Lisa Koncsik's 10-year-old American Staffordshire terrier loves to run ahead of her when they're enjoying uphill hikes. But when Muay Thai decides to walk alongside her owner instead, Koncsik knows it's time for a visit to the chiropractor.
"The chiropractor adjusts her, and you can just see the skip back in her step," Koncsik says. "It made a really big difference. We become very attached to our animals, and you want to do the best that you can for them. So if I can make my dog comfortable by taking her to the chiropractor, then that's what I'll do."
And chiropractic isn't the only alternative method Koncsik uses for Muay Thai and her two other dogs, a 15-year-old American bulldog and a 21-month-old pitbull/Boston terrier cross. She also uses herbal remedies, massage therapy, homeopathy, supplementation and diet to treat her pets―and has seen them thrive.
Koncsik certainly isn't the only one turning to a more natural way of healing for her furry friends. A growing number of pet owners, who live healthy lives themselves, wish to extend that lifestyle to their pets. Many people are also displeased with the conventional veterinary system.
"Unfortunately, we're often called out as a last resort, when owners are quite frustrated having been through months or years of using conventional drugs for their pets," says Dr. Sheryl Bourque, owner of Harmony Veterinary Home Care (www.harmonyvet.ca), a holistic house call practice. "They're unhappy with continually going into the vet and coming out with repeat prescriptions and processed commercial diets to treat a condition or symptom, but not really getting good results."
Koncsik also says that with the abundance of information available, pet owners are discovering additional choices.
"I think people are just becoming more educated, with the internet and talking and learning more things," she says. "We just realize there's another way to do it. You don't have to do exactly what the doctor says."
Like holistic health care for humans, holistic animal care takes more than symptoms into account―it examines what is affecting the entire animal.
"We recognize that health cannot be independent of lifestyle, environment and diet, so we have based our focus on a deeper understanding of an animal's well-being," Dr. Bourque explains. "It's more of a whole animal approach, where we look at the mind, the body and the spirit. In our effort to encourage natural healing, that has to be brought into account."
Dr. Bourque has treated patients with a variety of conditions including digestive issues, skin problems, allergies, bladder conditions and cancer. One dog that was given eight months to live is still going strong after more than a year as a result of treatments from Harmony Veterinary Home Care.
In addition to natural therapies, Dr. Bourque uses diagnostics like ultrasounds and blood work, and provides referrals for acupuncture, physiotherapy and chiropractics as needed.
"The less invasive approach is, by far, what people want," she says. "Our feeling is that whatever conventional medicine can treat, we can do just as well, in fact better, going in a more natural way."
Sondi Bruner is a Vancouver-based freelance journalist and holistic nutrition student. Find out more about her writing services at www.sondibruner.com, and explore vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free recipes on her food blog, The Copycat Cook (www.thecopycatcook.wordpress.com).