Explore These 8 Holistic Approaches to Dog Health

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Key Points

  • Always work with a veterinarian or specialist before starting a holistic approach to your dog's health.

  • Start a holistic approach slowly, and monitor your dog's reaction.

  • Not every holistic approach works on every dog.

You want the best for your dog, and that includes their health. One way to care for your canine's health is by adopting a holistic approach. Holistic medicine treats the whole patient — the mental, emotional, and social factors — and not just the symptoms of a physical illness or condition.

This may sound like another passing fad, but it appears to be here to stay. In April 2023, a TikTok video posted by @knight_thepit shows a spa day for the TikToker's pit bull. Not only is this a great bonding experience for the dog and owner, but notice how relaxed the pup is.

This article examines various holistic methods and how they benefit your dog. Those methods include acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage therapy, herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, raw food diet, and Reiki.

Acupuncture for Dogs

Canine acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice of inserting thin needles into specific points on your dog’s body to stimulate energy flow and encourage the body to heal itself. The practice is rooted in the traditional Chinese belief that disease is due to imbalances in the body's energy flow.

Acupuncture relieves chronic pain, arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, skin problems, anxiety, and other ailments. While it manages physical symptoms, it also promotes overall good health by working to resolve the root cause of those symptoms. It's a non-invasive procedure that rarely causes side effects.

The process starts with an initial assessment of your dog's condition by a licensed veterinary acupuncturist, who then develops a detailed treatment plan. The acupuncturist inserts needles into specific points on your dog, leaving them in for 15-30 minutes while your dog rests. The frequency and number of sessions depend on your dog's condition. Always seek professional advice when considering acupuncture.

Aromatherapy for Canine Health

Aromatherapy involves using essential oils from plants to stimulate healing and promote well-being. Many say these oils work wonders for a dog's mood, skin, digestion, and immunity. However, some oils are toxic to dogs, so consult a certified canine aromatherapist before starting. Many dog owners use lavender to treat their pet's anxiety.

The vets at the VCA Animal Hospitals warn, “Many liquid potpourri products and essential oils, including oil of cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree (melaleuca), wintergreen, and ylang ylang, are poisonous to dogs. Both ingestion and skin exposure can be toxic.” 

These oils are heavily concentrated and need diluting in a carrier oil, like coconut oil, before use. Every dog reacts differently to oils, so watch your dog for any after-use effects. Introduce the oils gradually by diffusion to observe your dog's reactions. Never force your dog to smell the oil directly from the bottle.

Use carrier oils to dilute essential oils if you're applying them topically. Avoid using oils around your dog's eyes and nose. Immediately clean up any spilled oil to prevent accidental ingestion.

Canine Massage Therapy

Massage therapy manipulates muscles and soft tissues to relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve physical performance. It also improves your dog’s circulation and reduces muscle tension. Regular massages alleviate arthritis pain, improve flexibility, increase range of motion, promote injury healing, and boost immunity. It calms hyperactive dogs, enhances the well-being of older dogs and those with chronic conditions, and is a good way to bond with your dog.

While professional therapists provide specialized treatments, learning massage techniques for at-home daily maintenance is important. Begin by softly stroking, then kneading muscles gently following the hair direction. Notice your dog's reaction and adjust your technique accordingly. Always consult a professional when dealing with specific health issues.

Herbal Medicine for Dogs

Herbal medicine for dogs works on the philosophy of utilizing plants or parts of plants for healing. This includes using herbs as dietary supplements and creating salves for topical use. The key is choosing the right herb for the right condition and using it in the correct dosage.

Calendula aids wound healing, milk thistle supports liver health, and chamomile has calming properties. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, while hawthorn is often used for heart conditions. Due to the wide variety of herbs, talk to a holistic vet before starting herbal treatments.

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When giving your dog herbal medicine, always start with smaller doses and gradually increase to the recommended dosage. Monitor your dog for any side effects and adjust the dosage accordingly. Always use organic herbs free of harmful chemicals. Never replace conventional treatments with herbal medicine without consulting a vet.

Homeopathic Remedies for Dogs

Homeopathy comes from the principle that "like cures like," implying a substance causing symptoms in a healthy being helps cure similar symptoms in a sick being. Its remedies use heavily diluted substances to stimulate the body's healing response. There are homeopathic treatments for various canine conditions, including skin allergies, digestive upsets, and anxiety.

Arnica works for traumas and muscle injuries, nux vomica for digestive problems, and aconitum for shock and fear. Phosphorus works for certain types of bleeding, while sulfur aids skin issues. Again, it's essential to consult a practitioner specializing in canine homeopathy to ensure proper treatment.

Homeopathy is not a "one-size-fits-all" solution but a highly individualized process. There are numerous accounts of dogs responding well to homeopathic treatment after conventional methods failed, such as significantly improving chronic skin conditions or recovering from digestion problems.

Hydrotherapy for Dogs

Hydrotherapy is a low-impact water exercise that especially benefits dogs with joint issues. The buoyancy of the water takes weight off the joints, reducing pain and promoting movement. Water resistance also strengthens muscles without strenuous exercise.

Hydrotherapy helps dogs recover after surgery, improves mobility, aids weight loss, and improves cardiovascular fitness. The warm water used in hydrotherapy improves circulation and promotes relaxation. It is also a fun way to exercise dogs who love water.

Before starting hydrotherapy, have a vet check your dog to ensure it's safe for them. Consult a certified canine hydrotherapist to establish a proper routine. Look for specialist centers offering hydrotherapy in a controlled environment. If that isn’t possible, ask a hydrotherapist to set up a simpler solution at your home. If you have a pool, that is a great way to start.

Raw Food Diet for Dogs

The raw diet, or BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet, models the diet on that of dogs' wild ancestors. This mainly involves feeding uncooked meat, bones, fruits, and vegetables. Proponents argue it provides dogs with more natural, healthier nutrients than processed pet food.

A raw diet improves your dog's coat and skin, increases energy levels, strengthens their immune system, and improves digestive health. Potential risks include bacterial contamination, choking on bones, or an unbalanced diet that causes long-term harm to your dog's health. It's essential to consult a vet before switching your dog to a raw food diet.

Transition gradually to avoid gastrointestinal upset. Start by introducing small portions of a single ingredient, like raw chicken, to their regular food. Gradually increase the raw food while decreasing the processed one. Remember to offer a balanced diet that includes meat, bones, organ, vegetables, and fruits.

Reiki for Dogs

Reiki, a Japanese energy healing method, manipulates the body's energy fields to promote healing and well-being. Dog Reiki practitioners use their hands placed above or lightly on the dog's body to transfer energy. It's a calm and non-invasive approach that reportedly relaxes many dogs.

A Reiki session typically lasts 15-30 minutes, depending on how well the dog accepts the technique. With regular sessions, some dogs improve their stress levels, ability to relax, and pain relief. It's also often used as a calming therapy for dogs undergoing medical treatments.

To use Reiki for your dog, start by setting a calm environment. Let your dog lie comfortably and place your hands lightly on or above your dog's body, starting from the head. Visualize the flow of energy into your dog and hold your position for a few minutes. Be patient, and don't force it if your dog seems uncomfortable. It is a good idea to talk with a dog Reiki practitioner for advice on performing the task correctly. 

Holistic Approaches

With all of these mentioned treatments, remember that your dog is unique. What works for other dogs may not work for yours. That is why you must always consult a holistic veterinary practitioner before starting any new therapy. The goal is to promote a holistic and healthy lifestyle for your canine companion.

The Beatles may not have been 100 percent accurate when they sang, "All you need is love," but everyone can agree that's a pretty good place to start in assuring your pet has the best life you can provide them. Add that to a healthy diet, regular vet checkups, ensuring their security inside and outside of the home, and exploring new ways of enriching their lives are other things that are needed.

When you think about it, all of those other things neatly fall into the category of "love."

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