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Alternative Medicine for Horses

While alternative medicine for humans has long since been practiced, it is still considered a bit of quackery in some circles. To this end, it is not surprising that this kind of medical treatment for animals is viewed with the same kind of doubt and derision. Sure, western medicine is considered to be the most advanced in the civilized world, yet there are times when alternative medicine will yield results where no medications were able to ease suffering.
In alternative medicine, the practitioner will look at the animal as a whole, rather than simply focusing on an injured limb. Holistic practitioners do not carry medications and syringes, but instead they will deal in the arts of chiropractics, acupuncture, herbalism, homeopathy, and various other modes of treatment.

To the uninitiated, acupuncture is little more than sticking needles into a limb. Yet to the practitioner, the idea is to tap into the energy flow of the body and decrease blockages to this flow. The needles that the practitioner inserts into the horse’s body are thought to

stimulate the flow of the energy and thus break down whatever blockages there may be. Homeopathy subscribes to the idea of healing substances being diluted and mixed together to be added to the feed. These substances may either be naturally occurring medicines in herbs and plant materials, or they may be more potent mixtures. Chiropractic treatments include adjustments to the joints and spinal columns, while herbalism is the art of using available plants to distill from them their medicinal powers.

Probably the best example of alternative medicine working for the good of a horse is lameness. While western medicine is not excluded as a treatment option, it is complemented with acupuncture, chiropractics, and also massages to help the animal get better quicker.

Lameness is one of the conditions that may have a plethora of causes, some of which may actually work together to amplify the condition. Arthritis in the hocks causes changes in movement that will translate into muscle soreness of the lower back; this in turn changes the motion of the animal which then results in the animal’s shifting more weight to the limb opposite the affected side. Because this limb is now overtaxed, it will soon become stressed, resulting in lameness, which will then cause the horse’s owner to take it to the vet. If the veterinarian simply looks at the affected limb, she or he will not notice the other series of events that led up to the lameness and thus the treatment will be ineffective or only temporary. Yet if the alternative medicine practitioners are also aiding in the animal’s recovery, they will be able to help the vet trace the lameness back to its true root causes, thus leading to a treatment of the hock. Within the confines of the diagnosis the vet will be able to notice the arthritis and prescribe appropriate drugs for healing and pain management.
While it is true that conventional or alternative medicine would have taken care of the problem eventually, the combination of the two expedites the healing process.

To many the idea of homeopathy is also fraught with images reminiscent of Macbeth, yet if you take a closer look at western pharmacology, you will notice that much of it relies on the lessons learned from herbal medicines. There are of course situations where homeopathy will shine, such in the case of a horse suffering from laryngitis. Its breathing is rough, the breath quickened, and the sound you will most likely hear from the affected animal is a snorting sound. You can easily treat this animal wolf’s bane, but if you are not completely certain that this is the correction remedy, you might do more harm than good. Yet if you are dealing with a homeopathic practitioner who is also well versed in veterinary medicine, you will actually see a must sped up road to recovery for your animal.

Veterinarians themselves are beginning to recognize the value of alternative medicines. Allergies are a tough case that almost always benefits from alternative styles of medicine, while respiratory diseases rooted in immune problems are also known to be helped with the means of homeopathic attention. Herbal remedies may be applied to arthritis and flu, while acupuncture is useful for race and performance horses. A word of caution is of course necessary: there are still no governing bodies for this kind of medicine, and for this reason it is imperative that a horse owner should not chase the latest fads but only consider accepting innovative alternative treatments from trusted and recommended individuals. Additionally, do not try to spot treat a variety of problems, but begin any regimen with a baseline physical examination.

Read the next horse health tips article on Chiropractic Horse Care.
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