Acupuncture May Help Your Pet

Feb 25, 2019 | Pets

Karen using acupuncture treatment on a very calm Australian Shephard mix, named Gina, owned by Sue Howington.

From a chicken with a prosthetic leg to a bearded dragon treated with acupuncture for an immobile tail, Veterinarian Karen Lanz has experienced some unusual animal encounters. But no matter the animal, all our pets are dear to us, Karen says.

She grew up surrounded by animals on a farm in Shelby County. Karen’s own pets include three cats, two dogs, and  chickens. “Sadly, my chicken with the prosthetic leg recently passed away, but our chickens have individual personalities, and they’re hysterical. People think of chickens as farm animals, but they are as much a pet as a dog or cat,” Karen says.

The vet notes that since she’s been in practice, she has seen a change in people’s relationships with their pets.

“They’re like our kids more than ever. They’re our true companions, with us at home and traveling with us. The unconditional love and joy they bring to us is immeasurable. Our pets have been elevated into a different status. They are truly part of our family, and we need to honor that bond.” Part of that bond means pet owners are willing to consider everything they can to keep a pet healthy and happy.

That’s why, after 15 years of traditional veterinary practice, Karen decided to open a practice focusing on alternative therapies for pets in 2008.

“I was looking for different answers and more tools in my toolbox,” Karen says. “I had an older dog who started having some health issues, and I saw how much acupuncture helped her quality of life in her last six months.” That experience was a trigger for Karen to get acupuncture training to provide for her clients, which in turn  opened up other treatments to help pets such as herbal medicine, acupressure massage, and spinal manipulation.

“What acupuncture does for people and pets is focus on restoring balance in the body,”  Karen says. “We can look at it from a local effect where the acupuncture needle may improve blood flow, release spasming muscles, or work on better nerve communication,” she says. On a broader level, Karen says acupuncture “restores balance and harmony in the body so it can heal at a different level.”  

People seek out acupuncture for their pets for a wide variety of reasons.  

“Maybe they had a good experience with it themselves as far as their own health care, but often when animals get older, they develop chronic illnesses like arthritis, neurological issues, or organ issues,”  Karen says. “It might be that conventional therapies are not enough or they want to integrate and complement what they are already receiving from their traditional veterinarian.”

Many clients with former pets who experienced the benefits of acupuncture or complementary medicine return with their new pets“They ask, ‘What can I do differently? How can I address this with my pet from a young age to make sure I’m on the right path?’”

Karen advises it’s best to seek out alternative therapies sooner rather than later. “Often, patients are seeking an alternative treatment as a last resort. Sometimes it can be a big help, but often the problem is too established. It’s helpful if it can be addressed earlier on, for example, when your dog is just a little stiff getting up rather than later when they’re lame or have a lot of muscle loss,” she explains.  

Other times alternative therapies can be used in concert with pain medications to help pets so they don’t need as much medication. “We talk a lot about quality of life. We want our pets to be with us longer but also to have a good quality of life while they are with us.”

Karen encourages pet owners to visit anytime there’s a question. “It’s wonderful to just come in for a consult. We do acupuncture but also a lot of other things in a holistic setting, like nutrition, exercise, lifestyle. It’s all important.”

Extra tidbit: How you can eliminate a visit to vet without compromising your pet’s health. 

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