For the past year, Sharon Cerken has been taking her dog Dewey to the Drake Center in Encinitas for acupuncture.
“It’s totally changed who Dewey is as a dog,” Cerken said. “I feel like she’s got her puppiness back.”
Nine-year-old Dewey is being treated for hip dysplasia. Not only has acupuncture kept her pain at bay, she contends, but it also has kept her off the pain medications that were elevating her liver enzyme levels.
The procedure is relatively painless. In fact, veterinarian Amanda Moore said many dogs come in excited for the treatment.
“Dewey does so well with it; she is so tolerant of the needles, she doesn’t act like anything hurts at all,” Moore said.
Licensed acupuncturists can provide nonhumans with acupuncture only under the supervision of a vet, according to Al Stone of Santa Monica, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and founder of acupuncture.com and gancao.net, a Chinese medicine site.
“Or a vet can do what they need to do to add this modality to their scope of practice,” Stone said. “I have needled friends’ dogs and do agree that the dogs seem to like it.”
A U.S. professional society is devoted to veterinary acupuncture, in fact.
Basically any animal can get acupuncture for a variety of health reasons, says veterinarian Kathy Boehme.
“It’s just a balancing of the body, so it can be used in any disharmony in the body. Any disease in the body can benefit from acupuncture,” Boehme said.
Stone says the “balance” explanation is tailored for consumers, “but there are numerous studies that also describe scientifically defined mechanisms such as the secretion of endorphins (the body’s own pain-relieving narcotics) as well as other neurological mechanisms that have been proven in study after study.”
During a treatment, needles will stay in the animal’s body anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. If no improvement is seen after four to six acupuncture treatments, then the sessions are discontinued, Boehme said.
“If we are seeing improvement, then we space them out and go as long as we can go in between treatments to keep things in balance,” she added.
Initial acupuncture consultations at the Drake Center for Veterinary Care is about $90. Electro-acupuncture costs around $80 and regular acupuncture is around $70. Appointments are usually 30-40 minutes.
Animals also can benefit from Chinese herbal medicines, which “speak the same language” as acupuncture, Stone said.
“While not all herbal approaches are safe for animals,” he said, “there are many that veterinarians have begun to use for common conditions such as feline urinary problems (Polyporus Combination or Zhu Ling Tang) and canine arthritis (Coix Combination or Yi Yi Ren Tang).”
Patch associate regional editor Ken Stone contributed to this report; Al Stone is his younger brother.
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