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Holistic Treatment for People and Pets

by Midi Fairgrieve(more info)

listed in animals, originally published in issue 39 - April 1999

If ever there's something wrong with my dog that doesn't require urgent veterinary attention, I always opt for complementary treatment. The other day we were both at the chiropractor; Basil (the dog) had a sprained left shoulder and I had recently cricked my neck on the left side. "Can you see us together?" I asked, when making the appointment. The chiropractor in question is trained in McTimoney-Corley chiropractic and her practice embraces both people and animals, and so I booked a double appointment. He went first!

The author with her dog, Basil
The author with her dog, Basil

Types of treatment

Holistic treatment for pets is a fast growing area of complementary medicine and as more and more people use natural therapies for themselves they are also seeking it for their animals. By law only qualified veterinarians are permitted to treat animals. Many vets these days combine a wide range of complementary treatments with standard veterinary medicine or are willing to refer you to a natural therapist who works with animals. Some of the more popular treatments include acupuncture, homoeopathy, aromatherapy, chiropractic, healing and herbal medicine.

There are even veterinary centres in Britain which offer natural treatments and remedies as their primary medicine. For example, The Natural Medicine Veterinary Centre in Hertfordshire, run by the vet Richard Allport offers: acupuncture, Bach flower therapy, electro-crystal therapy, homoeopathy, healing, herbal medicine, aromatherapy, physiotherapy, massage, osteopathy and behaviour counselling. This growth in complementary medicine in the animal world is due partly to demand by pet owners for a more holistic practise of animal care and partly because vets themselves are finding that modern drugs and surgery are not the only answer.

When treating animals it is just as important to look at their disease/condition holistically, taking account of all the things that might be contributing towards their illness and looking at the mind-body-spirit connection. This may lead me to suggest permanent dietary and lifestyle changes, changes that may benefit the pet owner as well.

Natural treatments and remedies work just as well with animals as they do with people, and it's easy to forget that before modern medicine, people and animals looked to nature for a cure. People often learned which flowers, herbs and plants were safe to eat or those which had medicinal properties by watching animals. Many natural treatments and remedies on offer today have been around for thousands of years and animals have been treated by traditional methods for as long as people have. In China, acupuncture has been used on animals for over four thousand years, and modern-day vets in China study acupuncture and herbs as part of their training.

A good diet is the foundation of good health, and like us, animals need a healthy diet of freshly prepared foods. Just as the number of people suffering from chronic diseases such as arthritis, allergies, obesity, heart disease, cancer, skin problems and diabetes is on the increase, so is the number of pets suffering from similar problems. This increase in ill health goes hand in hand with the increase in processed and refined foods in the diet of both pets and people. In the case of your pet, some of the early warning signs of a poor quality diet are a dull or smelly coat, skin problems, scratching, excessive moulting, diarrhoea or constipation, smelly stools and weight problems.

Pets eating a natural, preservative-free diet rarely become ill because their bodies work better and are more able to resist disease. We all know that fresh food is good for our health, and that includes eating some of it raw. This goes for our pets too. Commercially prepared pet foods are more or less 'convenience foods for pets' and we would never think to feed ourselves or our children dried or tinned food for our entire lives. So why do it to your pets? Whether you have dogs or cats, rabbits or guinea pigs, if you wish to keep them healthy, feed them a diet of fresh ingredients, preferably raw.

Case studies

I was contacted by a lady whose seven year old boxer bitch had eczema. The condition was chronic and affected the dog's paws, face, neck and belly. Over the past seven years she had been given various ointments, tablets, injections and antibiotics by the vet, but the eczema never went away for long. The dog had also been diagnosed as having colitis. Within three weeks of changing to a natural preservative-free diet, the dog's skin had almost cleared up and her owner was delighted, vowing to keep up her dietary regime.

On another occasion a couple of children telephoned me to see what I could suggest for their ill pet rat. Apart from advising them to see their vet, in the first instance, I recommended fresh food. Some months later I ran into their mother and discovered that the rat was thriving on its new diet.

These are not cases of miracle cures. We can only be as healthy as the diet we eat, and that goes for our animals too. If you remove the influences which are causing ill health, an animal's body will naturally make efforts to return to a healthy state. Diet is something we can control in our pets' lives and a good diet can make the difference between health and illness. The positive effects can be astonishing, and your pet may be at last free of digestive problems, a smelly skin, arthritis, obesity, behavioural problems and allergies.

One manufacturer of high quality natural food supplements called The Missing Link for Cats and The Missing Link for Dogs found that because of the improved health in their pets, owners were asking "Why should my animal be healthier than me?". This resulted in a human formulation of The Missing Link being developed based on the same principles as the cat and dog versions.

When I began working with people using Nutritional Medicine I was already working with animals as a healer. Over time, I began to apply my knowledge of diet and nutrition to the animals who came to see me and I found that many dietary and other cures are similar for pets and people. For example, arthritis sufferers, be it people or their pets, will greatly benefit from dietary changes and food supplements. In the case of dogs and cats I would recommend changing to a natural preservative-free diet, cutting out all known allergens such as wheat, milk, cheese, red meats, processed foods, and include plenty of vegetables and fruit (not citrus), easily digested proteins such as fish, poultry, live yoghurt, eggs, tofu, and cooked whole grains, especially brown rice, and plenty of filtered water. Often a short fast will relieve painful arthritis. Other helpful additions to the diet include; fish oil, linseed oil, vitamin C, kelp, apple cider vinegar, a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral complex. This is just an example of how a therapeutic diet for a dog or cat would be based on similar principles to what I might recommend for a human patient.

People bring pets for healing, or is it the other way round!

I have so often experienced a pet owner bringing their animal for healing and on seeing the positive changes in their pet's health, have asked about having healing for themselves. On many occasions an animal will lie very close to their owner, and some of the healing energy also gets absorbed by the owner. After the healing session, owners often remark that they feel very peaceful and may ask about booking a healing appointment for themselves.

A few years ago a lady rang me to make an appointment for her dog. The dog had suffered from colitis for five years and every month or so it had a very painful spasm and she would take it to the vet for a cortisone injection. She was interested in complementary medicine and wondered if healing could help. The dog came for healing three times over the space of about two months and the colitis disappeared. As she began to see improvements in her pet's health, she asked if I also gave healing to people, and so began her own healing appointments. Over the following year her husband, whose hands were badly crippled with arthritis, also came for healing and finally, their 18 month old cat joined my patient list. This truly was a case of holistic healing for people and animals as the entire household was having healing. I did wonder at the time whether the dog had brought its owners, and by its own recovery had shown them the positive benefits of healing.

Pets share our emotions

Animals are sensitive creatures and often pick up on the 'vibes' around them. They absorb our negative emotions and may manifest disease as a result. Just as children will display behavioural difficulties when they are experiencing problems at home or at school, animals can be affected in the same way and this can lead to behavioural problems or physical disease. Often the whole household needs to take the same remedy as their pet! Sometimes pets sense that they can diffuse a difficult situation and become the focus of attention themselves, as if trying to heal the rift between their human companions. The human-animal bond is a close one, and pets are particularly vulnerable to absorbing their owners' moods and emotions, for example, we often stroke a dog or a cat when we are stressed or upset.

Dogs and cats can experience fear, despondency, loneliness and depression just as we do as well as picking up on our fears and frustrations. In this case they can benefit greatly from the flower essences which help to clear negative emotions and absorbed energies. Animals have always sought out plants and flowers in times of need and so the flower essences make a wonderful therapeutic tool for healing emotional problems. For example, the Bach flower essence, Honeysuckle is good for grief or homesickness, Star of Bethlehem is good for past or present trauma, recuperation after an operation or a stay at a cattery or kennel, Rescue remedy is invaluable in cases of accident or shock, and Walnut can help them adjust to change such as a new addition to the household or moving home. In many cases owners will benefit from taking the same remedy as their pet.

By their nature animals are highly sensitive and intuitive, therefore the vibrational/energetic treatments and remedies, like the flower essences, healing, acupuncture, essential oils and homoeopathy, suit them very well. Animals are really no different from human beings in the sense that disease often begins on the emotional or mental levels and these have to be addressed before there can be a complete cure. When treating animals yourself, be aware if you also need the same remedy since animals really do absorb human emotions and that may be the root cause of their illness. If you have been through a stressful situation like moving home you may also benefit from taking a remedy like the Rescue remedy along with your pet.

When choosing remedies for your pet's emotional needs, try to put yourself in their skin, so to speak. How would you feel if you were left alone for hours every day, if your companion pet died, if you are left in a cattery or kennels for weeks? It's a good way to grasp what emotions your pet may be having and makes choosing the right remedy easier.

Lifestyle counts

The holistic treatment of pets involves taking into account what is happening at home and what the relationship is like between animals and their owners. Sometimes an owner can be the cause of a pet's problem and therefore has to be part of the cure. This is always a difficult thing to address since it is easy to offend a pet owner who thinks they are doing the best for their animal. I often find that after a healing, pet owners have their own realisation as to why their animal is sick, misbehaving, etc. Recently I had two similar cases, both dogs who had a sore on one of their paws which wasn't healing. In each case their owner mentioned during the appointment that perhaps they weren't giving the dog enough attention, and it was often left alone for long periods of time. It's a gift when this happens as it allows me to open out the subject and take it further. If I can help the owners to understand their part in their pets' illnesses it is a wonderful breakthrough. In these cases I believe it was the combination of the healing and the owners' realisation of their dogs' needs that brought about the complete healing of their pets' paws.

It is important to look at a sick animal holistically since lifestyle factors may be at the root of the disease. Just like us, an animal can get depressed if they are bored and not having enough stimulation. Different breeds have lesser or greater needs for a 'job' to do. Working dogs like collies need to be active and it's something to consider when choosing the right pet for your household.

I often ask pet owners about their cat or dog's environment, how often do they get out, where do they sleep, what do they eat, how much attention do they get. Healthy people have fulfilling lives, and healthy animals need fulfilling lives too. They need their own space, regular grooming, a good diet, exercise, time for play, love and affection, a routine on which they can rely; all these things contribute to a healthy pet and a healthy pet owner.

I certainly believe that animals deserve the same access to natural treatments methods as we humans do and it is wonderful to see this field of animal medicine opening up. At home I have a small first aid kit, made up of natural remedies including flower essences, essential oils, herbal creams, homoeopathic tablets and tinctures. I use the same remedies on the dog as I do on myself and have come to realise over the years, working with both people and animals, that we can all gain benefits from natural medicine and often from the same treatments and remedies as our beloved animals.

Further information

The Missing Link range of supplements for Dogs, Cats, Horses and people is available mail order from: Savant Distribution Limited. Tel: 0113-230 1993


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About Midi Fairgrieve

Midi Fairgrieve DN Med DIridol Dip PCouns DThD Nutritional Therapist, (Member of the Federation of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners, Associate member, SRMHC) is originally from the Scottish Borders and in 1990 studied natural health and healing. She gained professional qualifications in Nutritional Medicine, Dietary Therapeutics and Iridology from the British School of Nutritional Medicine in London with Professor Lawrence Plaskett. Finding that complete healing needs a truly integrated approach she continued to train in other therapeutic arts, gaining qualifications in Progressive Counselling and Natural Spiritual Healing at the Self-Realization Meditation Healing Centre in Somerset, England.

Her experience of working with both cancer and infertility with specific detoxification regimes has given her great insights into the power of detoxification and inspired her to create a programme which is uniquely holistic in its approach. This was the inspiration for creating Detox International, where people could come and retrerat for a week, detoxify, nurture their bodies and minds and be supported to find better health and happiness. Midi’s personal experience of overcoming infertility using nutrition and detoxification has increased her passion for working with clients to regain the best of health. Midi has written for many magazines and health publications and is the author of The Natural Way for Dogs and Cats: natural treatments, diet and remedies for your pet.

Midi lives in Spain with her partner Steve and their son, Joe and may be contacted on Tel: 0845 1000247

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