Natural Veterinary Therapy gives pets Eastern healing.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Performing chiropractics on a cat seems like a great way to get maimed. Similarly, sticking needles in a rottweiler sounds like an exotic and grisly form of suicide. But these are precisely the sorts of assumptions Natural Veterinary Therapy’s Dr. Annette Richmond disproves every day.
Richmond graduated from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, but, disillusioned by the overuse of drugs and vaccines on pets, trained her gaze eastward – toward traditional Chinese medicine and the International Veterinary Acupuncture School. Now people come to her when conventional treatments have failed to treat – or have caused – their pets’ ailments.
“They come to you worried their dog is never going to be the same,” she says.
Acupuncture for animals is almost as ancient as human treatment. Its first animal use was for horses, which Richmond says respond especially well. She claims that all animals, however, can benefit from the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
Animal acupuncture follows the same patterns and points as it does in humans. Chinese herbal medicine, while it uses the same plants, are differently formulated for pets. Richmond focuses on dogs and cats in her practice, but there are others who give treatments to more exotic animals – there is even a specialized acupuncture discipline for snakes.
One conventional veterinarian agrees that acupuncture holds great potential for healing pets: Ocean View Veterinary Hospital’s Dr. Frank Kocher says there is already a strong body of research supporting its efficacy. He cautions, however, that the herbs used are all very complex chemically, and a lack of research for such unregulated medicines puts users at risk. He recommends practices such as Richmond’s – which he calls complementary medicine – only for cases where conventional methods have failed.
Richmond has encountered her share of skeptics, though usually not among her clientele: the large majority are already believers in naturopathic medicine, which helps. Doubts can sabotage a pet’s treatment, she says, because the animals can sense apprehension.
She proceeds to present some evidence that her treatments work. A 12-year-old foxhound mix named Alteza, who recently came in with an injured rear knee, left far more frisky after a single acupuncture session. (Richmond says multiple sessions, which run $75 a pop after an $80 exam, are usually necessary.)
“The owner said the dog was marching down the street,” Richmond says. “It’s really terrific when it’s like that.”
Mahina, an 8-year-old border collie, came in with her rear legs crippled after twisting her back running around on the beach, and surgery that left her with impaired neurological function. After a combination of acupuncture and treatment on the center’s water treadmill, she can once again run and jump, albeit with a slight hitch in her git-along.
Natural Veterinary Therapy also offers massage and chiropractic, but its most striking bit of medicine involves that underwater treadmill – a low-impact treatment tool for animals like Mahina with injured or weak joints. Whether or not pet owners are ready to spring for its use – the price, ranging from $55-$95, depends on water level, which itself depends on the size of your dog – they can agree that it’s doggone cool to have as an option.