The Old and the New:

From Chinese Medicine to Modern Day Supplements


The world of human medical supplements is vast and varied, and this holds true for pets as well. It can be overwhelming and confusing to choose among the many options available to keep our pets healthy. As a holistic veterinarian, my clients come to me for more natural solutions to help their pets’ conditions. Supplements can often be used with traditional treatments to increase the positive effects of western medicines or decrease their dosage.

While I would never attempt to explain all the choices in one article, I am going to highlight two kinds of treatments that I use frequently with good success. One category, Chinese Herbal Medicine, has been available for thousands of years. The other type is a newer group of veterinary supplements that help a variety of issues. More about those later.


Chinese herbs have been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for a very long time. Along with acupuncture, this treatment can be very effective for many conditions. Herbal formulas can be used for pain relief, kidney disease, liver disease, restlessness and anxiety, and many other ailments. An herbal formula is chosen very specifically for each individual patient based on their symptoms and even their personality.

For example, Kaylee is a Shiba Inu who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee. A ruptured ACL is a common injury in dogs, causing pain and lameness. Many of these animals need surgery, but some can recover with rest and pain control. Kaylee did well with conservative management for some time, but then she re-injured her knee. With this injury, the tear was bad enough to require surgery. She had surgery and returned to me for acupuncture and post-operative care.

Kaylee had been on an herbal formula before the surgery called Drynaria 12. After surgery the owners discontinued the formula, but I encouraged them to resume the herbs to help with healing. After restarting the formula, we saw a notable improvement in her recovery. Drynaria is very good for knee pain and healing, and I have avoided surgery (or decreased healing time after surgery) many times with this formula. It is a nice example of how the right formula can provide excellent results.

While I rely on some very old forms of treatment for my patients, I am also excited about some newer options. Supplements made especially for animals can improve joint health, alleviate pain, slow the progression of liver disease, aid digestion, and even relieve anxiety. Again, there are multitudes of choices, and I trust some brands more than others. It always pays to do your research.

Two types of supplements that I find to be very effective are probiotics and a chewable calming tablet called Composure Pro. Probiotics add “good bacteria” to the gut, which aids in digestion and keeps the whole digestive system in balance. They can be helpful any time, but work especially well after an animal has been treated with a course of antibiotics. Probiotics made for cats and dogs are definitely the best choice because their normal intestinal bacteria differ from humans. Older dogs with poorer digestion can benefit from probiotics as well, along with a balanced and easily digestible diet.

Another specific supplement I really like is Composure Pro, made by Vetri Science. It provides a natural way to calm an anxious dog and comes in a palatable chew. The active ingredients are L-tryptophan and L-theanine, both of which have calming effects. This chew is a good substitute for sedatives and stronger anti-anxiety medications. Many dogs and cats don’t need a powerful sedative to relieve their anxiety. Although this supplement doesn’t work in every case, it’s a good place to start, and both dogs and cats can take it. For animals that get nervous during storms, get upset when company visits, or tear up the house when left alone, Composure Pro is a nice option.

As a holistic veterinarian, I enjoy helping my clients make good treatment plans for their pets’ health. I advise having a conversation with your veterinarian to discuss the best supplement options before venturing onto the Internet to make a purchase. With so many choices, it’s important to make selections that are safe and effective. Human products are not designed with animals in mind, and they might not be effective. Make sure you are armed with good and reliable information.

We have some excellent choices for our animal patients. Some old medicines, like Chinese herbs, do stand the test of time. Our newer options are also exciting, and we learn more every day about helping our furry family members. Who knows what we will discover next!

Dr. Beth Hampton Jones is a veterinarian and acupuncturist in Asheville. You can reach her at 828-450-0851 or through her website at

Written by Beth Jones, DVM