(Photo courtesy: HempMy Pet)

Alternative medicine is making a splash in both human wellness and pet wellness. If you’re looking for healthy alternatives for your four-legged friends, then we have just what you need. Check out these alternative health options for both big and small fur friends in need of some TLC. 

Thinking about weaning your pets off traditional pain medication? Maybe it’s time to explore the benefits of herbs and acupuncture. Dr. LeeAnn Toolan, DVM and TCVM practitioner is a rare breed. She’s the founder of Longmont-based Animals in Balance where she makes house calls. Her extensive training started at Colorado State University veterinary school, then she received Chinese Medicine certification in all four branches – acupuncture, herbs, food therapy, and Tui-na, AKA Chinese therapeutic massage.

“When using alternative medication like herbs, alternative medicine takes longer to take effect, but with minimal side effects,” Toolan said. 

When comparing Western medicine, yes, it works faster, she said, but there’s a tradeoff
– side effects. Take acupuncture treatments, for example, they are spread out over several sessions, which requires patience. 

“Chinese medicine helps the body heal, and a lot of times it gets better. If it’s an acute injury it works faster, but if it has been going on for a year or longer it usually takes longer to see results.”

Dr. Lee Ann Toolan, founder of Longmont-based Animals in Balance.

Dr. LeeAnn Toolan, founder of Longmont-based Animals in Balance. (Photo: Jonathan Castner).

Except for surgical procedures, traditional Chinese vet medicine offers comprehensive treatments, similar to traditional Western vet medicine, Toolan said. Common ailments she treats include back pain, neck pain, arthritis, seizures, cancer, liver and heart disease. 

“For cancer, basically herbs are used to slow the growth rate of tumors. In Chinese medicine, herbs help animals live in harmony with the disease.”

When trying to estimate medical care costs for pets, it’s anyone’s guess what that final bill could look like. A good ballpark price for alternative care is likely to run about $200 for an initial exam. Always ask for prices ahead of time.

Healing hands 

Living an active lifestyle often comes with sore muscles and creaky joints – even in our beloved animal darlings. Tracy Vroom is the executive director at Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage which offers instruction at several Front Range locations including Longmont. 

Vroom teaches various techniques aimed at alleviating pain in both large and small animals.  Her specialties include canine and equine massage, plus craniosacral therapy, herbalism and animal communication.  

Vroom also travels cross-country applying her unique skillset to equestrian athletes with impressive resumes backed by sheer horsepower and showmanship.  Lameness is a common complaint among her horse buddies. Vroom treats an assortment of soft tissue ailments in horses. Depending on the pain, she uses craniosacral therapy, massage and acupressure to activate healing.

Canines can’t resist her either. That’s because many dogs work hard these days, from running agility courses to service animals on active duty. Plenty of poochies suffer from sore, stiff muscles. Plus, our everyday couch companions often experience age-related pain and inflammation. Thankfully, they respond well to Vroom’s healing hands. 

“Massage and acupressure help [dogs] regain mobility because if the muscles are healthy and have good circulation, massage and bodywork helps soften the muscles so they are more pliable,” Vroom said.

“I also teach bodywork to my clients. I teach the Tellington TTouch method for older dogs with painful joints.”

The technique is easy to learn. She encourages people to watch YouTube to learn more. TTouch works with felines  too. It can ease anxiety and socialize shelter cats who lack adoptable traits – from purring and playfulness to flaunting those anime eyes. 

For doggo, TTouch can correct behaviors like leash pulling and excessive barking, while deepening the pet-human connection. Vroom has helped difficult-to-adopt shelter dogs become irresistibly adoptable with her massage and energy work techniques.

CBD targets mental and physical ailments

Natalie Mondine, co-founder and COO of Longmont-based HempMy Pet uses her herbal medicine background to formulate hemp-infused products that provide our furry friends with ways to fight pain and discomfort. 

While the line of dog biscuits contains some CBD, from full- spectrum hemp seed oil, she said it’s not that much CBD. 

“Dog biscuits with CBD are dosed at 2 mg and 5 mg,” she said. Additionally, they offer two sizes  – small and large dog biscuits.

When your pooch needs a pick-me-up, she recommends adding a few drops of HempMy Pet CBD oil to the dog biscuit. 

Customers give CBD oil to dogs to ease general aches and pains or apply it topically for cuts and scrapes, Mondine said. Some customers apply it to their dog’s skin irritations like hot spots. 

The formula for horses provides 5,000 mg of full- spectrum hemp-infused oil per bottle. The formula is suspended in olive oil to eliminate the need for refrigeration.  Otherwise, CBD formulations should be refrigerated, she added.

“Our customers with horses use it for pain and inflammation in the legs and knees or anxiety in horses when getting in and out of the trailer for transport,” she said.

To help horses with cribbing, a biting behavior likely linked to stress, Mondine said some vets use CBD to help calm the horse, which has shown favorable results.

All the hemp oil used is sourced from the company’s farm, Mondine said. 

“Our products have no preservatives and we use certified organic carrier oils with cold-pressed oil that is locally sourced – coconut oil for dogs and olive oil for horses.”  

By Elise Oberliesen,
Longmont Magazine