Alternative medicines

© Duhayer/Royal Canin

At the end of the 20th century, “alternative” medicines became more popular than ever following demonstrations of their efficacy and a more scientific approach to their application. In practically all cases they are a useful complement to more traditional medicine; their use also depends on the cultures of each country or geographical zone.

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Homeopathy

© Marylin Barbone/Fotolia

The basic principle of homeopathic medicine (“similia similibus curentur”, let like be cured by like) was born in 1790 and resides in the treatment of disease with the disease itself: a product or substance responsible for a given disease is diluted to attain an infinitesimally small concentration that is thus capable of combating this disease. This “Hahnemann therapy”, named after its creator, has since spread and evolved, as even though the causative substances or molecules are still diluted several hundred times, they are not always directly involved in the disease being treated. Homeopathic drugs are available in liquid or granular form, diluted centesimally (CH) or decimally (DH). They are normally given between meals, several times per day. The ideal therapy involves restoring health quickly, safely and durably, and of "destroying" the disease in its entirety via the shortest, safest and least harmful means for the patient. There are 8 modalities (the circumstances of onset, the sensations felt, the times of onset and periodicity, the alternate nature or concomitance of other symptoms, improvement or exacerbation, mood changes) which are used to choose these homeopathic treatments, which can be used by any veterinarian.

Phytotherapy

Increasingly well developed in canine medicine, phytotherapy is classified as an alternative medicine despite the fact that certain plants have proven medicinal qualities. The surge in interest for these forms of medicine in the media has led many people to forget that the majority of allopathic (or conventional) medications are actually derived from the plant kingdom. It is perfectly normal, from a scientific point of view and if one does not assume that plants can treat everything, to exploit the curative properties of certain plants. The latter can be used whole (“simple”), in the form of extracts of essential oils (“aromatherapy”), via the use of certain specific parts of the plant that contain a higher concentration of active ingredient (buds, roots, shoots, etc. known as "gemmotherapy"), or in the form of floral elixirs, solar preparations of flowers, the best known of which are the Bach Remedies (known as "floratherapy").

The use of certain clays, such as smectite or zeolite in the treatment of simple diarrhoeas, is based on the same principle of natural therapy. Clinical nutrition has long been using certain plants or extracts in the formulation of specialised diets.

Acupuncture

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Acupuncture, which uses needles placed at perfectly defined anatomical sites, can also be used in the dog.

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Directly derived from 3,000-year old traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, which uses needles placed at perfectly defined anatomical sites, can also be used in the dog. This discipline has long gained credibility in medicine, and some vets are specialised in this field with good results, notably for the treatment of chronic lameness, but also in the treatment of behavioural, gastrointestinal, respiratory and urinary disorders. Painful points on the skin are directly related to the organ(s) that is (are) dysfunctioning and can therefore be treated either by the insertion of a needle on these same points, or using massage, or by heating these points. The main principle of Chinese medicine is to consider the organism as a whole at the centre of an environment, so it takes into account external influences such as stress, climate, air quality, diet and the physical condition of the patient in order to restore equilibrium with its environment. The College of Veterinary Medicine in Beijing provides their students with complete training in this field; certain surgical anaesthesia can be performed using acupuncture alone.

Osteopathy

The term osteopathy is probably not the most appropriate for designating an unquestionably effective medical practice, provided that it is practiced by someone with serious medical biological training, i.e. a veterinarian in the case of a dog. It is more of a hands-on form of medicine, which differs from other forms of medicine by the importance of detecting or “feeling” the sensations produced by a pathology. The vertebral column acts as scaffolding for the living body; all of the nerves originate within it before irradiating out to every point of the body. In certain cases (pain, lameness, neuralgias) the intelligent manipulation of the vertebrae, limbs and sometimes fascial planes enables the restoration of order where conventional treatments have failed.

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