Veterinary Acupuncture Atlanta GA
Veterinarian Treatments to Include Acupuncture
James Leonard carefully looks over the patient on his examining-room table before applying a laser light to a front leg.
The Blissfield veterinarian holds the laser in place for about 10 seconds each time in several different areas. Josie, a 3-year-old Australian blue heeler — that’s another name for an Australian cattle dog — stands quietly on the table as her owners, Gary and Stacey Derby of Morenci, look on.
Josie, who is deaf, had a right shoulder injury last October when she got bumped by a vehicle she couldn’t hear coming. A would on her leg would not heal.
Her veterinarian, Dr. Nancy Kelly, suggested either chiropractic treatments, a neurologist or acupuncture. After the first two were unsuccessful, the Derbys and Josie came to Leonard, owner of Blissfield Veterinary Service, who offers acupuncture as part of his practice.
The neurologist didn’t give Josie much of a chance of improving because there was no surgery to be done for her pinched nerve, Gary Derby says, so Leonard “was our last stop. We didn’t know what to do for her.”
Leonard is one of 27 veterinarians in Michigan who is either certified or soon to be certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Association. He earned his certification in 2002.
“I was flipping through one of my (veterinary) journals one day and I saw the course advertised,” he says. “I thought it would make me a better lameness diagnostician for horses. But it turns out that I do more small animals than horses.”
Acupuncture is used in animals to treat a range of conditions, including musculoskeletal issues, nervous system problems, epilepsy, skin trouble, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal issues, and some reproductive problems.
The frequency of the treatments and the duration of each session depends on the problem. While Leonard won’t change any medications the referring veterinarian has prescribed, it is possible that the need for certain medications, like steroids or pain medicine, can be reduced.
And the longtime veterinarian can attest to acupuncture’s efficacy.
“Fifteen years ago, I would’ve called myself a quack” for believing in acupuncture, he says. “But I’ve seen some amazing things.”
There’s the story of the dying puppy he resuscitated as it was taking what would have been its last breaths by using an acupuncture needle at a specific point under its nose into the lip.
“As far as I’m concerned, that was a miracle,” he says.
And then there’s the Doberman with a musculoskeletal problem that left its hind legs wobbly: “Now he’s catching Frisbees.”
The Derbys certainly swear by acupuncture’s effectiveness.
“After the first treatment, we already started to see hair growing” at the site of the wound on Josie’s leg, Stacey Derby says.
And after just a couple of treatments, that stubborn wound that wasn’t healing before wasn't even visible.
Josie’s treatment doesn’t involve what’s usually thought of as acupuncture, because in her case no needles are used.
The laser Leonard employs is called low-energy photon therapy, which works the same way as an acupuncture needle by stimulating selected points. The usage is more limited than with needles because the laser won’t go as deeply into the tissue. He’s used needles on Josie before, but finds the laser is much less stressful for her.
After Josie finishes the day’s treatment, Stacey Derby lowers her gently to the floor. Gary Derby gives a hand signal — they’ve developed a whole “language” of signals for Josie because of her deafness — to indicate it is time to go. But before they leave, Stacey Derby turns to Leonard.
“We tell everybody about you,” she says.
“Well, thank you,” he replies.
Acupuncture is far from the only alternative medicine used on animals. Everything from herbal medicine to chiropractic care has found its way into the world of veterinary medicine. And physical therapy is widely used to treat animals for many of the same reasons it’s used to treat people.
Heritage Animal Hospital in Dundee only treats dogs, although it’s certainly not unheard of for physical therapy to be done, at other facilities, on animals as large as horses.
Shan Bogedain, the practice’s office manager and an outpatient technician, says their physical therapy is often tied to rehabilitation from orthopedic surgery. For example, a dog who’s had surgery for a torn cruciate ligament might have a short series of sessions plus a prescribed set of at-home work.
Pets must be referred by their own vet and will undergo a physical exam before a consultation is done with the rehabilitation technician.
Each dog gets an individualized course of therapy, the type and duration of which depends of course on the nature of the problem. Treatments range from range-of-motion exercises to the use of therapeutic balls to agility exercises to work on a treadmill that’s underwater to reduce the amount of weight the animal has to bear on its legs. And owners are given things to do at home to continue the rehabilitative process.
Physical therapy is used not only to rehabilitate animals after surgery but to help address other issues, including arthritis, spinal trouble, the muscle atrophy that can occur if an animal in pain isn’t using the muscle, certain nerve problems and more.
“We see a lot of improvement” in the animals the practice treats, Bogedain says.
Buddy the cocker spaniel is a 9-year-old with lumbar disk trouble who’s been getting acupuncture since he was 2, first by a veterinarian who’s since retired and now by Leonard.
Leonard last saw Buddy in February. He is back because, owners Marty and Debbie Darcy of Monroe say, he has been yelping in pain.
Buddy was previously treated with pain medication and steroids, but they hadn’t had much effect. The Darcys say the acupuncture works much better.
“It was like you’d dipped him in the Fountain of Youth,” Debbie Darcy says about his last treatment. Before it, he didn’t want to walk at all. After it, he was running around playing with his ball.
Leonard gets down on the floor to treat Buddy. He puts a series of needles into the dog’s back and connects them to wires that produce a very small electrical charge.
Electroacupuncture is a more modern variation of the traditional technique, and one that Leonard says purists dislike.
“It’s like putting wine in a paper cup,” he says with a laugh.
More needles go into Buddy’s legs at various points.
“I’m treating a distal area,” Leonard says. “The idea is to strengthen the back and take away the pain.”
Throughout the process, which lasts significantly longer than Josie’s, Leonard keeps the needles in place for seven or eight minutes. The cocker spaniel stands patiently, albeit panting, on the floor of the treatment room.
Debbie Darcy says the obvious difference she sees in Buddy after his treatments led her to start getting acupuncture treatments herself: “I never would’ve done it myself if I hadn’t seen how well it works on him.”
'See the whole picture'
Leonard’s final patient of the day is Ernie the Brittany spaniel, who belongs to newspaper photographer Lad Strayer and his wife, Debbie. Ernie, who is at least 10 years old, had been limping, and Leonard believes it’s because of back trouble.
“I see it all the time in horses, and it’s compensatory,” he says. The animal, he explains, will shift its weight to take the pressure off the place that hurts, causing more problems in the other area. For example, a dog with bad knees might turn out to actually have hip trouble.
“You have to really see the whole picture,” he says.
For Ernie, part of seeing that whole picture involves looking at his tongue. Leonard says ancient Chinese practitioners believed they could detect a whole range of ailments in a person by looking at the tongue to see what color it was, how dry it was and so forth.
He gets down on the floor with Ernie and, with a quick tap, inserts the first of what will be a series of needles into the dog’s back. More are placed in his legs in various spots.
“I’m going to treat his kidneys,” Leonard says. “I’m treating his spleen and his stomach, too.”
Different-sized needles are used depending on where they need to go. All of them are quite small, but some are so fine that when Leonard holds one of them up, the needle is barely visible.
After a few minutes, he removes the needles but brings his laser tool over and spends a few minutes applying it to a number of areas around Ernie’s shoulders and legs.
“Good boy,” he says to Ernie. A shot of B-12 completes the day’s treatment.
Leonard sees patients from all over the area and from much farther afield, too. The Doberman he mentioned earlier, for example, came from the Detroit area.
“The ones I get are the ones everyone’s given up on” with other treatments, he says.
And whether his patient is a dog, a cat, or a horse, he very much enjoys being able to help them with this type of therapy.
“It’s very rewarding,” he says. “I get a lot of gratification from doing it. I like coming to work, because how often do you get to see a miracle?”
Daily Telegramauthor: Arlene Bachanov
Once a month: 35%
Less than once a month: 25%
Once a year: 7%
Not very important: 15%
Somewhat important: 15%
Very Important: 11%
Not sure: 22%