Alternative medicines for the working animal (Proceedings)


Alternative medicines for the working animal (Proceedings)

Apr 01, 2008

Working Animals

One could argue that all our pets, all "pack and carry" animals, and all the meat and fiber-producing animals – in other words, all our domesticated animals – are "working" animals.

Even the couch potato pet has as part of its job the care and keeping of its humans – working to comfort and perhaps protect them and to help keep them healthy, active, and amused. In addition, many pet animals have been trained to perform specific tasks to aid and assist their humans in a variety of ways: assisting the handicapped; offering comfort to the aging and dying; and helping convalescing humans deal with their maladies are but a few examples. Finally, hunting and athletic animals are asked to extend their innate and unique capabilities for the enjoyment of their human handlers.

Mind/Body/Emotion/Spirit connection

While most of us think of work as a physical enterprise, to work well also requires a functional mind, stabile emotions, and the inner desire or spirit to perform the task at hand.

Fortunately, especially when we are dealing with dogs and horses, we have several centuries of developing the traits that make these animals assume their human-helping duties as a normal course of their day-to-day activities. On the other hand, the expectations we may place on our "helpers" often requires them to extend themselves beyond their innate capabilities, whether we are talking about physical, mental, emotional or spiritual capabilities.

Natural medicines may be helpful for helping prevent this over-extension syndrome. And when physical or mental stress causes breakdown, the natural medicines can offer a gentle, effective remedy that is relatively free from adverse side effects.


Alternative medicines that enhance physical health for the active/working animal include: acupuncture; chiropractic; massage; and physical therapy. For the competitive athlete, these may be the difference between the winner's circle and the also ran; they are often used to extend the time that the animal remains competitive; and they are used to assuage pain and help heal injury from overextension. In addition, some of these, acupuncture in particular, have been used to enhance production and reproduction in food and fiber animals.

Chiropractic and acupuncture, either separately or in combination, have become so popular as an effective way to ease pain and to enhance musculo-skeletal functionality, many athletes – human as well as animal – are treated routinely, perhaps once a week or a few days previous to every competition. (Note that some competition events do not allow acupuncture during the competition.)

Other alternative methods to enhance physical capabilities include: homeopathy, herbs, nutritional diets and supplements.

Examples of homeopathic remedies that may enhance physical capabilities, oftentimes by easing painful conditions, include:

  • Aconite: For symptoms with sudden onset. Can be used initially in a barn, herd, or kennel outbreak, to be followed by more specific remedies.
  • Arnica: For injuries – bruising, sprains, sore muscles, eye injuries, over-exertion. Also available in salves and ointments.
  • Byronia: Helpful for arthritis or rheumatism. Symptoms get worse with movement.
  • Conium maculatum: For trembling and weakness, especially of the aged animal and when the symptoms begin in the hind legs.
  • Hypericum: Reduces pain in open lacerated wounds and in injuries to areas that are rich in nerve supply.
  • Ledum: Used for treating puncture wounds.
  • Nux vomica: Primarily used to treat digestive conditions. Is a "clearing", and strong constitutional remedy.
  • Pulsatilla: Used especially for female conditions of all sorts.
  • Rhus tox: The "rusty gate" remedy – for painful arthritic conditions that "squeak" when the patient first moves, but improve with continued motion.
  • Ruta graveolens: A powerful remedy for sprains and dislocations. Symptoms get worse after rest.
  • Thuja: One of the remedies to use when toxicosis or adverse reactions to drugs or other substances is suspected.