Complementary Medicine: On the Rise

It’s no longer uncommon for owners to seek out additional avenues of horse care.

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Veterinary care takes many forms these days, with practitioners relying on both traditional Western approaches as well as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) strategies to alleviate patients’ pain and illness. When the former does not afford all the answers or allow veterinarians to achieve full treatment success, it is not uncommon that they or their clients seek the latter additional approaches.

A variety of nonconventional treatments are in use in the horse industry—the foremost among them being acupuncture and chiropractic. Others include herbal remedies, homeopathy, massage therapy, physiotherapy, and rehabilitation therapy. 

“Complementary and alternative medicine is becoming more integrated with Western treatment,” says Ed Boldt, DVM, owner of Performance Horse Complementary Medicine Services, in Ft. Collins, Colo. “More veterinarians are seeing the benefit in combining both modalities to help the horse. While some veterinarians don’t support CAM, that attitude is diminishing; in fact, there are now more veterinarians who practice strictly CAM than ever -before.” 

Since 1993, the 800 certified members of the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) have grown to the current roster of 1,800. This number doesn’t factor in the certified acupuncture practitioners who do not pay dues or remain listed members of IVAS, and it doesn’t include members (and certifeid nonmembers) of other CAM organizations. The actual number practicing is yet unknown; nonetheless, Boldt says he’s seeing a clear and significant upward trend in the number of veterinarians offering these services

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Written by:

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care. She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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