by Anna Maria Gardner MA Vet.MB MRCVS
This article is dedicated to Honey and Edelweiss who inspired me to write it
What is natural health care and what is it used for?
Many rabbit owners and lovers are not aware that natural care and holistic health treatments are available for their pet, and that it can be extremely effective in a variety of conditions. Rabbits have a rapid metabolism and respond well to treatment modalities such as acupuncture, homeopathy and flower remedies. The other benefit of using such therapies is that there are very few, if any side effects, unlike a lot of drugs such as antibiotics, which rabbits tend to be very sensitive to. Of course we can still use those conventional treatments if we need to, but they are often best reserved for serious and life-threatening situations. Even in such cases holistic treatments such as vitamins and homeopathic remedies can be used as a follow up therapy or as an adjunct to the conventional treatments, to speed up healing and help with such problems as shock and trauma. There are a number of homeopathic remedies and flower essences that are useful to keep at home to help in emergencies immediately before visiting the vet, or even to decrease fear and anxiety for regular veterinary visits. These can be used to calm your pet and give symptomatic relief and are invaluable aids to caring for your rabbit. Acupuncture can be used to treat an extensive list of ailments, but is particularly useful in orthopedic conditions. Homepathy also treats a lot of problems from infectious diseases to broken bones – after they are stabilized with either splints or surgery. The main common denominator of holistic care is that it treats the whole animal, it does not just remove symptoms which tend to come back in the same or different form, sometime in the future.
How can I find out about treating my rabbit naturally?
More and more people are turning to so-called alternative health care for themselves, and it can work equally well for their animals of all shapes and sizes and breeds. As such it is best termed complementary veterinary medicine in that it can be used together with or subsequent to conventional Western medicine and is also preventive too in that it keeps the immune system strong. Although a lot of the supplements which are used are readily available in the health food store it is still best to consult a licensed veterinarian about treating your pet, as it is still of paramount importance to have a correct diagnosis, and also have the correct dosage for the individual animal, this applies especially to herbs and certain vitamins. There are a growing number of veterinarians trained and certified in holistic treatments, most commonly acupuncture, homeopathy and chiropractic. If you are interested in keeping your rabbit as healthy as possible and free from disease it is well worth thinking about these different types of care. In addition many people do not realize that complementary medicine can even offer hope when conventional treatment has failed or is unable to offer any chance of a cure. Of course this depends on the individual animal and the disease or condition that is present, but at best a cure may be achieved or if not at least some form of relief or palliation may be available in addition or instead of the conventional drugs or surgery. Some telephone numbers are given at the end of the article to help you locate a holistic veterinarian in your area who you could talk to and see if they can help your rabbits, and some of them also do telephone consultations if there is no-one in your area to consult with directly.
What is homeopathy and how can it help my rabbit?
Homeopathy is a specific system of medicine that was developed in Germany by a certain Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in the late eighteenth century. The word is derived from the Greek words meaning similar suffering. Homeopathy is based on the concept that a substance that causes a symptom in a healthy patient will treat that same symptom in a sick patient. A single homeopathic remedy is usually used which treats the whole animal, including their mental, emotional and physical symptoms. Conventional or allopathic medicine tends to deal more with symptoms which are suppressed or removed by the use of drugs such as antibiotics or steroids. Of course in life threatening situations antibiotics and other specific drugs such as heart medicines are essential,. The difference is that homeopathy actually stimulates the body to heal itself, and strengthens the immune system, and leaves the body in a better state of health than before it was ill. Homeopathy can treat a surprising number of conditions. It is said that there are no incurable diseases, just incurable patients. Rabbits and other animals that are treated regularly with homeopathy are overall in much better health and live longer, because their immune system is continually being strengthened and challenged rather than merely weakened and suppressed.
What is acupuncture and how can it help my rabbit?
Acupuncture is a better known Eastern method of treatment which is becoming increasingly popular. It is based upon the concept that the body has energy lines, known as meridians, running through it. If the body is out of balance the energy lines are blocked or weakened and deficient in some way. Needles are carefully inserted at appropriate acupuncture points in order to rebalance or redirect this energy and thereby balance the body. Acupuncture points have been mapped over thousands of years by the Chinese mainly. Interestingly they have now been identified using modern scientific techniques and proven to exist. The effects of acupuncture include pain relief, an increased feeling of well-being, as well as a decrease in inflammation or an increased in blood flow, depending what the body needs and how the needles are used. Acupuncture treats conditions such as arthritis and nerve damage as well as other more general conditions such as liver or kidney failure. Additional benefits include longevity which refers to an increase in both the quality and quantity of life. Many rabbits treated with acupuncture live longer than average and enjoy increased energy and health. Acupuncture offers a viable alternative to the use of pain killers and steroids, as well as surgery and has few, if any side effects when used appropriately.
What are Flower Essences and how can they help rabbits?
Flower Essences and Remedies are similar to homeopathic remedies in that they are dilute extracts of various flowers. The most well known Flower Essences are the Bach Flower Remedies were developed in England by Dr. Edward Bach who spent his life researching and developing the thirty eight remedies he discovered. Basically these gentle essences work on the emotions of the body and all animals and people respond well to their use. They can be used to treat various emotional problems as well as modifying behavioral problems. Each of the thirty eight remedies has a particular emotional state that it treats. For example an essence called Holly is helpful for treating an aggressive rabbit that tends to fight with other rabbits. There are essences that help overcome fear or anxiety, that help in adjusting to new circumstances such as when a rabbit moves to a new home or there is a new addition to the family. The most well known and useful Essence is Rescue Remedy which is a combination of five of the Bach Flower Remedies and is an essential in a holistic first aid kit, which is discussed below. There are other Flower Essences from California, Australia and other places which are also very useful and are used to heal emotional problems in rabbits, other animals and people.
What natural remedies can I add to my rabbit first aid kit?
There are a couple of things that can be added to the first aid kit that any pet owner would find useful. The first of these is Rescue Remedy. This is invaluable any time there is shock, stress or trauma. It can be safely used before visiting the vet office or after any kind of injury. It will often revive animals that are in shock and help in their journey to the vet and subsequent recovery, though is obviously not a replacement for immediate veterinary care. It has definitely saved many animals and is totally safe. Basically four drops of the stock bottle are added to a one ounce glass dropper bottle of spring water and shaken up. It is best to make this up immediately before use as the mixture will not keep too long. For people alcohol is used as a preservative but I find in small animals like rabbits it is best to use plain spring water. Two or three drops of the mixture can be given into the mouth or onto the gums every five minutes until a response is seen. Rescue Remedy can also be given in the water during any time of stress and in this case it is best to use ten drops every time the water is changed. The other useful remedy is homeopathic and is known as Arnica, the potency can be 30 C or 6 C for first aid use. It is used for bruises and trauma to the body and helps healing after any kind of surgery or accident. It is available in pellets that can be dissolved in water and given by mouth. It works more on the physical body, while Rescue Remedy works more on the emotions. Both of these useful remedies are easily obtained at the health food store and are useful adjuncts to your first aid kit and a great way to discover the wonderful effects of holistic medicine.
Dr. Anna Maria Gardner is a holistic veterinarian, based in Washington State, and is certified in acupuncture and homeopathy. She lives in Washington with her daughter, two dogs, seven cats, sixteen chickens, two goats, a donkey, a horse, two ducks, a pair of geese and one bossy parrot.