Complementary Approaches to Veterinary Medicine: Practical Resources Shared at AAHA Conference

Although data on pets’ adverse reactions to natural therapies is sparse, veterinary professionals can tap the Natural Medical Comprehensive Database and a few, reliable textbooks for practical information, said Susan Wynn, DVM, during the AAHA! Denver 2007 Yearly Conference. The more information you have at your fingertips the better, she told a full room of attendees.

Michael Connelly, DVM, uses some nutraceuticals at Connelly Animal Clinic in Texas, but was surprised to see so many booths in the exhibit hall promoting natural therapies. “I have been looking for scientific evidence from an authority, and I got it,” he said after attending the session in March.

Although his use of complementary medicine is limited, Connelly has been looking for alternatives to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs but needed some guidance. “You can’t just hand those out to every dog that has arthritis,” he added.

Wynn and other complementary practitioners believe that practitioners should be proactive and ask pet owners regularly about their use of natural or homeopathic remedies. Explaining to clients that anything added to a pet’s diet – even table scraps – can interfere with traditional medication can prevent misunderstandings and in some cases serious medical side effects.

One of the key problems with naturopathic remedies is the interaction with other drugs, Wynn said. For example, fiber and tannins may reduce absorption of certain drugs, which becomes important if pet owners give pets any homeopathic remedies.

While many herbal remedies are helpful to people, they can be toxic to pets, she cautioned. For example, garlic and tea tree essential oil can be toxic to cats.

Wynn listed associations such as the Veterinary Botanical Medical Association and the book The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety as resources, and encouraged practitioners to share their experiences with different herbs. As the author of Veterinary Herbal Medicine, Wynn told the audience, “evidence-based medicine is our friend.