Tuesday, March 9, 2010 10:50 AM

Which Works Better: Conventional Veterinary Medicine or Alternative Therapies?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am a big proponent of alternative therapies for pets. This includes homeopathy, herbal medicine and nutritional therapy as well as acupuncture, acupressure and massage. Does this mean that I never find the need for standard veterinary medicine? Not at all. Some situations can only be dealt with by a veterinarian, while others respond just as well to at-home care, either before or after a visit to the vet.

For example, serious injury always needs to be evaluated by a medical practitioner. Once the crisis is over, though, consult with your vet as to whether you can take your pet home and perform some of the necessary tasks associated with recovery yourself. Often, pets recover faster at home than in the hospital, and herbal or homeopathic therapies work just as well as prescription drugs to manage pain and other symptoms. For example, when Little Girl had repeated bouts of vomiting a few years back, the vet prescribed an anti-emetic drug to stop the symptoms. This drug had no effect whatever! I cured her myself by administering good old milk of magnesia. Two doses did the trick.

Another medical emergency is feline urological syndrome (FUS). A cat that cannot urinate will die without medical intervention; that crystal and mucus plug isn't going to dissolve itself. However, you can help prevent a recurrence by testing the urine at home with ph strips, and adjust the diet so that it is more acidic and by not feeding dry cat food.

Minor health problems like eye irritation, occasional vomiting, diarrhea and constipation can usually be treated at home using herbal and nutritional therapy. If you are ever unsure of the severity of the problem, or it goes on for more than a day or two, a trip to the vet is in order. That said, I have come up with many of my home remedies after the prescribed solutions I obtained from the vet did not work. I never try to cure a problem before I know what I am dealing with, however.

Sometimes, therapies that I would normally avoid have saved the day. When Little Girl had a tail injury that resulted in "dead tail" (she couldn't lift it at all, and there was no feeling), we took her to our holistic vet. We discussed options such as waiting to see if it healed itself (not really an option), surgically removing the tail, or injecting cortisone directly into the base of the tail. I am not a big fan of corticosteroids, but my background in veterinary science was enough that I knew that inflammation is what causes most spinal injuries to become debilitating. Our best bet was to reduce the swelling as quickly as possible, before nerve damage became permanent. We opted for the shot, and within two days the tail was back to normal. I truly believe that the cortisone shot was the best choice under the circumstances.

Of course, the best way to prevent disease is by supporting the animal's immune system with a high-quality diet, preferably homemade. Come to think of it, that is true of humans, too!
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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