Increase Your Knowledge of Veterinary Care Research

It's sometimes said that there isn't a lot of research into the effectiveness of complementary therapies for animals. But this is increasingly wrong! Before I list 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 isn't 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.

You maybe surprised 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 and animals. And how few illnesses affect only 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's 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 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


Response to acupuncture treatment in horses with chronic laminitis (The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 2017)

Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera Extracts in Equine Clinical Practice (Veterinary Practice, 1996`)

Comparison of aloe vera and omeprazole in the treatment of equine gastric ulcer syndrome (Equine Veterinary Journal, 2017)

Effect of Aromatherapy on Equine Heart Rate Variability (Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 2018)

Bees - Honey
Honey with high Unique Manuka Factor heals wounds (University of Sydney, 2017)

Bees - Propolis
Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Propolis Compared with Honey on Second Intention Wound Healing in the Equine (Alexandria University, 2013)

Electroacupuncture as an additional treatment for headshaking in six horses (Equine Veterinary Education, 2017)


Functional Electrical Stimulation as a Safe and Effective Treatment for Equine Epaxial Muscle Spasms: Clinical Evaluations and Histochemical Morphometry of Mitochondria in Muscle Biopsies (European Journal of Translational Myology. 2015)

Gene Therapy
Gene Therapy Using Plasmid DNA Encoding Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor 164 and Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 Genes for the Treatment of Horse Tendinitis and Desmitis: Case Reports (University of Nottingham and Kazan Federal University, Moscow State Academy, 2017)

Herb - Devil's Claw
Pharmacokinetics of harpagoside in horses after intragastric administration of a Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) - (Axmann - 2019 - Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics - Wiley Online Library)


How swimming affects plasma insulin and glucose concentration in Thoroughbreds: A pilot study. (University of Pisa, 2017)

Osteoarthritis - Review of the role of aquatic therapy in managing equine osteoarthritis (Colorado State University, 2016)

Vertical Displacement of the Equine Pelvis When Trotting on an Aqua Treadmill (Equine Veterinary Journal, 2014)

Workload of horses on a water treadmill: effect of speed and water height on oxygen consumption and cardiorespiratory parameters (BMC Veterinary Research. 2017;13:360. doi:10.1186/s12917-017-1290-2)

Laser Therapy
An investigation into the depth of penetration of low level laser therapy through the equine tendon in vivo (Irish Veterinary Journal, 2007)

PENS Therapy
Headshaking - PENS treatment (University of Bristol, 2015)

Orthopedics - Effectiveness of Thermography (Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 2013)

Thermographic assessment of racing thoroughbreds (2001)

Local Back Pressure Caused by a Training Roller During Lunging With and Without a Pessoa Training Aid (Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 2018)


Muscle and Tendon Heating Rates with Therapeutic Ultrasound in Horses (University of Tennessee Equine Medical Centre, 2013)

Want some more career tips/advice?

Stacks Image 51