How Animal Holistic Practitioners Can Make a Difference

How Animal Holistic Health Practitioners Can Make a Difference in Animal Welfare

By Siun Griffin, Veterinary Physiotherapist and LCAO Community Manager 

Animal holistic health practitioners, including osteopaths, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, and other complementary therapists, possess unique skills that can significantly enhance the well-being of animals. 

Specialised knowledge in alternative therapies can be a powerful asset in the realm of animal welfare, particularly in supporting animals that have been rescued from neglect, abuse, or abandonment.

The Role of Holistic Health in Animal Welfare

Holistic health focuses on treating the whole being - physically, emotionally, and mentally - rather than just addressing specific symptoms. This comprehensive approach is particularly beneficial for animals in rescue and rehabilitation settings, where the challenges they face are often multifaceted.

Key Areas Where Holistic Health Practitioners Can Help

1. Physical Rehabilitation and Pain Management

Animals rescued from adverse conditions often suffer from injuries, chronic pain, or musculoskeletal issues. Animal osteopaths and physiotherapists can provide targeted treatments that promote healing and relieve pain. 

Techniques such as joint mobilizations, soft tissue massage, and tailored exercise programs can significantly improve an animal’s mobility and comfort, enhancing their quality of life and increasing their adaptability.

2. Stress and Anxiety Reduction

Many rescued animals experience high levels of stress and anxiety due to their past traumas. Holistic practitioners can offer therapies such as acupuncture, Reiki, and aromatherapy, which have been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation. (3) (4) These treatments can help animals feel more at ease in their new environments, facilitating better socialisation and behaviour.

For example, Reiki has been demonstrated to reduce stress and heal stress-induced cellular damage in animals, such as rats. Research has found that Reiki significantly decreases heart rate in stressed rats and helps repair damaged blood vessels caused by a stressful environment (1). Similarly, aromatherapy with essential oils like lavender and chamomile can provide a calming effect by influencing the brain's emotional centres through the olfactory system (2). 

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/stressed-out-aromatherapy-can-help-you-to-feel-calmer

3. Nutritional and Herbal Support

Nutrition plays a crucial role in overall health and recovery. Holistic health practitioners with expertise in animal nutrition can develop dietary plans that address specific health issues and support overall wellness. Additionally, herbal remedies can be used to enhance immune function, support detoxification, and address specific health concerns naturally.

4. Behavioral Improvement and Training Support

Holistic approaches often include behavioural modification techniques that can help address issues such as fear, aggression, or anxiety. By working alongside animal behaviourists and trainers, holistic health practitioners can contribute to comprehensive behaviour modification plans that consider the animal’s physical and emotional well-being.

Volunteering and Community Involvement

Holistic approaches are beneficial not only in clinical settings but also in volunteer work, where practitioners can make a substantial impact on animal welfare. This involvement not only aids animals in need but also fosters community engagement and professional growth.

Here are some ways they can get involved:

1. Providing Pro Bono Treatments

Offering free or reduced-cost treatments to rescue animals can directly improve their health and increase their chances of adoption. Regular volunteer hours at shelters can help practitioners build relationships with animals and staff, creating a supportive network for ongoing care.

2. Educating Shelter Staff and Volunteers

Conducting workshops and training sessions for shelter staff and volunteers can empower them with the knowledge to provide basic holistic care techniques. This education can include massage, stress reduction methods, and nutritional advice, ensuring that animals receive consistent and informed care.

3. Supporting Adoption Events

Participating in adoption events and providing on-site consultations or mini-treatments can showcase the benefits of holistic health to potential adopters. Educating the public about holistic approaches can also raise awareness and appreciation for these methods, encouraging more holistic care for pets at home.

4. Community Outreach and Awareness

Engaging in community outreach initiatives, such as school presentations, public seminars, and collaborations with local veterinarians, can spread the word about the importance of holistic animal health. This outreach can inspire more people to support rescue efforts and consider holistic treatments for their pets.

Volunteer Roles and Their Impact

1. Animal Rescues and Shelters

Volunteering at animal rescues and shelters allows practitioners to provide essential rehabilitative care to injured or traumatised animals. 

2. Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers

Many wildlife rehabilitation centres benefit from the expertise of holistic health practitioners. These professionals can aid in the recovery of injured wildlife through non-invasive treatments that promote natural healing processes. This not only helps in the physical recovery of the animals but also prepares them for a successful return to their natural habitats.

3. Educational Outreach Programs

Holistic health practitioners can participate in educational outreach programs to raise awareness about the benefits of holistic treatments for animals. By conducting workshops and seminars, they can educate pet owners, veterinary students, and fellow professionals about the advantages of integrative therapies like acupuncture and physiotherapy in animal care.

4. Community Veterinary Clinics

Volunteering at community veterinary clinics, particularly those serving low-income areas, allows practitioners to offer their services to animals that might not otherwise have access to specialised care. This ensures that more animals receive the necessary treatments to improve their quality of life.

Benefits to Practitioners

1. Professional Development

Volunteering provides practitioners with opportunities to expand their skills and knowledge. Working with a diverse range of animal species and conditions can enhance their clinical expertise and adaptability.

2. Networking

Engaging in volunteer work helps practitioners build a network of contacts within the animal care community. This can lead to collaborations, referrals, and opportunities for further professional development.

3. Personal Fulfilment

The act of volunteering itself can be immensely rewarding. Knowing that their skills are making a tangible difference in the lives of animals can provide practitioners with a deep sense of satisfaction and purpose.

Success Stories and Case Studies

Sharing success stories and case studies of animals that have benefited from holistic care can be a powerful tool for demonstrating the effectiveness of these methods. Highlighting real-life examples of animals that have recovered from injuries, overcome behavioural issues, or thrived after holistic interventions can inspire others to support and utilise holistic health practices.

Final Thoughts

Animal holistic health practitioners have the potential to make a profound difference in animal welfare. By addressing the physical, emotional, and mental needs of rescued animals, they can facilitate comprehensive healing and well-being. 

Whether through direct treatment, education, or community involvement, holistic practitioners can play a vital role in enhancing the lives of animals in need. By integrating their unique skills into the animal rescue and rehabilitation process, they contribute to a more humane and compassionate world for all creatures.

Resources

  1. Reiki, the Scientific Evidence, Ann Linda Baldwin, PhD http://.reiki.org/articles/reiki-scientific-evidence
  2. Can You Reduce Stress With Aromatherapy?  https://health.clevelandclinic.org/stressed-out-aromatherapy-can-help-you-to-feel-calmer 
  3. Evidence-Based Application of Acupuncture for Pain Management in Companion Animal Medicine  https://www.mdpi.com/2306-7381/9/6/252
  4.  Effectiveness of Aqua-acupuncture for Reducing Stress of Canine Patients in Veterinary Clinics,  Heidi Mier DVM, MS-TCVM https://ajtcvm.org/downloads/effectiveness-of-aqua-acupuncture-for-reducing-stress-of-canine-patients-in-veterinary-clinics/
  5. Animal Acupuncture for Treating Anxiety and Stress, https://rehabvet.com/blog/animal-acupuncture-anxiety-stress/

Blog Post written by:
By Siun Griffin
Animal Physiotherapist and Community Manager at London College of Animal Osteopathy (LCAO).