Research into Animal Healthcare

It is sometimes said that there isn't a lot of research into the effectiveness of complementary therapies for animals. Before listing some of the research into complementary healthcare for animals, it's important to provide some context to the history of veterinary science.

History of Veterinary Medicine

According to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the history of veterinary medicine goes back to 3000BC - so having specialists to care and treat animals is not a modern phenomenon. But it wasn't until the 1700's that the first veterinary medicine schools were established permanently, and in the 1840's the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons was established and the first registers of members created - so in the scheme of things, not that long ago.

For many it maybe surprising that the majority of vets in the earlier days of the veterinary profession only treated horses. This is because horses were really important to communities and societies as a whole. Horse power was how people survived and thrived, in the days before mechanisation and cars. So having veterinary surgeons to look after precious horses was vital. Advances in professional veterinary care for small animals didn't really happen until the 1930's, when the use of horses by communities declined. [Note - in many countries the equine (whether horse, donkey or mule) is still an animal vital to helping people work and live].

Over the last 60 years or so, there have been significant advances in medicine for both people and animals, and the 'pharmaceutical industry' has become a large and thriving sector. The "One Medicine" approach advocates the link between humans animals and how few illnesses affect one group, this has been considered for many years - “Between animal and human medicine there is no dividing line—nor should there be. The object is different but the experience obtained constitutes the basis of all medicine.” Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902) Read more with this book "Critical Needs for Research in Veterinary Science (2005).

It's both interesting and of note that many pharmaceutical drugs are in fact synthetic versions of herbal medicine - e.g. Asprin is derived from the Willow tree.

So - what does this mean? Well veterinary science is continually developing, particularly in the sphere of small animal medicine. Generally, research into medicine for both people and animals has increased over the past few decades, but there is still a lot that we don't know (and perhaps never will 100%?). It's important to consider whether a therapy or treatment is an "alternative" or is instead "complementary". Complementary means it will be used alongside other treatments, whereas alternative means that it is instead of. Given the complexities of the human and animal bodies, it surely makes sense to consider any treatments as being complementary and no one medicine or therapy is likely to be the only solution. What works for one person or animal may not (or will work) for another.

As ever, it's essential that rather than relying on internet research or the opinions of friends, family or colleagues, that you get professional Veterinary advice to diagnose and decide on the best treatment for your animal. There are an enormous number of Veterinary Surgeons who specialise in many aspects of holistic therapies too throughout the world.

What Research Is There?

Below you can find a list of links to veterinary research that maybe of interest to you or someone else you know who’s interested in animal health - so please share!
Horse in Field
Dog Sitting in Woodland


Aloe Vera
Comparison of Aloe Vera and Silver Sulfadiazine in the Treatment of Deep Second-Degree Burn in Dogs (2014)

Use of Aloe Vera in decreased clinical signs of canine distemper (1998)

Glucosamine and chondroitin use in canines for osteoarthritis: A review (University of Alberta and University of Manitoba, 2017)

Herb - Cranberry
Urinary tract infections - effect of cranberry extract (American Journal of Veterinary Research, 2016)


Homeopathy for atopic dermatitis in dogs (British Homeopathic Association, 2009)

Immunotherapy for cancer treatment (Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien, 2014)

Evidence for the use of post-operative physiotherapy after surgical repair of the cranial cruciate ligament in dogs (The Veterinary Nurse, 2014)

Rehabilitation Therapy
Supraspinatus Tendinopathy in 327 Dogs: A Retrospective Study (2016)


To help evaluate limbs (Veterinary Medicine, 2008)

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