EASTERN MEDICINE FOR FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS: DOES IT WORK?
Acupuncture, Herbal Remedies & More
If you’ve ever walked out of an acupuncture appointment feeling energized, soothed a headache with some willow bark, or scraped away your stress with a gua sha stone, you know how powerful Eastern medicine can be. But did you know that health wisdom from Traditional Chinese Medicine can help everyone in your family, including your pets?
There’s not much research on it yet, but plenty of holistic veterinarians and adventurous pet owners can testify to the fact that TCM treatments like acupuncture and herbal remedies make a big difference for their dogs and cats.
So if western veterinarian methods have led to a dead end for your four legged friend, read on to learn more about how eastern medicine can help.
Eastern Medicine For Pets: What You Need To Know
Acupuncture For Cats and Dogs
So far, there aren’t many high quality studies that can attest to how well acupuncture works on your pet dog or cat. But that hasn’t stopped veterinarians from embracing the practice. And they’re seeing results. A 2009 case study found that acupuncture helped a 14 year old cat with intervertebral disc disease increase its mobility and posture after western methods failed to help. Some researchers have found evidence that it helps pets with musko-skeletal pain and immune-system disorders. And leaders in the field, like Cornell University veterinarian Andrea Looney, DVM, DACVA, have been using the practice since the 1990’s.
More research has been done on acupuncture for horses than for Fido or Felix. One study found that electro acupuncture helped to significantly reduce a horse’s pain during surgery. Researchers have also found that acupuncture promotes tissue healing and muscle strength in horses.
Vets say they’ve seen acupuncture help dogs and cats with a wide range of physical and mental health issues, including Arthritis, joint disease, metabolic disease, indigestion, allergies, separation anxiety, trauma-related pain, and inflammation. Researchers aren’t sure why acupuncture helps with these issues in humans, either. But does it really matter why it works, as long as it does?
Acupuncture for our four-legged friends is pretty similar to human acupuncture, but it helps to start with Du 20 at the midline, straight up from the ears, which makes them more receptive to needling. Small needles are inserted into the top levels of the skin at specific acupuncture points in order to stimulate nerves and muscles, improve circulation, and encourage the body’s own healing response. And best of all, acupuncture doesn’t come with all the side effects of prescription medicine that can make dogs and cats feel even worse.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture works by targeting the energy pathways in our bodies known as meridians. Lifeforce, called qi, flows through these meridians to every part of the body, circulating blood and energy to each muscle and limb. By stimulating these pathways, acupuncture can encourage the flow of qi when it’s stopped or slowed, causing illness or pain. And best of all, it’s completely safe and doesn’t harm organ function like many medications for pets.
Herbal Medicine For Pets
Herbs are nature’s oldest form of medicine – wild animals from chimpanzees to elephants are known to use them as well! People have been using herbal remedies for thousands of years to treat everything from headaches to insomnia to cuts and bruises. And many veterinarians say herbs can be helpful for your furry companion, especially when conventional treatment doesn’t work.
Here are some TCM herbs that are safe for your dog and cat. But make sure to talk to your vet before you give your animal any herbal remedies, just to be safe!
Herbs for Dogs
Peppermint is a great natural solution for people and pups with upset stomachs and painful bloating. That’s because the menthol in this minty herb helps to relax the muscles in your digestive system, making it easier for gas and digested food to pass. In TCM, peppermint increases Qi circulation, which is also great for digestion.
It’s not toxic for dogs, but don’t give it to them in super high doses, as this can cause liver or kidney problems. So if your dog has tummy troubles, offer them some peppermint instead of the grass they often try to eat to solve the problem on their own.
Reishi, Ling Zhi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi mushrooms are harvested, dried and ground up into a powder and used in many TCM herbal formulas. Known as the herb of immortality, this mushroom enhances immune system function when consumed and can kill bacteria and germs on your skin when applied topically. In people, it can soothe inflammation and even create special “killer cells” that fight off infections.
Though no research has been done on Reishi for canine use, it’s non-toxic for dogs and is used by many holistic vets to treat issues like cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, and immune issues.
Herbs for Cats
That might be because the root can regulate gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in our brains, which boosts relaxation and feelings of calm.
But when it comes to your feline friend, Valerian actually has the opposite effect. It stimulates them, making them excitable, playful, and active. It’s great for overweight kitties that need a little extra energy to get exercising. For those cats who don’t respond to catnip, the Valerian plant is a good alternative. You can find cat toys filled with Valerian or give them a small amount of dried Valerian.
Licorice isn’t just a candy–it’s a plant! People use licorice root for heartburn, sore throats, and respiratory issues. And animal research has found that licorice can do all of these things for cats, too. It’s a natural source of cortisone so it’s great for felines with allergies. As an adaptogen it can help lower stress and lower inflammation, and it’s also been used for immune support for kitties. It’s also a laxative, so it’s good for when your cat is constipated.
Just like people, dogs and cats can benefit from complementary alternative medicine like TCM. So if you feel like you’ve run out of options to help your furry friend, turn to the east.