Dog Integrative Medicine

Dog Integrative Medicine

Holistic Pet Care and Integrative Medicine for Dogs

Integrative Medicine refers to the process of combining traditional Western medicine with other healing modalities, such as Eastern or traditional Chinese medicine. We in the veterinary community may combine these two healing approaches in order to achieve better outcomes for our patients. We want to make sure you have every option available to you as a pet owner to achieve the best quality of life for your dog. 

If you are interested in alternative medicine for dogs, contact a local veterinarian you trust to see if he or she has taken additional training in this approach. If not, you can surely get a referral, as it is becoming increasingly available.

What is Involved in an Integrative Medicine Approach?

One condition that typically responds well to holistic dog medicine is severe arthritis. An example of an integrative approach would be utilizing a combination of Western medicine, such as anti-inflammatory pain medications; Eastern medicine, such as acupuncture, herbs, and food therapy; and alternative therapy options, such as therapeutic laser. We’ll provide a brief description of the Eastern medication and holistic pet care options below:


Acupuncture is the process of using needles to apply pressure into very specific anatomic locations on your dog’s body. The specific locations on your dog’s body are typically in areas where there is a higher concentration of nerves and blood vessels. Applying pressure with special needles in these highly specific locations can decrease inflammation, increase blood flow, and balance any imbalances that may be going on in your dog’s body.

Therapeutic Laser

Laser therapy can be used to help decrease pain and inflammation, and it is often used in dogs with arthritis or neurologic disorders. It is also used after surgical procedures to aid in pain management and help with quicker healing times of incision sites, as it can help decrease swelling. Typically a 10-watt laser, a therapeutic laser does not cause any pain or discomfort. Your dog will only feel a slightly warm, somewhat soothing sensation. Each session takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes to complete.

Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbs can be used as adjunctive natural medications to treat various ailments in dogs. Herbs may be given on a short-term or long-term basis, depending on the condition that is being addressed in your dog. In addition to decreasing pain from arthritis, herbs can be used to help alleviate symptoms of and slow down the progression of liver disease, kidney disease, and gastrointestinal diseases in dogs.

Food Therapy

Food Therapy is a long-standing tradition of Chinese medicine, which incorporates the use of certain foods to treat illnesses. Specific foods are categorized as either cooling or heating. For instance, fruits that are considered cooling fruits would be used to feed an animal that has what would be considered a heat illness. 

What to Expect During an Integrative Medicine Appointment

When preparing for an Integrative Medicine appointment, you will likely need to fill out a very thorough history form. This is so the veterinarian can obtain as much information as necessary about your dog’s living environment, behavior, medical history, and medication history to be able to provide your pet with the best treatment plan and approach. An appointment can take an hour or more, and appointments may take place over the course of multiple days. Depending on whether your dog has had any recent bloodwork or tests performed, these may also need to be done during one of the appointments. 

After the appointments, your veterinarian will work with you as a team to develop a specific plan for your dog, which may include a combination of Western medications with Chinese herbs, supplements for your dog’s diet, exercise or physical therapy plans, and scheduled follow-ups to change things as needed.

For more information on Integrative Medicine in pets and to find a holistic dog vet near you, please visit the Veterinary Institute of Integrative Medicine website.