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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Holistic healing is hot these days, especially for our four legged friends. More pet owners are turning to alternative medicine to treat their animals. But can holistic healing work for pets, and are there any drawbacks to it?

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Resistance workouts on an underwater treadmill along with acupuncture treatments gave Peter Wood’s dog, who suffered from hip problems, a new “leash on life.”

“Every day you could see her getting stronger. And she’d run a little bit farther and she’d play a little bit harder until to the point where she was a puppy again,” Wood said.

Wood says he tried conventional medications for his dog named Sundance, but they didn’t work or caused side effects. So, he sought these alternative therapies for his pooch.

“Within a matter of a week I saw the difference,” he said.

So what exactly is alternative and holistic veterinary medicine?

“Holistic veterinary medicine for me is really looking at the whole animal and trying to find a treatment that will be effective and non-invasive,” said Dr. Barbara Royal, president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation.

Some examples include using cold laser light therapy to treat arthritis and soft tissue injuries, chiropractic techniques to treat pain, therapeutic ultrasound to decrease inflammation and using herbs, supplements and vitamins to help health problems instead of, or in conjunction with traditional medicine.

“I believe holistic medicine can work just as well as some surgeries and medications,” said Royal.

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She wants pet owners to know that  many vets who offer alternative treatments still use conventional medicine, like x-rays and blood work. But once they reach a diagnosis, they see if a holistic or alternative approach could help.

“In the right hands, with an educated practitioner, I think holistic medicine is an incredibly positive adjunct to veterinary medicine,” Royal explained.

Up to six percent of practicing vets now use some sort of holistic therapy, and research is taking off.

“The study of holistic methods is increasing in the academic world,” said clinical professor Dr. Ruthanne Chun, DVM.

But Chun cautions, if your pet has a health problem, you should review all the treatment options available.

She explained, “If a pet owner is considering holistic treatments I think that’s a reasonable thing for them to be thinking about, they need to think about who they’re going to see,  what veterinarian they’re going to see that can help them understand what would be the best options for their pet, holistic or Western?”
Wood says after he tried many options he’s sold that alternative therapy is the right one for Sundance.

“It works! That’s the thing it works! I’ve seen it work,” she said.

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