WELLBEING: Natural Therapies for Pets – Do They Work?

Dog in Field

When it comes to natural therapies, there are plenty of sceptics. For one, it’s positive effects can’t always be explained and where there’s no proof, there’s non-beleivers. Despite this, the growth in the natural health industry has been exponential in recent years, with plenty of people turning to herbs, homeopathy and acupuncture to help where traditional medicine has fallen short.

The trend for natural hasn’t escaped our beloved pets either. Although still considered to be mysterious and ‘voodoo-like’ by the medical veterinary fraternity, a number of vets are now offering holistic treatments in addition to traditional medicine with some astounding results. To make sense of it all, StyleTails spoke to Richard Allport, a pioneering holistic Vet who has been treating pets naturally from his practice, The Natural Medicine Centre for over 15 years.

What originally sparked your interest in natural therapies for pets?

I trained as a vet in 1973 and had been happily treating pets for about 10 years with traditional medical methods, but I started to realise that conventional pharamceutical medications din’t have all the answers. There was still plenty of illnesses that we couldn’t treat properly with traditional medicine, and even worse, there was often some damaging side effects.

What did your peers think when decided to move into holistic therapy? 

They thought I was mad and plenty of them still do.

Do you think the traditional veterinary fraternity is anti-natural therapies?

I think a lot are now embracing it within their pracitices and offering both traditional and holistic therapies. There are of course plenty that don’t support it, simply because they don’t understand it and they haven’t seen the results.

What sort of pet owners are interested in natural therapies? 

I see two kinds – those who take a natural approach to their own health and are very aware of the benefits of holistic treatments, and secondly, those who have tried everything else to treat their pet and have come to the last resort.

Can you explain how homeopathy works or is it a mystery?

No one really knows how homeopathy works but we see that it does. It’s often thought that it has a placebo effect in humans but we can rule that out when it comes to pets because it would be impossible for for them to know they’re being treated. Most owners who treat their pets with homeopathy are comfortable not knowing how it works as long as it’s safe and it does work.

Would you say you’re against traditional pharmaceuticals? 

No, traditional medicine certainly still has it’s place, however like all traditional medicine,  it tends to be used to treat the symptoms of the illness rather than the cause. The aim with holistic treatment is not only to treat the illness but to keep pets healthy long-term. In this sense, we should always work with the belief that prevention is better than cure. I also think there are certain medicines which are being over-used, like anti-biotics for example. The downside of this is that just like people, pets are becoming resistant to the medication.

What are some of the most common problems you treat with holistic therapies? 

There are a range of illnesses which are are becoming more common that do tend to respond well to natural therapy. Chronic skin problems can be treated well, as can chronic arthritis which responds well to herbal remedies and acupuncture. Even diseases as serious as cancer can be slowed down and helped with certain holistic treatments.

What is the most dramatic success you’ve seen with natural therapies? 

We treated large young Bull Mastiff who was suffering with a condition called Wobbler disease. It’s a spinal problem which is more common in larger breeds and it was getting progressively worse in this particular dog. The owner had spent £12,000 on an operation but the dog was no better off. We did three sessions of acupuncture as well as some homeopathic treatment and he was walking normally, and is still going strong today.

There’s currently a lot of debate on raw vs dry food diet. What do you recommend?

Dogs are carnivores so they’re not really meant to be eating massive amounts of carbohydrates which are found in most dry foods. I’m sure that a lot of current problems with obesity in pets can be put down to dry kibble, which is in principle is the least close to a dogs natural diet. I feed my dogs on the raw meaty bones diet which I think makes evolutionary sense.

What advice would you give to people who are thinking about natural therapy for their pet?

Do your research and read up on what’s available. There’s still not enough vets offering natural therapies but you should be able to find one to see you and your pet to discuss your pet’s health and provide you with some good guidance on giving them a long and healthy life.

You can get Richard’s book, Heal Your Dog the Natural Way now from Amazon.

Richard treats pets from his Potters Bar practice, The Natural Medicine Centre and sees his London clients one day a week in Bayswater.

Has your pet been treated with natural therapies?


Sara is the Founder & Editor of StyleTails. A writer, design-lover and long-time animal-hugger, Sara launched StyleTails in 2012 to inspire people live a more beautiful life with their four-legged friends. Along with her canine sidekick George, a rescue Yorkie with a big attitude, Sara regularly commentates on luxury pet product and lifestyle trends and has been featured in Elle Decoration, BBC Radio, and is also an expert contributor to WGSN, the leading design trend forecaster.

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