Veterinary chiropractic, acupuncture bring relief for ailing pets
Nido has issues. The 4-year-old yellow Lab is allergic to "just about everything," said his owner, Ruth Christenson. "We had to really struggle to find food he could eat."
His coat has been dull. His flank bothers him. But after treatment with acupuncture and chiropractic, "he's much, much better," Christenson said.
On a recent morning, Nido sits calmly while Dr. Kathy Seifert inserts rows of acupuncture needles on either side of his spine, along the meridian that according to acupuncture theory governs the stomach and spleen.
The herbal supplements he's taking seem to be helping, Christenson says, noting that Nido's coat is fluffier.
"His tongue is a lot pinker," Seifert observes.
She praises Nido, "You look so good!"
Since October, Seifert, a veterinarian with Lake Region Veterinary Center in Elbow Lake, has been traveling to the Canine Training Institute in rural New London to provide complementary therapies.
Today's session is typical. She'll see seven dogs during the morning. Then in the afternoon she'll go to a nearby ranch to treat a couple of horses.
Ginny LeTourneau, owner of the Canine Training Institute, hopes it brings some new alternatives for helping people's animal companions.
"I want this to open some doors," she said. "This is bringing this to our community for our convenience."
LeTourneau, a longtime professional dog trainer, met Seifert several months ago after being referred to the Elbow Lake veterinary clinic to treat her two dogs, ages 11 and 15. Both dogs were struggling with stiffness and age, and Western-style medicine wasn't helping much.
After acupuncture and chiropractic, the difference was almost immediate, LeTourneau said. "It was just amazing."
Her dogs now see Seifert on a regular basis. "They're walking more comfortably. They can play more comfortably. Their attitude is better," LeTourneau said.
Her dog training clients saw the improvement and began asking questions. Soon LeTourneau was organizing trips to Elbow Lake so clients could have Seifert treat their dogs too. Encouraged by the demand, she and Seifert decided this fall to make the service available locally once a month.
For Mary Merlin, it means she doesn't have to travel as far with her golden retrievers, Zeus and Roxy, so they can receive regular chiropractic and acupuncture treatments.
"I don't think I would get them there as often otherwise. It's more convenient," she said.
The therapy has been good for Roxy, whose skin and ears are chronically inflamed, and for Zeus, who had both hips replaced after developing hip dysplasia in puppyhood, Merlin said. "It helped considerably."
The cost isn't great. A chiropractic session for a dog is $65; for acupuncture it's $75. For horses, the fee is $115 for chiropractic and $125 for acupuncture. A $15 office and travel fee is tacked on.
How do animals feel about the therapy? Some won't sit still for the insertion of acupuncture needles, Seifert acknowledged. In those cases, she uses a cold laser device instead, which she says "works very well."
"Once they get used to it, they just love it," LeTourneau said. "They know that they're here for something good."
Only a handful of veterinarians in Minnesota offer chiropractic or acupuncture for animals.
Seifert, who works mostly with horses, was trained in science-based veterinary medicine. But in the course of her work, she kept running into problems that Western-style therapies seemed inadequate to treat.
"Western medicine does some things very, very well, but for some things the body just doesn't respond," she said.
Tired of referring these clients to other practitioners, she decided to become trained in veterinary chiropractic. From there, it was a short leap to learning acupuncture as well.
"It just opens a whole bunch of doors," she said. "It's really nice to have both available because they work really well together."
She had to complete a five-month course and pass a test in order to become certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association. According to the AVCA, about 1,000 animal chiropractors have been certified since 1989. Seifert's acupuncture training involved another six-month course and a 40-hour internship which she completed earlier this year.
Seventy percent of her veterinary work is now in chiropractic and acupuncture, Seifert said. She travels as far as Grand Forks, N.D., to see some of her equine clients.
The theories behind chiropractic and acupuncture are at odds with science but many owners who've tried it for their animals say it gets results.
For Gloria Rieschl, chiropractic helps keep Niko, her 7-year-old Sheltie, mobile despite hip and leg problems.
"This is to help both of us, so we don't have to go the drug route," she said.
The owner's belief in the therapy seems to matter, Seifert said. "For people who use chiropractic or acupuncture, they're very open to this type of therapy. You kind of have to see it to believe it... The more you open up and let your guard down, the more you feel. It's pretty powerful stuff."
For appointments or more information, call the Canine Training Institute at 354-2094.