• Amy Cameron

7 Reasons to Manage Your Dog's Health With Complementary Therapies

In the dog world, there has been an increase in the availability and use of different types of therapies over the last couple of years. But why are they increasing in popularity and should you bring them into your dog's life?



What are Complementary Therapies?

Complementary therapies, also known as alternative or holistic therapies offer additional support and treatment for a variety of medical conditions and are usually tailored to the individual being treated. Key goals of therapy are to reduce pain, improve mobility and aid recovery from injuries or surgery. They can also be used to maintain overall health and wellbeing.


When considering the use of complementary therapies, it is important to know that not all therapies will work for your dog, which means you may have to try multiple before you find the right one for him or her. It is also possible that your dog may require multiple therapies, used concurrently or interchangeably to achieve the best results.


Some of the main therapies are physiotherapy, myotherapy, hydrotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy, which provide hands-on and physical treatment to gain results. Other therapies include laser therapy, homeopathy, herbal therapy, acupuncture and magnetic field therapy. With various therapies offering different treatment methods and individual therapists offering different perspectives, you should be able to find a therapy that helps your dog.



Reasons For Using Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies are best used alongside conventional medicine, such as surgery and drugs. Having said that, some people may decide to use them as an alternative to medications or surgery.


1. Conventional Medicine is Unsuitable

The effectiveness of conventional medicine is backed up by plenty of scientific studies, which is why they are the 'go tos' for treating illnesses, injuries and medical conditions. In spite of their effectiveness, there can be a variety of adverse effects and issues associated with them. It may also be that the required surgery or medication is too expensive, in which case therapy can offer a more affordable alternative. If you are struggling to find the right dosage/combination of medication or if the possible side effects outweigh the positives of surgery/medicine, then therapies offer a great alternative to managing your dog's health and wellbeing. However, please note that complementary therapies can also have side effects.


2. Speeds up the Recovery Process

Following injury/surgery or during 'flare ups' of a medical condition, limiting exercise can reduce further damage, irritation and pain. However, among other negative effects, this reduced activity can lead to poor blood and lymph circulation, both of which are important in the healing process to remove toxins and bring in required nutrients for healing. Therefore, if your dog is on a limited exercise routine, physical therapies, such as myotherapy and hydrotherapy can assist the circulation of blood and lymph to aid the natural healing process.


3. Gives You More Options/Control

When our dogs become ill, injured or diagnosed with a condition, the advice from vets is invaluable and we do everything possible to ensure our dogs are not suffering. However, sometimes it can feel like we are not doing enough. If you find yourself questioning if there is more you can do, then this is a great reason to add complementary therapies to your management plan, as using them as part of a multi-modal treatment plan typically yields a more positive outcome than using conventional medicine alone. Therapists who practice physical therapies, including physiotherapy and myotherapy, may also teach you massage techniques and rehabilitative exercises that you can use on your dog, allowing you to be involved with managing your dog's condition.


4. Improves Well-being and Mobility

Normally dogs will become less active and reserved when they are injured, unwell or in pain and over time, this reduced activity leads to stiffness, depression and other issues. If your dog's mobility and mental wellbeing have declined, therapies offering massage techniques and rehabilitative exercises can get your dog moving freely again. Complementary therapies can also invigorate the nervous and endocrine systems, leading to the release of 'feel good hormones' (e.g. dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin), which boost your dog's mood and reignites their interest in life.


5. Considers The Whole Dog

In general, conventional medicine is targeted at treating the diagnosed condition or the causing factor of pain, which can also be true of some complementary therapies. That said, many therapists will take some form of holistic approach, meaning they assess and/or treat the whole dog, particularly in cases of chronic conditions. When movement causes pain, dogs will adapt the way they move, which leads to compensatory issues developing elsewhere in the body. Through therapy, these issues are managed to reduce further deterioration. Many therapists will also take into account your dog's mental wellbeing. For example, at Green Dog Therapy treatments are force-free and owners are provided with rehabilitative exercises and activities that are mentally enriching for dogs.


6. Provides a Natural Approach

Complementary therapies are seen as natural forms of treatment and less invasive than surgery. Despite this, therapies are not 100% safe and every therapy has potential risks. If you are concerned about the damages of prolonged use of medications or would prefer to use natural methods and it is safe to do so, therapies can be highly beneficial in managing a variety of health conditions. However, you should consult your vet, ensuring they are fully aware of your intended approach. Furthermore, you may want to use therapies to maintain your dog's musculoskeletal health and to aid their general wellbeing, which many therapies are great for.


7. Offers Value for Money

When treating conditions with medications, it can often feel as though you are constantly paying for results. Although they can be expensive, complementary therapies will generally provide long-lasting results and if safe/appropriate, your therapist may provide you with techniques, exercises and recommendations that you can implement to maintain these results. Having knowledge and skills of a therapy allows you to manage your dog's condition, reducing the number of sessions needed with the therapist and thus saving you money.



The Tail End

There are so many reasons why you should consider using complementary therapies as part of your dog's treatment plan or as a general part of their everyday care. But remember, your vet will have to give consent before you use any therapy, so speaking to them as well as various therapists can help you decide what is best for your dog. Many of the benefits of therapies have not been covered in this article and if you would like to know more, please get in touch.

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**Disclaimer - the information contained in this post is for informative purposes only and is in no way a substitute for veterinary advice.**
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