More People Turning to Acupuncture to Help Their Pets Heal

Apr 06, 2016
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

A couple years after Nora Devin of Manahawkin adopted Skye-Dog, she noticed the black-and-white Cardigan Welsh corgi was exhibiting tremors and having trouble walking. Although Devin suspected the canine was suffering from degenerative myelopathy, a neurological disorder that had caused her former corgi’s back legs to become paralyzed even after he received steroid treatment, she said her vet simply wanted to monitor Skye-Dog. That’s when she started taking the pooch to Dr. Catherine Dreskin of Ocean Acres Veterinary Office for acupuncture.

“From a pet-parent standpoint, I’m seeing a profound difference in what she can do,” Devin said of Skye-Dog, who has been receiving acupuncture for the past 1½ years after being diagnosed with DM. “I know the deal because I had a dog who had this before. I vowed never to do steroid treatment on a dog again because his face became distorted. It was awful. The other things that happen with steroid therapy are not worth it for me personally. So I was so relieved to find a vet for Skye who actually genuinely listened to what I had to say and didn’t just dismiss me.”

When she first came to Dreskin, Skye-Dog couldn’t climb up the stairs. Now the 9-year-old “zooms” up the steps and can walk a half a mile at the park, said Devin.

“What it’s done is just make her healthier and stronger regardless of what’s wrong. When I bring her home later, she’ll just be like la, la, la, and she’ll generally tremor less because of it.”

As more people become aware of the health benefits of acupuncture, many are seeking out the treatment for their beloved pets. The practice on animals is an adaptation of the traditional Chinese medicine that has been used to treat humans for thousands of years. Recent scientific evidence has proven acupuncture works by creating biological and chemical changes in the body.

Only veterinarians and their employees are qualified to perform any procedures on animals that offer a treatment or cure.

“You can treat your own pet, but other than that you have to be a licensed veterinarian. So people that are not veterinarians or are not employed by veterinarians should not be performing acupuncture, chiropracture or any other procedure,” said Richard Alampi, executive director of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association.

To be able to perform the modality on patients, Dreskin underwent training at the Chi Institute in Florida before she opened her local veterinary business 2½ years ago. Although she admits she was a bit uncertain about acupuncture at first, she said she really wanted to be able to help animals that have neurological conditions, which affect the brain or spinal cord, for which there are no modern medicine treatments.

“When you’re trained in medicine and you go to vet school, and I’m sure when you go to medical school, you have a certain mindset and you have a certain way of thinking,” Dreskin said. “When you think about something like this, it’s more esoteric. So even when I went to the Chi Institute, I was skeptical in my own mind. I wanted to believe it, but I had skeptical thoughts. Then I started doing it, and I was like ‘Wow, this really does work.’ I was truly amazed myself.”

While modern medicine focuses more on drugs to treat symptoms, Chinese medicine centers more on the entire body. Acupuncture stimulates points along the body’s nervous tracks called meridians. It’s thought to move energy, known as qi, which keeps the body from disease.

Dreskin also uses acupuncture to help animals suffering from arthritis or other painful conditions that can’t be alleviated with drugs.

“Really, acupuncture can be used to help most any health condition. I use modern medicine for a lot of things, and then I integrate that with this type of medicine,” Dreskin said. “The really good thing about acupuncture is, unlike modern medicine, there are no side effects. It can do no harm. If it works, great. If it doesn’t work for all animals, at least I tried and I did no harm in trying. All drugs have some kind of side effect.”

The first dog Dreskin ever treated with acupuncture had been to multiple veterinarians, was on various medications and couldn’t even stand. After performing three acupuncture treatments, the dog was able to start walking, Dreskin said.

Depending on the disease process, pets usually need at least four to five acupuncture treatments before any benefits are noticed. While most animals become relaxed enough to fall asleep during the procedure, Dreskin said some of the points elicit a response called deqi.

“It’s better to get a response because that tells us it’s working,” she stated.

Dreskin recently completed advanced training. She said more and more people are bringing their dogs or cats to her for acupuncture as well as herbal supplements, which she also provides.

Skye-Dog is seen every other week for acupuncture and takes daily herbal supplements, but she also receives vaccinations and other conventional treatments when necessary.

— Kelley Anne Essinger

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