Types of Complementary Therapies

There are a multitude of complementary therapies available to help enhance health and well-being. A few of the more common therapies used to promote animal health in veterinary practice include the following:

Nutritional Medicine

Good nutrition is definitely one of the simplest and most elegant forms of healing that I provide for my patients. What animals are fed plays a great role in the development and management of disease conditions. An animal’s body often works wonders to restore health when they are fed food that is wholesome, natural and unprocessed, making it a lot easier to add quality of life when they are suffering from these conditions.

Commercial foods have certainly had their place in the evolution of animal health and can be a better choice for animal owners who are unable to feed a balanced raw meat-based diet. When choosing a commercial diet ensure that the ingredients are of high quality and they don’t contain excess carbohydrates, fillers, chemical and preservatives that may impact negatively on animal health.

When a diet is poor and then changed to include wholesome, well balanced foods, animals (and humans!) show a remarkable improvement in their condition, their working performance is enhanced and often, chronic ongoing health problems begin to resolve.

Recently more and more research has revealed that certain nutrients have specific therapeutic properties for example, glucosamine helps to improve joint function, co-enzyme Q10 supports heart function and has anti-cancer properties, Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects and an amino acid called tryptophan helps to bring about the feeling of calmness and well-being which can be a very useful aid in reducing dominance associated aggression.

Nutrients that have been found to have such an effect are termed “neutraceuticals” ie. nutrients with pharmaceutical effects. There is a great wealth of these available but not all are created equal and it’s very important to ensure that the supplement used is of good quality. We make use of these incredible aids in assisting to promote wellness and address specific health issues without the side effects of drugs.


Developed for humans by the Chinese more than 4000 years ago, acupuncture uses tiny needles to stimulate the body’s systems to promote healing. Acupuncture is based on Chinese Medicine theory that blockages and imbalances in the system result in pain and disease. The needles stimulate the body’s energy system to enhance blood flow, nerve conduction, relieve muscle spasm, and release hormones. This re-establishes the balance and helps to alleviate pain as well as promote healing.

Acupuncture may be used to treat the following health conditions either alone or in conjunction with other treatments:

• Pain of most kinds whether acute or chronic
• Digestive issues such as IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), megaesophagus, megacolon, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and pica
• Respiratory problems including asthma and cough
• Dermatological or skin disorders including allergies, ear infections, self-mutilation and lick granulomas
• Musculo-Skeletal disorders including lameness, tendonitis, back pain, arthritis, traumatic injury, sports injuries.
• Neurological disease such as intervertebral disc disease, paralysis, paresis and seizures.
• Behavioural issues like fear, anxiety, aggression
• Kidney disease and urinary issues such as chronic cystitis and incontinence

Because it helps to support healing and restore balance Acupuncture may also be used to assist in the prevention of disease and is often helpful for unusual or “mystery” diseases that aren’t easily addressed with conventional medicine.

Acupuncture needles are made of surgical grade stainless steel. They are very thin and solid and most animals tolerate them quite nicely. Treatments are usually quite relaxing to the animal, with some pets even falling asleep during the treatment. The sessions last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

The number of treatments needed is determined on an individual basis. Some acute conditions may respond in one treatment. Chronic conditions will likely need more than one treatment. Once the optimum response is achieved, the treatment interval is extended to the maximum amount of symptom free time that elapses between treatments.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

This is a system of health care that uses unique diagnostic tools such as feeling the animal’s pulse and examining their tongue for signs that help to characterize disease.

To help improve health and restore balance, herbal medicine making use of traditional Chinese herbs and acupuncture are some of the modalities employed.

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine has been used for thousands of years and is the basis for the development of many of our traditional modern drugs. Herbs commonly have nutritional as well as drug-like activity in the body. The active ingredients of certain medicines have been isolated from plants that have been known to have a therapeutic effect and herbs can be extremely beneficial for assisting in various health conditions eg. Parsley is a great nutritive to help build an animal up when it’s debilitated, celery is a great aid for arthritis, milk thistle is supportive to the liver and garlic has anti-microbial and anti-parasite effects (but MUST be used carefully as it can be toxic: 1 medium size clove per 25 kg dog per day is a safe dose to use).


Homeopathy is used by many people across the world to help treat disease and restore health. It is a gentle therapy that approaches the health of an individual and doesn’t just treat the disease to restore health.

It was developed by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, in the 1800’s and is based on the principle that “like cures like”. Hahnemann showed that when he took the bark of the chinchona tree (which contains quinine that is used to combat malaria) in high amounts it produced malaria symptoms and when a homeopathic dose of the chinchona bark is taken it helps people with malaria. Similarly, coffee in high amounts will create restlessness and agitation but in homeopathic doses it helps to treat this.

A homeopathic remedy is a very dilute form of substance, so dilute that it can’t be easily measured and has therefore not been considered effective by mainstream medicine. Recently quantum physics has helped to explain some of the confusion and a number of studies have been published in some reputable scientific journals illustrating their efficacy in various settings.

Common remedies used include Arnica for bruising, Hypericum for nerve damage, aconite for shock, calendula for wound healing and symphytum to help bones to knit. The strength of the dilution and frequency of dosing are important considerations to support efficacy.


Developed in the 1960’6 by Hans-Heinrich Reckeweg, a medical doctor and homeopath, homotoxicology focuses intently on detoxification as the central theme of healing and work towards eliminating toxins which might be obvious in large amounts or present in very subtle quantities. Remedies are homeopathic often in combination with low dose herbs.

Removing the toxins has a similar effect to unclogging the engine of a car and the analogy follows that if the car is getting the right fuel and its engine is well tuned it will go well. Similarly, a physiological system free of toxins is much more able to function optimally and heal.

There are a number of levels on which detoxification can be directed, simply on the digestive tract or focusing on the excretory organs (digestive tract, urinary tract and lymphatic system), working more deeply by cleansing intracellularly (within the cell where care needs to be taken to ensure that the body is capable of removing the wastes extracellularly (outside of the cell) otherwise a back log or healing crisis can easily occur) and even concentrating on individual toxins such as heavy metals, etc. These may be individually focused on with healing systems such as isopathy (a branch of homeopathy working with specific substances / toxins).

Flower Essences

Flower essences are made from infusions of flowers and aim to address underlying emotional aspects of disease as identified by Dr Edward Bach in Britain the 1930’s.

Rescue Remedy or Emergency Essence (An Australian Flower Essence combination) are very helpful first aid tools to keep on hand for any stress or trauma and usually help to take the edge off and make the animal more comfortable or settled. When I’m on call after hours, this is the most common recommendation that I give over the phone to help an animal at home, unless veterinary care is indicated. It usually works well and it is also often useful for the stressed owner to have some too!

Essential Oils

Essential oils are the concentrated form of the plant containing the scent or smell and can have useful therapeutic or healing properties for example lavender can have calming effects whilst Cedar, eucalyptus or pennyroyal oils applied to dogs’ bedding may be used to deter fleas.

Essential oils can be a very useful treatment option but must be used with care as some can be toxic.


Chiropractic is used to ease discomfort and help spinal function by improving the motion of a joint and the flow of information through the spinal nerves.

Veterinary chiropractic or spinal manual therapy involves adjustment of subluxations in the spinal column, extremity joints, and skull sutures. Subluxations are mechanical abnormalities that restrict normal motion and can cause pain and dysfunction. An adjustment involves a short lever, high velocity controlled thrust that is directed at a specific joint to correct a subluxation restoring function and relieving pain.

Chiropractic is mainly used to treat musculoskeletal conditions. It can be a great benefit to our animal athletes improving flexibility, reducing the risk of further injury, and improving performance.

Conditions that may benefit from Chiropractics include:

• Spinal pain: neck, back, tail, legs
• Oral problems: TMJ (Tempero-Mandibular Joint) problems causing jaw pain and difficulty chewing
• Disc problems, joint problems, limping
• Trauma: injuries from slips, falls, jumps, accidents
• Sports injuries: fly-ball, agility, hunting
• Muscle spasms
• Seizures
• Problems seemingly unrelated to the spine: bowel, bladder, internal medicine conditions
• Maintenance of good health; helping to ensure appropriate movement and a flat top line

Many patients improve with one treatment, and some may require more. Many patients benefit from chiropractic care a few times a year for preventive maintenance, this is especially helpful for sporting and working dogs and horses where performance is measurable. To assist with maintenance and help to prevent further problems, home exercises may be prescribed.

Animals usually enjoy the treatment, and especially the end result which usually leaves them a lot more comfortable and pain free.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has been used in human medicine since the beginning of the 20th century. Based on sound scientific principles, it is now an accepted treatment modality, for several conditions including non-healing wounds, compromised skin grafts, infections, gas gangrene, traumatic injury, certain poisonings and burns. We are very pleased to offer this incredible healing aid, which promotes health and well-being in a stress-free manner for our furry friends.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) basically means giving oxygen under pressure. This allows for a far greater amount of oxygen to be available to tissues in the body. Oxygen at optimal levels has profound anti-inflammatory effects; it helps to rid the body of infection both directly by killing certain bugs and indirectly by supporting the immune system and assists to accelerate healing, often dramatically!

Normally oxygen is carried by the red blood cells in the blood stream and at any given time in a normal human or animal breathing air (which has 21 % oxygen), approximately 96% of red blood cells are saturated with (carrying) oxygen. When breathing 100% pure oxygen instead of air, all red blood cells carry oxygen and deliver it to cells within reach of circulating blood vessels.

Under pressure in the chamber, like divers submerging under water, oxygen dissolves into all of the body fluid and tissues. This means that it is no longer dependent on the blood vessels and red blood cells for delivery and can easily reach important areas such as injury sites and the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to which oxygen delivery might be compromised in an injured or diseased human or animal. The principle is the same as the bubbles in a fizzy drink which are dissolved when the bottle is closed under pressure but fizz out once the pressure is released when the bottle is opened.

HBOT allows for an increase of 12 – 15 times the normal oxygen concentration in the body. This promotes natural healing and recovery. HBOT may be suitable alone or in conjunction with conventional or other complementary therapies for animals with a range of conditions including:

• Severe skin and tissue damage
• Fracture healing
• Major systemic or local infections
• Intervertebral disc herniation
• Inflammatory conditions such as pancreatitis
• Nerve damage
• Athletic injury
• Post-surgical swelling and recovery
• Organ dysfunction and failure such as liver disease and kidney failure

During HBOT the animal simply sits or lies down and relaxes in the chamber breathing pure oxygen while the chamber is pressurised. Only animals who have certain kinds of ear, sinus or lung problems or are critically ill may not be able to be treated. A treatment session lasts 1 to 2 hours and animals tolerate it well and typically respond beautifully to as little as 1 to 5 treatment sessions depending on their individual needs.

NIS (Neurological Integration System) & Bodytalk

NIS has been developed as a healthcare system primarily for humans, taking into consideration acupuncture meridians, principles from other healing modalities and the body’s inherent healing wisdom. When our healing ability is impeded and dis-ease is present, NIS views this as a failure of the body to recognize the problem and institute its incredible restorative capacity to self-heal.

A useful analogy is to consider a light being switched on at the wall. If there is a break in the circuit between the light and the switch, then the light won’t glow when the switch is flicked. But when the circuitry is functional, then with just one flick of the switch – Hey Presto, there’s light! Similarly, if all of the body’s circuits are connected and functional, then the body can heal.

There are a great variety of ailments that animals present with. These include infections, overuse injuries, traumatic wounds, metabolic conditions, degenerative diseases, allergies, autoimmune problems and poisonings.

For any condition, there are a number of effective solutions that we make use of to relieve pain, combat infection, assist with inflammation and accelerate healing. Often for optimal healing, a variety of modalities, which complement each other, are employed to streamline the healing process and generally with complementary therapies they work by supporting and guiding the body back into a healthy and balanced state.

One of the tools that we employ is the Neurological Integration System, NIS, which is a highly effective, gentle way of re-establishing balance in the body and aids in the healing of many conditions.

NIS has been developed as a healthcare system (at the Neurolink Centre, www.neurolinkglobal.com for more info) primarily for humans, taking into consideration acupuncture meridians, principles from other healing modalities and the body’s inherent healing wisdom. It works on the premise that the body has a remarkable capacity to heal itself. When this healing ability is impeded and dis-ease is present, NIS views this as a failure of the body to recognize the problem and institute its incredible restorative capacity to self-heal.

A useful analogy is to consider a light being switched on at the wall. If there is a break in the circuit between the light and the switch, then the light simply won’t light up when the switch is flicked. But if the circuitry is functional, then with just one flick of the switch – “Hey Presto”, there’s light!

Similarly, if all of the body’s circuits are functional, then the manifestation of dis-ease is not likely as all healing systems will be in place and working as they should to ensure the early recognition of any imbalance which will bring about restorative processes to ensure that health is maintained.

With a series of muscle tests, NIS identifies which of these circuits are malfunctioning and allows us some insight into establishing a reason behind the animal’s discomfort.

We then proceed to integrate the circuits of the body and thereby re-establish their working capability. The body then works wonders in its efficient and elegant manner to relieve pain and to restore health.

A NIS session can take ten to forty minutes depending on the severity of the animal’s illness. Animals usually relax during NIS and generally respond well after just one session but usually need two sessions spaced 1 to 2 weeks apart. Results are sometimes immediate and occasionally miraculous but when you know what the magician knows, it’s no longer magic!

Bodytalk is a therapy that is similar to NIS and works to help restore balance and promote health and well-being.

NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique)

Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique is a non-invasive therapy directed at alleviating allergies and thereby supporting health and well-being.


Massage involves hands-on techniques that help to relieve muscle tension and pain, break down scar tissue, promote circulation and healing. Most animals love gentle massage but care needs to be taken when animals are injured or in pain.


Physiotherapy utilizes various physical therapies and techniques to help restore normal function. It is generally applied for animals that have suffered injuries or undergone surgery.


This is low impact exercise in water which is very helpful to rehabilitate injuries as well as build strength and endurance. Most dogs love the experience and it helps them to feel invigorated and provide mental stimulation which can be enormously helpful to pets that have a protracted recovery time.

As integrative vets, the therapeutic tools at our disposal to help achieve healing are vast. The relatively gentle complementary therapies generally do not carry the risk of side effects that many conventional treatments do and they elegantly and effectively support and assist the body to ensure that physiological systems function optimally and that excellent health and vitality ensue. Sometimes there is a “magic bullet” that can resolve the problem but more often than not it’s a combination of factors that need to be addressed with a multi-tiered strategy.