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Are Essential Oils Safe for Dogs? Exploring Holistic Hospice Care and Alternative Therapies for Sick

Losing a beloved pet can be one of the most difficult things we ever have to face. When our furry friends become ill and are nearing the end of their lives, it can be heartbreaking to watch them struggle. While veterinary hospice care can provide relief for some of their symptoms, many pet owners are also turning to holistic approaches to enhance their pets' quality of life during their final days.


Acupuncture is an effective method of holistic medicine that can help animals in end-of-life situations. This ancient Chinese therapy involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow and promote healing. This helps alleviate pain and improve overall well-being. For terminally ill pets, acupuncture can help provide comfort and relief from pain, as well as reduce anxiety and improve their appetite. It is important to note this can only be performed by a qualified veterinary surgeon. Multiple sessions of acupuncture are needed to provide benefits to your pet.


Hydrotherapy, an effective and gentle therapeutic approach, harnesses the restorative properties of water to improve your pet's health and mobility. By utilising buoyancy, resistance, and hydrostatic pressure, this treatment offers a low-impact exercise option that can alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance muscle strength and flexibility. This aquatic therapy is particularly beneficial for pets recovering from surgery, managing chronic conditions like arthritis, or facing mobility challenges due to ageing or illness. Multiple sessions allow your pet to reap the true benefits of this therapy. Conducted under the guidance of a trained professional, hydrotherapy sessions provide a safe and supportive environment in which your pet can comfortably build stamina, restore function, and enjoy improved overall well-being. With hydrotherapy, you can empower your cherished companion to overcome their physical limitations and lead a more active, fulfilling life.


Physiotherapy, a well-established therapeutic approach, plays a vital role in enhancing the physical health and mobility of pets, particularly those facing challenging medical conditions. By employing a combination of targeted exercises, manual therapies, and specialised equipment, physiotherapy can significantly improve your pet's strength, flexibility, and overall quality of life. With physiotherapy, you may be given techniques to implement at home. This comprehensive treatment not only alleviates pain and discomfort but also supports your pet's recovery and adaptation to its changing physical abilities. Furthermore, physiotherapy encourages mental well-being by reducing stress and anxiety associated with limited mobility or chronic pain. With the guidance of a certified animal physiotherapist, you can provide your cherished pet with the essential support they need to navigate their health journey with confidence and resilience.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can help ease tension and promote relaxation in pets. This type of therapy can be especially beneficial for terminally ill pets who may be experiencing discomfort or pain. A cat or dog massage can help stimulate circulation, encourage the release of endorphins, and improve overall well-being. It can also provide a comforting touch that helps to strengthen the bond between pet and owner, especially because techniques can be taught to you which can be applied at home.


Aromatherapy is another alternative therapy option that can help relieve pain, insomnia, and anxiety in terminally ill pets. The use of essential oils can provide a calming atmosphere for your pet during their final days. However, it's important to note not all essential oils are safe for pets and they should definitely not be left near your pets. We would not advise using essential oils for cats but a vet can advise you on essential oils safe for dogs. Also, it's important to consult with a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about aromatherapy before using them.

Essential oils you may want to consider for dogs are:

  • Lavender oil

  • Rosemary

  • Chamomile

  • Ginger

Chiropractic care

Chiropractic care focuses on maintaining the health and alignment of your pet's musculoskeletal system, particularly the spine. By utilising gentle, precise adjustments, chiropractic treatment can help to alleviate pain, discomfort, and mobility issues often experienced by pets with various medical conditions. This non-invasive therapy not only promotes optimal nervous system function but also enhances the overall well-being and quality of life of your beloved pet. Chiropractic care can be particularly beneficial in addressing conditions such as arthritis, intervertebral disc disease, and post-surgical recovery, among others. By partnering with a skilled animal chiropractor, you can provide your pet with the comprehensive care they need to thrive and navigate their health challenges with greater comfort and ease.

It is important to be aware there is limited research on chiropractic care in pets but if you think this may help your pet - go for it!


Osteopathy can provide pain and inflammation relief by working on the musculoskeletal system, improving joint mobility, and relieving muscle tension. It can also provide improved mobility to your pet. Gentle manipulation and stretching can help enhance your pet's mobility, allowing them to move more comfortably despite their illness. Osteopathy can reduce stress by helping pets relax by reducing muscle tension and promoting a sense of calm, which can be particularly beneficial for animals dealing with the stress of a terminal illness. Lastly, by supporting the body's natural healing processes, osteopathy may help boost the immune system, potentially improving your pet's ability to fight off infections. It's essential to consult with a veterinarian who has experience in osteopathic techniques for animals or a certified animal osteopath.

It is worth noting there is limited research on osteopathy in pets. Don't let this put you off from trying and engaging in the approach alongside other therapies though.

Dietary Supplements

Optimal nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting your pet's health and well-being, especially when they are facing a terminal illness. A cat or dog supplement might just be the immune boost your pet needs! Including dietary supplements such as Omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, probiotics, turmeric, and SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) can provide essential support for your pet's immune system, reduce inflammation, and enhance their overall health.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, have anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate joint pain and discomfort. Omega-3 may be a good arthritis supplement for your pet.

Glucosamine is a popular supplement that supports joint health and mobility, making it particularly beneficial for pets with arthritis or other degenerative joint conditions. It should be noted that this supplement is not for every pet and is not guaranteed to help your pet.

Probiotics for dogs and cats can help improve your pet's digestion and immune function. A strong immune system is vital for terminally ill pets to maintain the strength and energy needed to fight off infections and complications.

Turmeric, a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, can provide additional support for pets experiencing pain and inflammation. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has been shown to reduce inflammation, promote healthy digestion, and support liver function.

SAMe is an antioxidant and supplement that supports liver health and cognitive function in pets. It may be especially beneficial for pets with liver disease or cognitive decline due to ageing or illness. Milk thistle is a herbal remedy which is known for its liver-protective properties, which can aid in detoxification and support healthy liver function.

Medicinal mushrooms, such as Reishi, Shiitake, and Turkey Tail, contain antioxidants and beta-glucans that may help boost your pet's immune response, potentially reducing the risk of illness.

When considering dietary supplements for your terminally ill pet, it's essential to consult with your veterinarian. They can recommend an appropriate regimen tailored to your pet's specific needs and ensure any supplements are compatible with other treatments your pet may be receiving.


Reiki, a traditional Japanese healing technique, focuses on channelling energy through the hands to promote healing and restore balance within the body. This gentle, non-invasive therapy can offer numerous benefits for your pet, particularly during their final days. By reducing pain and discomfort, Reiki can enhance your pet's overall comfort and well-being. Moreover, the calming nature of this healing practice provides emotional support, helping to alleviate the stress and anxiety often experienced by pets facing terminal illnesses. Through Reiki, you can create a soothing environment that fosters a sense of peace and serenity for your beloved companion in their time of need.

It's crucial to recognise that research on reiki is limited. However, if you believe it could benefit your pet, feel free to give it a try!

When it comes to caring for our pets, we always want to do what's best for them, especially in their final days. Holistic approaches to hospice care can help improve your pet's quality of life, relieve pain and discomfort, and provide a sense of comfort in their final moments. Remember every pet is unique, and it's essential to work with a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about these alternative therapies before integrating them into your pet's end-of-life care plan.

As with any medical treatment, always monitor your pet's response to the care and communicate any concerns with your pet's healthcare team.

Thinking of hospice care for your pet? We offer telehealth appointments to anyone in the UK to help you make the environment for your pet suitable for their needs at the end of their life. Just call us on 0800 0495944 to find out more.

Does your pet have dementia? Check out our blog here on supplements recommended for pets with dementia.

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