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Natural Awakenings

Veterinary Alternatives for Common Conditions: Holistic Medicine for Your Pet's Ailments

Mar 01, 2009 03:00AM ● By Shawn Messonnier

“Some of the most common life-threatening ailments for dogs and cats include kidney disease, heart disease and cancer,” explains Holistic Veterinarian Shawn Messonnier, a doctor of veterinary medicine in Plano, Texas. Like their human physician counterparts, holistic vets are finding that natural modalities are important tools in treating these conditions. Consider the following comparisons.



Conventional medicine.  Depending on the type of cancer and its location, surgery may or may not be used to remove the tumor(s). Radiation, chemotherapy or both may also be included.

Holistic medicine. The best defense against most types of cancer is a strong immune system. However, depending on the type and location of the cancer, as well as the animal’s general condition, surgery, radiation or chemotherapy may or may not be used initially to remove or kill cancerous cells. Regardless, nutritional changes offer additional support. For example, decreasing carbohydrates can “starve” cancer cells (glucose is a cancer cell’s favorite fuel) and increasing omega-3 fatty acids can inhibit the formation and spread of cancers and guard against wasting. Antioxidants and immune system-enhancing herbs, such as the antimicrobials garlic (Allium sativum) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) are other options for ongoing treatment and protection against the toxic effects of conventional treatments.

Kidney Disease

Conventional medicine. Treatment generally consists of dietary changes, such as reducing protein, phosphorus and sodium, while increasing B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Additional options include increasing subcutaneous or intravenous fluids, as well as pharmaceuticals to relieve vomiting from uremic toxin overload.

Holistic medicine. Dietary changes and additional fluids form the treatment base, but many alternative therapies also may help, such as the herbs astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) to improve kidney circulation; dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale) for anti-inflammatory activity and waste elimination; echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) for its immune-stimulating and antimicrobial effects; and garlic (Allium sativum) to increase detoxification enzymes and for its antimicrobial activity. Homeopathic remedies such as Silicea to boost stamina or Thuja occidentalis for urinary tract infections may offer additional support.

Heart Disease

Conventional medicine.  Besides dietary recommendations and exercise, there’s virtually nothing in conventional veterinary medicine to address heart disease. It’s not until the condition progresses to heart failure that conventional drugs such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, diuretics and calcium channel blockers become helpful.

Holistic medicine.  In contrast, earlier is better for treating heart disease with alternative therapies such as the herb, hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha), shown to both strengthen the heart and stabilize it against arrhythmias. Other homeopathic remedies include Adonis vernalis to strengthen heart contractions and Strophanthus hispidus to tone heart muscle (both remedies are purported to help remove excess fluid, as well). Carnitine and taurine amino acid supplements also may be beneficial, because deficiencies of both have been linked to dilated cardiomyopathy (congestive heart failure).


Sources: Shawn Messonnier, doctor of veterinary medicine; and The Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats: Your A-Z Guide to Over 200 Conditions, Herbs, Vitamins and Supplements by Shawn Messonnier. Adapted with the author’s permission.

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