There are well over 150 million dogs and cats living in American households today, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And, their vet visits cost more than $14 billion – yes, billion – a year, says the American Veterinary Medical Association.
It goes to show just how much we love our fur kids and want the best for them and their health. But, in addition to visiting the vet, pets in the United States are going swimming, getting massages and visiting acupuncturists to help support their well-being.
Surprised? Don’t be. Just like with humans, traditional medicine for pets sometimes has its limits. Many pet owners find alternative therapies to be very beneficial.
Here, we break down three of the more popular alternative therapies pet owners are turning to when their furry friends need some TLC.
1. Hydrotherapy can be excellent for dogs that have difficulty moving their joints. The buoyancy of the water lessens stress to the joints that weight-bearing exercises can cause. For some dogs, hydrotherapy is a good option if they have any mobility issues caused by things like arthritis or hip dysplasia. It’s also often used for pre- and post-surgical rehabilitation. Additionally, pet hydrotherapy can help to improve mobility, balance and coordination. That’s just a short list of the benefits of hydrotherapy for man’s best friend. Check out the Canine Hydrotherapy Association for a complete list.
What to Expect
Canine hydrotherapy pools are heated and often include ramps to assist dogs with mobility problems into the water. Water treadmills, life vests, floating devices and toys can further enhance the experience.
2. Massage is quickly gaining in popularity as a beneficial alternative therapy for pets. Many owners see increased improvement in their pets’ overall disposition following massage therapy. In fact, many hydrotherapy centers include massage in their rehabilitation plans. Animal massage benefits pets in much the same way it benefits people. It increases circulation to the immune system, reduces pain and anxiety, increases joint flexibility and loosens tight muscles. Caregivers of senior pets are turning to massage therapy to aid in the relief of pain caused by age-related maladies, such as arthritis and muscle atrophy. Plus, it’s good for the coat and skin because the massage strokes help distribute natural oils.
Want to Try It?
Requirements for animal massage practitioners vary by state, so look for one who meets the requirements where you live and who has good referrals.
3. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that humans have been using for centuries, and it’s becoming increasingly popular for animals. Acupuncture is done by inserting needles into points along the surface of the body to produce a healing response. It assists in relieving pain, boosting the immune system and removing metabolic wastes and toxins. Animal acupuncture can treat many conditions, including chronic pain, allergies and asthma. Sometimes, applications of heat and laser light are used during a session. The acupuncturist may also recommend herbs or a special diet for your pet for a well-rounded, holistic approach.
Find an Animal Acupuncturist
All animal acupuncture practitioners must also be licensed veterinarians, according to the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS). You can search for an animal acupuncturist on the IVAS website.
All of these modalities can be used separately or in conjunction with one another. However, it’s a good idea to check with your regular veterinarian before trying one of these or any other alternate pet therapy. Your vet should be familiar with your pet’s overall health condition and should be able to foresee any complications. If you have pet insurance, don’t forget to check if you have any coverage for alternative therapies.
No matter what type of therapy you choose for your pets, we wish them long and healthy lives!
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