Making the decision to expand your family with the addition of a pet means that you are also taking responsibility for the well being of that animal, and this of course involves feeding them as well as seeing to their medical needs. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent care, pets can still suffer from adverse health problems. Because most pet owners take the heath of their animals very seriously, the veterinary care market in the United States is worth up to $19 billion, annually.

However, there are cases where even the most advanced treatments can fail to solve your pet’s ailment or anxiety. This is why some people will look to CAM, or complementary and alternative medicine, to help.

Should you try complementary and alternative medicine for your pet? There are definitely cases where it may be safely utilized. CAM can involve many different practices, which include things like dietary changes or methods such as acupuncture and massages.

Is CAM safe for animals?

So, is CAM safe for animals? The answer is yes, there are many CAM methods that are safe for your pets. For veterinarians, the primary consideration is to use every traditional treatment they have at their disposal in order to alleviate whatever issue the animal is going through. Regrettably, in some cases, these methods might not work as well as they should, or are too expensive, invasive, or may even be more adverse to the pets health than the issue they are trying to solve. In that situation, holistic methods may be called upon to help where traditional medication has not been effective.

As with human doctors, veterinarians will often work through a process of elimination. This is because they do not want to put the animal through unnecessary stressors or testing if it is a simple problem to treat. Once they have eliminated the different possibilities and determine the true problem, they are able to choose the most suitable treatment.

CAM can provide a great back-up to traditional medical treatments for both humans and animals, which is why more pet owners are opening up to the idea of pursuing these opportunities.

Dog laying down at veterinarian being monitored

CAM practices to avoid

It is significant to note what could be potentially harmful to your animal, so it is very important to be aware of what kind of things to avoid.

First, although some humans may find benefits through this method, pets like cats and dogs should never be put on a vegan, vegetarian, or grain-free diet. There are many required nutrients that they need which they cannot get without animal byproducts, and a vegan diet could be incredibly detrimental to their long term health.

Using certain essential oils may also be a potentially deadly practice for you animals. There are many different varieties that are safe for humans but toxic to cats and dogs. These include oils like cinnamon, citrus, pine, and wintergreen. Herbal supplements like St. Johns Wort is also considered unsafe for pets.

Benefits of CAM for Pets

Many humans have tried CAM for themselves, and feel these methods could also provide help for their animals. The benefits of CAM for pets can be extensive, depending on the practice that is being used and what it is being used for.

Pet-Safe CAM Practices

Here is a comprehensive list of pet-safe CAM practices:


Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that has been practiced for over thousands of years. It involves the method of inserting tiny metal needles into certain areas of the skin, depending on what condition is being treated. The idea is that it supposedly works by stimulating certain points of the nervous system, and research is currently being conducted to explain its physiological benefits.

Veterinary acupuncture is quite popular, as it is considered a completely safe and alternative treatment for pets. It is often used for a multitude of conditions, including arthritis, respiratory issues, skin problems, as well as gastrointestinal upset.


Four-legged creatures can also suffer from back problems, and so they are also able to benefit from chiropractic methods. It has been shown to help with problems relating to movement, head position, tail position, and even behavioral problems that stem from chronic pain.

It’s important to research a well-qualified chiropractor that has a lot of experience dealing with animals, specifically for the problem that you are trying to help alleviate. In some cases, an inexperienced or poorly trained chiropractor can end up causing more damage, rather than helping.

Herbs and Botanicals

Using medicinal herbs and botanicals can be advantageous for certain conditions, as long as the pet owner is aware of what herbs and botanicals are safe and which ones can be potentially harmful to their pet. Botanicals that are safe include things like Basil, Parsley, Thyme, Sage, Ginger, and Cilantro. Others, like Dill, Rosemary, and Lavender are okay in smaller amounts.

It is good to avoid things like garlic, onions, shallots, chives, hops, and rhubarb for animals. Onions in particular contain N-propyl disulfide, which can cause anemia.

A lot of pet owners have also started using CBD dog tinctures that are geared towards animal consumption as well, because CBD has been shown to be a safe substance for dogs to consume.


Another alternative method of treatment for pets is hydrotherapy, which can be a helpful tool for humans as well as pets. It involves doing a series of physical movements underwater, which can help them recover from injuries in a more weightless environment.


There are few things more relaxing than a long massage, and it turns out that our pets love them too. According to some research, using massage for animal therapy can help alleviate issues with swelling, chronic pain, and can also be used effectively for palliative care.

While it is understandable that pet owners will do anything to ensure their pet’s well-being, it is always important to consult with a veterinarian before starting any type of medication or treatment, including CAM.

Owning a pet is a huge responsibility, and it is important to make sure we don’t inadvertently do more harm than good when trying to alleviate any medical conditions they suffer from. Just because something is safe and effective for humans does not mean it will be the same for a pet.

Dog giving another dog a massage