those things to dogs."
JULIE MARTIN, manager, Annex Pet Supplies"Our personal animals hold issues for their masters. A lot of times they'll mirror symptoms that you're having. When we treat the animal, you're usually present, so we'll actually be treating you when we're treating your pet. IET works with cellular memory. There are nine cellular memory areas, each one associated with a different emotion like guilt, heartache or resentment. We release things on a physical, mental, emotional and karmic level, and every time we remove something we replace it with positive energy. It's a hands-on technique. We can also do it in a long-distance manner. Most animals cooperate, but even if they don't we use surrogate stuffed animals and they receive the exact same (benefits)."
BHARANGI, master instructor of Integrated Energy Therapy"The CVO (College of Veterinarians of Ontario) requires veterinarians to achieve a level of additional training in veterinary chiropractic (if they wish to practise it). (With all other alternative practices) the veterinarian is expected to obtain the consent of the client and explain the availability of conventional treatments. None of it is frowned upon. For years, none of these non-traditional forms of treatment were taught in veterinary school, but the ground is starting to shift. If therapies (like massage) are applied strictly for the comfort of the animal, the College has no concerns with (non-vets performing them). But treatment that purports to offer a diagnosis and/or a prescribed regimen is considered to be the practice of a veterinarian."
ALEC MARTIN, deputy registrar, College of Veterinarians of Ontario