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Holistic pet care overview

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Holistic pet care can come in a variety of forms: A Siamese cat receives a prescription you might not expect for a life-threatening digestive disorder – acupuncture and nutritional counseling.

An arthritic boxer regains his range of motion with underwater therapy and chiropractic care.

Sound a little far-fetched?

Before you raise a skeptical eyebrow, consider the story of Stone, a three-year-old Siamese who was diagnosed with severe megacolon (not uncommon in cats) as well as irritable bowel disorder.

Stone’s desperate owners approached holistic veterinarian Barbara Royal, based in Chicago at the Royal Treatment Veterinary Spa, as a last resort because after nine months of medication and regular enemas, the cat’s condition had not improved at all.

Royal quickly prescribed acupuncture. “I had to chase this particular cat around the room – I used a blow dart method of acupuncture around Stone’s digestive tract and liver. Acupuncture on the run!” Royal said. But, months later, after several acupuncture sessions, Stone was off all medications and eating (and pooping) normally. The now healthy Stone now comes in every eight weeks for a digestive “tune up.”

Looking for alternatives

Royal admits she was initially skeptical about holistic care methods for pets. Early in her practice, however, she was confronted with the limitations of traditional medicine while working with greyhounds, a breed so sensitive to medications, she often felt frustrated that so many routes of treatment were off-limits.

That’s when Royal started looking for some alternatives.

According to the American Association of Holistic Veterinarians, “The techniques used in holistic medicine are gentle, minimally invasive, and incorporate patient well-being and stress reduction.”

To fully understand and appreciate holistic veterinary care, you might need to reverse your perspective on diagnosing “what’s wrong” with your pet.

“I don’t limit myself to finding a diagnosis as much as I try to find all of the things that I can treat," Royal said. "In traditional medicine, you often rule things out in order to find one diagnosis. I start in just the opposite direction. I try to rule in what I can do…to help treat whatever they came to me for.”

It’s an approach not only growing in popularity around the country, but improving (and saving) the lives of many animals.

“I remember a boxer named Star, who was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, which is a slowly progressive disease that makes the animal unable to walk," Royal said. "Using my approach, I discovered the dog had severe arthritis in the knees, and so what was initially a life- threatening diagnosis became completely manageable with acupuncture, underwater treadmill therapy and supplements.” Star is now able to get up and down the stairs and the dog’s muscle mass went up three centimeters during three months of Royal’s treatment.

Some of the more specific holistic pet care methods include:

Here are three things you might not know about holistic pet care for your pet:

  • It can be suprisingly affordable: Though an initial consultation might look pricey, it can save you money in surgery and medication. Moreover, you are guaranteed a thorough analysis of your pet’s health.
  • It can work wonders: The overriding success of many alternative therapies is hard to dispute. In fact, Royal is frequently called upon by her local zoo.
  • Treatment is individual. Royal warns against buying 20 different herbs for your cat without careful consultation. Holistic treatment, like all medical treatment, is never one-size-fits-all.

Royal, who started with 10 clients a decade ago, now serves more than 300 satisfied customers. Since then, holistic treatments, such as acupuncture, are gaining in popularity and acceptance. In fact, such services are now often offered by some traditional veterinary practices. With holistic care growing in the human population, it’s a trend that’s likely to continue for pets.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas,V.M.D.
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