Alternative Approaches to Illness

Alternative Approaches to Illness

By Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Q. My best friend is plagued with a lot of chronic problems. The medicine he is on is helping, but it has some bad side effects. Is there anything else I can do to help Bucky?

A. Chronic disease is a challenge no matter the modality used. Conventional medicine can bring relief and quality of life, but there can be drawbacks. Complementary, also called alternative, medicine gives the guardian more options to help a companion.

Some, but not all, of the modalities available to our dogs in Maine are acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, Western herbal medicine, chiropractic, nutritional, different forms of energy medicine, and homeopathy. As in all forms of medicine each has its strengths and weaknesses.

Many people think of acupuncture for treating pain. In veterinary medicine, people look for acupuncture for relief from arthritis. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years and is much more. Chronic diseases and acute problems can be addressed by acupuncture. Many acupuncturists but not all are trained in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). TCM uses complex formulas of herbs to bring your best friend into balance to relieve symptoms. Acupuncture and TCM go hand in hand. There are more than 20 veterinary acupuncturists in Maine.

Chiropractic medicine is again thought to relieve a sore back. When your buddy’s joints are out of place, the dog can show symptoms in any place in the body. The nerves that travel through the spine go to organs in the body, down limbs, and more. If there is a miss alignment, Fido could be experiencing symptoms unrelated to back pain. There are over 10 veterinary chiropractors in Maine.

Homeopathy is another complex modality. It is over 200 years old and uses natural substances in very dilute amounts to bring about curing disease. Historically, Maine’s major form of medicine was homeopathy. It is easy to use for acute injuries and illnesses by pet parents. For chronic diseases like autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, homeopathy works well. Like acupuncture the scope of homeopathy to bring relief to your best friend is endless. There are 3 certified veterinary homeopaths in Maine.

Cold laser therapy has become very popular in veterinary medicine. It is great to stimulate healing from injuries, surgery, ear infections, skin issues, and even urinary tract infections. I have used it in a case of bronchitis in an old dog to relieve his cough. There are many more possibilities for use of cold laser in our patients.

Physical Therapy is common in human medicine. It is a must for any pup that has surgery, joint injuries, or has compromised mobility. There are many licensed veterinary physical therapists. You can ask your veterinarian who they recommend.

Other modalities that are used often in veterinary practices to relieve stress, pain, and other discomforts with less adverse side effects than conventional medicines include reiki, Western herbs, flower essences, massage, nutritional medicine, magnets, and others.

To find a veterinarian in Maine who is trained in any of the above therapies you can go to the Maine Veterinary Medical Association and search for someone near you.

Another excellent resource for pet parents is the online members' group called Holistic Actions! This subscription service has weekly lectures on all topics of companion pet health. It teaches the guardian how to assess the response his best friend is having from any treatment holistic or conventional. They have experts in every field talk about their work and answer questions. There is an online forum so people can discuss issues they are concerned about with other members and faculty. And there is much, much more! Check out


Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, Maine

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