Complementary therapies is a term used to describe many therapies that can provide a valuable adjunct to rehabilitation therapy. Such therapies include acupuncture, herbal remedies, nutraceuticals & of course chiropractic therapy!
ACUPUNCTURE; has been in existence for thousands of years & is built on a philosophy that illness is a result of an imbalance of “chi” or “vital energy” in the body. Acupuncture aims to restore the balance of chi along pathways called “meridians” to allow the body to heal. The physiological effects of acupuncture include improvement in circulation, reduction in muscle spasm, release of endorphins & changes in electrical activity.
Examples of acupuncture to assist rehabilitation therapy include;
1- Where a dog has a muscle spasm or trigger point, acupuncture can be used to release the muscle spasm so it can be massaged without pain & then manipulated if need be.
2- Acupuncture points can be stimulated to enhance blood flow & chi & thus flush lactic acid from the muscles & relieve fatigue, & aid in the healing of torn muscles.
3- Many of the same treatments that acupuncture is for humans can be said for the dog also. Some examples; Pain relief, Paralysis, Allergies, Arthritis, Incontinence & Musculoskeletal disorders.
However it must be remembered that each dog is treated as an individual & therefore the same condition may not be treated in the same way, because of the individual differences in the dogs & their lifestyles.
HERBAL REMEDIES; have been used for thousands of years & modern research is starting to help western society understand the physiological effects of Eastern therapies. As with acupuncture, herbal remedies are used on an individual basis; there is no specific formula for what to use for a specific condition & instead we must consider the dogs age, weight, eating habits, toileting & overall condition.
The use of herbal remedies also depends on the stage of the disease process or injury process. In examples of trauma or emergencies, measures may be taken that may then need to be modified to control the disease process or injury process long term. The influence of the different organs must also be considered when prescribing herbal remedies. For example, traditional Chinese medicine teaches that the kidneys influence the brain & this must be considered when using remedies for neurological conditions.Further, the spleen is said to influence the muscles by nourishing them, & this would be considered when treating muscular injuries. In addition, the liver is said to have an influence on the muscles by helping the flow of chi through them, so this would also be considered when treating muscular injuries.
From the examples so far, it is apparent that both acupuncture & herbal medicines could be used in conjunction to enhance the results of rehabilitation, being aware of the treatments being given to ensure the safety of the dog being treated. This is because it is important to remember that while herbal remedies have a reputation for being natural, they can also be powerful & it is important to consider the interactions of the herbal remedies on the other treatments being given. Examples of interactions of herbs include;
1- Ginkgo can affect the bloods ability to clot, so can make dogs prone to bleeding if given with other drugs that thin the blood;
2- Echinacea can be harmful if the dog has a compromised immune system;
3- Melatonin can adversely effect heart, kidney or liver disease;
4- Ginseng can cause high blood pressure in some dogs;
The herbs that may be selected to treat several conditions are listed below, but it is important to remember that the dosage of the herb & the herb given must be of pure quality & be aware of all other treatments the dog is being given.
1- Alfalfa may be used to treat allergies or arthritis;
2- Aloe vera juice may be used to treat ulcers or arthritis;
3- Black walnut may be used to treat worms or fugal infections;
4- Chamomile may be used to treat pain or inflammation of the intestines or stomach;
5- Cornsilk may be used to treat incontinence;
6- Echinacea may be used to treat infections & boost the immune system;
7- Garlic may be used as an antibiotic;
8- Green tea may be used to boost the immune system;
9- Slippery elm tincture may be used to treat diarrhoea;
There are of course many other herbal treatments.
Nutraceuticals; is the term given to nutritional supplements & may include herbal remedies as well as other complementary therapies. One of the most common uses of nutraceuticals is in the treatment of arthritis. Common ingredients in nutraceuticals include;
A- Glucosamine, is essential for the formation of joint cartilage;
B- Chondroition, is often modified in dog products to make it more readily absorbed;
C- Perna canaliculus, is NZ green lipped mussel. It has alarge amount of glycosaminoglycans, which helps lubricate joints, & is also a good anti-inflammatory;
D- Creatine helps convert glucose into muscular energy & may therefore help to improve muscle strength;
E- Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils, also have an anti-inflammatory effect & may also improve cardiac health, chronic kidney disease, gastrointestinal problems, inflammatory skin conditions & even older dogs memory.
As with all other aspects of complementary therapies, all know treatments must be considered when using these therapies.