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Complementary Therapy for Pets

Nov 30, 2022

There are numerous complementary therapy options for pets of all sizes. Many of these therapies can work well for rehabilitation or as an alternative to surgery, offering your pet a whole new lease on life. With proper veterinary guidance, complementary therapies can offer great results for most pets. Read on to learn more about complementary therapy for pets and whether your pet insurance will cover the cost.

What is complementary therapy?

Complementary or alternative therapy usually gets used interchangeably, but there is a stark difference between the two; complementary therapies are those used in conjunction with conventional medicine while alternative therapies are used in place of conventional medicine. Complementary therapy will have vet supervision throughout to ensure the therapy is working with a conventional medical treatment plan to get the best results for the pet.

Some complementary therapy options can be performed by a vet, such as acupuncture. Others will involve a vet-led team of techs who are fully trained and qualified to provide the therapy. Regardless of who completes the treatment though, a vet must recommend the treatment to a practitioner to be considered a complementary therapy rather than an alternative therapy.

Golden Retriever in a pool

Musculoskeletal therapy

There are four main types of musculoskeletal treatments: physiotherapy, osteopathy, hydrotherapy, and chiropractic treatment. These therapies do not need to be handled by a vet but instead utilise highly trained techs at a vet-led therapy centre. Your vet will decide which therapy options are right for your pet based on what the therapy entails and the benefits for each, including:


Physiotherapy is quite versatile with animals of all sizes reaping benefits from the procedure. Your tech will use a combination of exercise, heat, and massage, depending on the pet’s needs, to help them recover from injury or disease. The treatment focuses on joints and muscles. Physiotherapy can help reduce pain and stiffness in pets, allowing them to enjoy a full range of movement as well as improved quality of life. If an animal cannot come to the facility, a physiotherapist may be able to come to your home. This can be quite helpful for cats, anxious dogs, and pets of owners with limited mobility.


Although osteopathy has the same goals as physiotherapy (reducing pain and giving the animal a full range of movement), the two treatment plans use different methods to get there. Osteopaths focus much more on massage to manipulate the joints and muscles while a physiotherapist relies more on exercise and movement. They also will not focus strictly on one area. Instead, they focus on the pet’s entire body.


We’ll keep this short as hydrotherapy is a form of physiotherapy, but it’s important to note that this therapy takes place in a large tank of water. The pet may require a harness to help it stay in the water and align the body correctly. This therapy is commonly used for obese animals but also helps those with severe diseases and injuries that limit the ability to walk, if at all, outside of the tank. This should not be confused with a fitness swim which simply means your dog is swimming for exercise.


Chiropractic therapy is quite similar to both physiotherapy and osteopathy; however, treatment focuses exclusively on the spine. The chiropractor also most likely can work on humans as well but has taken extra training to include working on animals. Chiropractors can help with neck and back pain as well as muscle spasms, lameness, and osteoarthritis as long as it is connected to the spine. Although some may recommend exercises to help the animal heal faster, the actual treatment will consist primarily of manually manipulating bones and joints.


Acupuncture can only be provided by a vet. Just like with human acupuncture, Pet acupuncture consists of small needles being inserted in specific points to help alleviate health issues. Acupuncture may help with pain relief, arthritis, epilepsy, and even allergies; although, studies show this may be the owner thinking the treatment works rather than a marked change in the pet.

Other complementary therapies

In addition to the five complementary therapies listed above, the following are sometimes used as well:

Your vet will discuss your options with you on what complementary therapy options will work best for your pet.

Will my pet insurance cover complementary therapy?

Choosing complementary therapy for your pet is an excellent option. Although some insurance plans will not pay towards complementary therapy, Lifetime Pet Cover believes pets deserve the best care possible and proudly covers complementary treatments for your pet. We will pay you up to £1,000 for the cost of treatment to treat an illness or injury. These funds will be deducted from your annual coverage limit and will be reinstated at renewal.

No matter who your insurance provider is, it’s important that you read the terms and conditions regarding claiming for complementary therapy. For example, for a claim to be considered by Lifetime Pet Cover, the therapy must be recommended and prescribed by your vet and will need to be carried out by a qualified complementary therapist. For more information, please read pages 7, 10, and 11 of our policy wording with you can view by clicking here.