Three New Holistic Treatments for Dogs: Therapies that can
Help Your Canine Companion

The following article on three new holistic treatments for dogs is adapted from an article I wrote for the February 2011 issue of Natural Dog magazine. I hope you enjoy learning about these therapies and how they can help your canine companion.

Last spring, Brenda and Sam Ruello of Milford, Penn, held little hope that their beloved 10 ½ year-old Newfoundland, Gabriel, would live through the summer. Gabriel struggled with life-threatening hip and knee degeneration. The 180-pound dog could no longer stand up unassisted, so the Ruello’s used a harness to gently lifted him from under his stomach. But even once Gabriel was standing, his knee pain was so severe he could barely walk outside to relieve himself.

“We were heartbroken, but we knew what was coming,” Brenda Ruello says. “If you love someone, how much can you watch them suffer?”

Still, with continued determination to help Gabriel, Ruello researched his condition online. The search led her to Babette Gladstein, VMD, founder of Animal Acupuncture in New York City. It was on Dr. Gladstein’s Web site that Ruello first learned of prolotherapy, a non-surgical procedure that stimulates the body's natural healing processes to strengthen joints weakened by trauma or arthritis.

“I injected Gabriel with a series of five prolotherapy treatments in both of his hips and hind knees,” Gladstein says. “The injections, consisted of dextrose (a sugar) and lidocaine (an anesthetic).”

“The results were remarkable,” Ruello says. “Now, Gabriel is a different dog. He stands up on his own. He walks without pain. We don’t even think about losing him anymore. We are so grateful.”

As advances in human medicine converge with the veterinary field, new non-surgical holistic treatments for dogs to treat and help prevent canine illness are offering fresh hope to dogs like Gabriel – and their owners. Here’s the low-down on three of the most promising holistic treatments for dogs:

Prolotherapy, also known as ligament reconstructive therapy, is a non-surgical orthopedic procedure used on both humans and animals. Prolotherapy consists of injecting a “proliferating” agent (such as dextrose or vitamin B12) combined with lidocaine, into the affected tendons or ligaments where they attach to the bone. The solution acts as an irritant, stimulating the body’s immune system to “proliferate” – or rebuild – new tendons or ligaments at the injection site. This new connective tissue strengthens and stabilizes the afflicted joint, relieving pain.

“Prolotherapy is an excellent alternative to surgery for many dogs with chronic joint pain,” Gladstein says. “It can restore joint stability without the pain, risks, and extended recovery time of surgery.”

Prolotherapy can treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Hip Dysplasia and hip laxity and pain (DJD)
  • Chronic tendonitis - Elbow Dysplasia
  • Anterior Cruciate injury (ACL) - ligament injury
  • Intervertibular disc disease
  • Neck and back pain
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Sprained ankles and wrists
  • Partially torn tendons-anywhere in the body
  • Ligaments and cartilage

Prolotherapy is generally administered as a series of injections spaced between one and four weeks apart. “Most dogs show positive results in one-to-three treatments,” Gladstein says, “but the key is to work with an experienced veterinarian who can determine your dog’s needs.”

Although prolotherapy must be repeated approximately every year, the cost is far less than surgery, and the side effects are minimal. The most common side effect is lidocaine sensitivity, which can cause vomiting.

“Prolotherapy’s success rate is about 90 percent, which is equal to surgical intervention. It can also be used as a preventive treatment by keeping tendons and ligaments strong and joints stable.”

Advances in genetic research have led to the field of nutrigenomics, the science of studying how our genes respond to the foods we eat. Nutrigenomics is based on the concept that optimal nutrition can be designed based on an individual’s unique genetic makeup.

Feeding our pets according to their specific genetic needs can help to cure, lessen, and even prevent disease. “Nutrigenomics enables us to identify genetic markers associated with the early phase of diet-related diseases, so that nutritional intervention can return the patient to health,” says W. Jean Dodds, DVM, founder of Hemolife diagnostic laboratories and a leading rearcher in the field of canine nutrigenomics. “Morevoer, by understanding the effect of nutrition on a dog’s genes, we can recommend foods that will keep the body in balance and help prevent disease.”

Some pet food companies currently incorporate nutrients into their foods that target specific conditions, including:

  • Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and mussel to improve joint health
  • Vitamin E, ß-carotene, and selenium to protect the body from free radical damage
  • Omega-3 fatty acids to improve skin; and
  • Oligosaccharides and probiotics to promote gut health

As the field of nutrigenomics advances, more targeted formulations can be expected. “Hemolife is developing a saliva test that will enable us to recommend specific nutrients and diet formulations for an individual dog’s genotype,” says Dodds. “In other words, eat right for your genotype!”

Osteopathy is a form of drug-free, non-invasive medicine based on the principle that the musculoskeletal system (the structural system including the bones, muscles, and nerves) is the foundation of the body’s overall health. Osteopaths believe that by returning the musculoskeletal system to its proper state of functioning through the use of gentle, hands-on manipulation, every other system in the body is also brought into balance, creating wellness.

Osteopathy was founded in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, an American physician who taught that disease was the result of anatomical abnormalities. European osteopaths began adapting Still’s hands-on manipulation techniques for use on horses about 20 years ago, and osteopathy is now growing in popularity for other companion animals.

“Osteopathy is a branch of holistic medicine, which means that we look at the whole patient, not just the symptoms,” says Kimberly Parker DVM, EDO, an osteopathic veterinarian and founder of The International Association of Equine Osteopaths in Roswell, Georgia. “Based on our diagnosis, we then use our hands to gently manipulate the muscles, joints, and ligaments in order to return them to their proper structure and mobility.”

Many people confuse osteopathy with chiropractic, although the two approaches differ.

“Chiropractors primarily focus on getting the spine mobile,” Parker says. “Osteopaths employ a wider range of treatment techniques to restore balance to the body, including hands-on movement of the organs to address inflammation.”Osteopathy treats every illness and condition that conventional medicine does and in the care of an experienced, certified animal osteopath, does not contain specific risks or side effects.

Just as with human medicine, advances are being made every day in veterinary care, and thus in the development of new holistic treatments for dogs. Do your research and – just like the Ruellos – you may find safe, natural treatment options that could save your dog’s life.

I hope you enjoyed this article on three of the most promising new holistic treatments for dogs. For information on other holistic treatments for dogs, be sure to read our articles on acupuncture for dogs , homeopathy for dogs, and reiki for dogs , as well as our other articles on holistic treatments for dogs.

Be sure to find a veterinarian who is educated and experienced in the treatment your dog needs, and you might just be able to avoid unnecessary drugs and surgery. Your dog will certainly thank you for it!

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