The Use of Holistic Therapies in Veterinary Practice.

One of the recurring themes in my recent blog question-and-answer session was the use of Holistic/Complimentary/Alternative therapies in treating animals. A lot of you weren’t quite sure of the differences between the terms, so I compiled “Karl’s Quickies” for you:

· Conventional Medicine = the treatment of disease and physical symptoms with drugs, radiation therapy or surgery.     (I myself am a practitioner of conventional veterinary medicine)
· Holistic = treatment that deals with the “whole” entity i.e. mind, body and spirit.
· Complementary = used WITH/alongside conventional medicine treatments.
· Alternative = used INSTEAD of conventional medicine.

Clearly, my preference is for conventional medicine; it’s what I’ve trained in, it’s what I’ve seen work consistently, it’s regulated, and research backs up the results. A lot of my concerns are centred around the regulation of these non-conventional modalities, and the fact that sometimes after attending only very short courses, an individual may advertise their services to treat your pet. If there’s absolutely nothing I can do to dissuade you from taking your furry family member down the non-conventional treatment route then please, please go to a reputable Holistic Vet – one who is listed with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

There is a whole raft of alternative treatments out there……..

too many for me to go into in detail, but I’ll mention some of the (probably) more familiar ones in this blog. I did visit several websites whilst researching and writing this piece, the first of which was the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) one. Interestingly, this site was the only one I saw to point out that currently, only Osteopaths and Chiropractors have the same statutory professional regulation as practitioners of conventional medicine.

The BSAVA site actually made some really good points, not least that many of the health claims or benefits made for some complementary and alternative therapies are far more excessive than the available data can support. Some of the claims, frankly, directly contradict the scientific evidence. To this end, the BSAVA (and myself!) recommend that you consider all the evidence around the treatment you’re considering, look at the qualifications and experience the practitioner/therapist has, and also that you only seek treatment after your own vet has assessed your pet and given you a medical diagnosis.

Here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre, the health and welfare of your beloved pet is our number one priority so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any concerns or questions.

A common public assumption is that all complementary and alternative therapies are natural (and therefore “safe”) but they may produce unwanted side effects or interactions with conventional treatments.

One of the more popular therapies around is Acupuncture…….

which uses fine needles inserted at certain points on the body. Our view here in the Western Hemisphere is that the stimulation of the Central Nervous System causes neurotransmitters and hormones to be released, thereby alleviating pain, boosting the immune system and regulating other bodily systems. Thanks to it being a reasonably painless treatment, animals tend to tolerate Acupuncture well. There’s also no need to halt or restrict other treatments, which makes it easy to fit into pain management regimes where more than one treatment mode is used.


uses plant-derived Essential Oils to treat ailments, and these can be applied to the skin (diluted in carrier oil), inhaled or (rarely) ingested. This type of treatment is commonly used to relieve painful joints, reduce stress and help with irritation of the skin or hair. Aromatherapy isn’t recommended in pregnant or lactating animals and, given how particular cats are about grooming themselves, I wouldn’t recommend its use on them either. The incorrect use of essential oils can cause rashes, nerve damage, and potentially toxic interactions with drugs; again, I would urge you to contact the SLVC team before embarking on other treatments.

Homeopathy and Herbalism…..

are two other popular non-conventional therapies, and one popular herbal remedy of recent times is the use of Turmeric. Turmeric’s active compound is Curcumin which has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-cancer properties; making it good for healing wounds. This root can be applied topically to skin (it does stain though!), or it can be ingested; if it’s to be ingested, then a healthy oil (such as Coconut) and Black Pepper need to be given with it to increase its absorption in the body. There are over six thousand studies showing the efficacy of Turmeric in areas such as treating arthritis, inflammatory conditions, and even as a chemotherapy compound.

On Facebook there is a very informative site, the Turmeric User Group, which was founded, and is still run by, Doug English, a qualified vet out in Australia who specialises in this topic. There’s a real wealth of advice and case studies here, and it even tells you the amount s to feed “golden paste” to your pet when you first start out.

I hope you’ve found this blog informative; I’ve certainly enjoyed researching it. No doubt you’ll have more questions, so again I’d say to get in touch with us here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre – you know we’ll always be here for you and your beloved pet.

Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy 🙂