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Holistic Care and Alternative Therapies

Pet Insurance  •   Mary Shaughney  •   Dec 31, 2018


You want the best for your dog, which means sometimes you and your veterinarian have to think outside the box of traditional veterinary medicine. Increasingly, vets are looking to alternative therapies and holistic care options to supplement conventional methods. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) policy states “all aspects of veterinary medicine should be held to the same standards, including complementary, alternative and integrative veterinary medicine.” Many dog owners are unaware of the options of alternative treatments, so we’ve gathered together the top six therapies that might help your dog get back to feeling himself.


Acupuncture is the process of inserting small needles into the skin at defined points to simulate the nervous system. The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (AAVA) explains that the application of small needles in specific points of the body lead to the release of chemicals in the brain, spinal cord, and muscles. These stimulated chemicals act as natural painkillers which helps to relieve discomfort.

Research into the benefits of acupuncture have determined that it can cause a release of hormones, an increase in blood circulation, the stimulation of nerves, and relief of muscle spasms. Acupuncture can aid in managing pain of musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis and intervertebral disk disease (IVDD). It can also help with gastrointestinal issues by stimulating digestive secretions that normalize digestive activity. Many skin conditions such as hot spots or allergies can also be helped through acupuncture.  


Chiropractic treatment is one of the fastest growing segments in animal healthcare. According to the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA), veterinary chiropractic care is the “restoration and maintenance of a properly functioning neuromusculoskeletal system”. Through hands on manipulation of the body, corrections can be made to improper alignment of the spine and joints to treat a variety of conditions.

Chiropractic treatment has been proven to aid in injuries or diseases such as hip dysplasia, luxating patella, joint/spine health, neck/back pain, and urinary incontinence. For highly active dogs, the option to provide chiropractic care as a maintenance measure can help to keep them in top shape.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be prescribed for a variety of reasons. Veterinary physical therapy uses several techniques including range of motion, hydrotherapy, massage, and active exercises that help with strength, balance, and flexibility.

Veterinarians often prescribe physical therapy for dogs who struggle with issues such as joint damage, musculoskeletal injury, arthritis, paralysis, and painful mobility.


Hydrotherapy is best described as physical therapy that is performed in the water, usually either in a pool or on a water treadmill.  Hydrotherapy should be performed in a specialized facility by a licensed veterinarian or specialist who is trained in water rehabilitation. Performing therapy in an aquatic setting allows for dogs to improve fitness in a non-weight-bearing environment. Dogs who may have mobility limitations on land can gradually build strength and muscle without the stress on their limbs. Dogs who are recovering from injuries, such as an ACL tear (or cruciate rupture), or who suffer from arthritis often benefit greatly from hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy can help improve mobility, increase circulation, and decrease stress. Best of all, most dogs love being in the water!

Cold Laser Therapy

Laser therapy in dogs, sometimes called Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) has been used on people for over 40 years. Using short, continual movements over an affected area, noninvasive light stimulates cell regeneration and increases blood circulation. Cold laser therapy causes an increase in cell function which helps to alleviate chronic or acute pain, reduces inflammation, speeds up healing, and releases endorphins. Cold laser therapy is often used to treat joint, ligament or tendon injuries as well as fractures, post-surgical incisions, arthritis, musculoskeletal diseases, and muscle sprains/strains.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapies are not for poorly trained dogs, but rather for dogs suffering from serious conditions such as separation anxiety or compulsive behaviors, such as obsessive licking or chewing. Some behavior changes are the result of an underlying medical condition which your veterinarian will be able to find upon evaluation. If your veterinarian rules out an underlying medical condition, she may recommend behavioral therapy.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) has a resource to locate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists who work with dogs suffering from behavior conditions that pose a threat to the owner or the dog’s well-being. These trainers attempt to determine the root of the behavioral issues and then use training techniques such as counter conditioning, desensitization, and shaping.

AKC Pet Insurance Provides Coverage Options for Alternative Therapy Treatments

AKC Pet Insurance understands that the combination of non-traditional veterinary medicine and conventional therapies is often the best treatment approach for many illnesses and injuries. Knowing that such alternative and complimentary therapies are becoming more widely practiced in the United States, AKC Pet Insurance’s new plans offer coverage for alternative and holistic care. *



*New plans are not yet available in all states.

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