You have probably heard of alternative medicine for people, but have you ever considered alternative therapies for your pets? Using natural herbs, massage and a number of other methods, alternative medicine seeks to compliment the treatments your pet may already be receiving to help them achieve optimal health.

While the use of complementary therapies should never take the place of conventional veterinary advice, they can provide a great deal of comfort to a suffering animal by helping them to de-stress in a way that will not interfere with any medical treatment they may be receiving. And sometimes, our beloved friends just want to be pampered – in which case, a natural therapy session can be a great way for you to do just that!


Animal Alternatives, a Tampa, Florida based holistic veterinary group, says: “Holistic healthcare for pets uses modern practices rooted in ancient wisdom that is a gentle, natural healing alternative to the control and suppression of symptoms that conventional treatments generally offer.”

Holistic veterinarians generally seek to treat their patients by considering the entire history of the animal in question, and combatting illness through methods such as nutritional, herbal, or chiropractic intervention, rather than administering medication. Natural treatments provider, Effective Pet Wellness, advises that pet parents be prepared for a bit of a different experience from a conventional vet visit when going to a holistic veterinarian. A holistic vet will have many questions about your pet’s behaviors and lifestyle – to get a full understanding of their health, they need more information than can be gleaned from a physical exam alone. It can be helpful to take note of your pet’s routines, diet and any changes in behaviors in the days leading up to your appointment.

So, what exactly do these alternative treatments involve? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular complementary therapies for animals in use today.



Reiki is a form of energy healing that originated in Japan during the mid 19th century, with Dr. Mikao Usui. This modality works with what Reiki practitioners describe as the natural energy field of the body to assist the emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical healing process of a patient.

Animal Healings, a national organization set up to extend the benefits of complementary therapies to domestic animals, state that “no matter what types of prescribed drug therapies and any other programs your pet may be on, Reiki can work side-by-side naturally with anything your vet or other pet care professionals may be utilizing. (Reiki can) accelerate your pet’s healing processes, ease their pain, reduce stress and improve or help to continue their quality of life.”

A reiki session is essentially a no-touch massage that works to balance out the energy flows in the body.

Therapeutic Touch (TT)

During a TT session, the practitioner will first engage in an intuitive “scanning” of their patient’s body, with their hands located about two to four inches away from the animal. Areas of stress, pain, or tension are believed to manifest themselves as tingling, unusual pressure or pulsation, and temperature changes on the practitioner’s hands. These areas are then brought back into balance through a series of specialized circular motions.


Healing Touch for Animals (HTA)

Healing Touch for Animals (HTA) is is a highly renowned form of animal massage, springing from the human-based Healing Touch modality that was first recognized within the medical community in 1989, and is now used by over 75,000 healthcare practitioners around the world. During a treatment session, HTA practitioners seek to “build the animal-human bond, reduce stress and anxiety, (and) support animals through injuries, illnesses, physical and emotional trauma, abuse, and grief.” You can find your local practitioner by using the official HTA database.

Animal Aromatherapy

We all love the sensation of being surrounded by soothing fragrances … and it is no different for our animal companions. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) states that “essential oils for canines (dogs) and equines (horses), and some other farm animals can be used topically for spot application, massage therapy and for skin and hoof/paw care.”


However, they caution that the potential of aromatherapy to benefit cats “is very limited due to a cat’s sensitive metabolic system and their internal organs: the liver and kidneys do not break down certain substances due to lack of enzymes.”

For this reason it is very important to practice aromatherapy in the presence of a professional to ensure the health and safety of your pet.

Color Therapy

In a nutshell, color therapy – also known as chromotherapy – is the strategic application of a certain color (or colors), used with the intention of positively impacting the health and wellbeing of a human or animal patient. Chromotherapy practitioners maintain that although certain domestic animals may not be able to see the same range of colors as a human can, they are nonetheless affected by a color’s energetic vibration.

Common methods of applying color include the use of light boxes with colored filters, colored cloths laid on the body, solarized water, and incorporating the desired color into an animal’s environment through bedding, collars, or saddle blankets. Color therapy is also frequently used in conjunction with crystal therapy. It is believed that while crystals contain certain minerals and compounds that impact positively on the bodies of those whom they touch, the color of the stone also has an impact.


Herbal Medicine

The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHMVA) defines herbal medicine as “a system of treatment utilizing whole plants and plant extracts in the treatment of disease and maintenance of health. Herbalists believe that whole plants provide a broad spectrum of desirable effects, from specialised nutrition (herbs contain vitamins and minerals that drugs do not) to synergy of the various components, which may allow lower does of pharmacologic ingredients to be used.”

There is some evidence that when it comes to selecting the ideal herbal remedies for their ailment, the animal, themselves will know best. This ability to seek out the ideal plant cure for their illness, when circumstances allow them to do so, is known as zoopharmacognosy. However, attained herbalist can also be of assistance in selecting the right natural remedy for your furry friend. You can find your local practitioner by searching the members’ database of the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association (VBMA).

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