By Sara B. Hansen
When Gunner, a 31/2-year-old, 70-pound golden retriever, injured his back, his owners turned to acupuncture to help him heal.
“I’m all for treatments that don’t involve cutting or heavy drugs," said Gunner’s owner, Mary Burrell, who lives in Fort Collins, Colo.
The dog hurt himself while playing on Super Bowl Sunday with a 150-pound St. Bernard. Although Burrell thought he might have injured his stomach, x-rays revealed a compressed disc. Acupuncture treatments helped relax his muscles and helped him heal.
Burrell previously brought her 12-year-old golden retriever in for acupuncture treatments to help improve his mobility, as he got older.
On a recent afternoon, Burrell helped hold Gunner as Dr. Kevin Schramm inserted acupuncture needles into the dog’s back at Paws N’ Claws in Fort Collins.
After placing the needles, Schramm used electric stimulus to help further relax the muscles. During the treatment, Gunner relaxed so much he nearly fell asleep.
Schramm has been using acupuncture at his traditional vet practice since 2005. He’s found it to be a valuable alternative to conventional medications and gives him more options to offer his patients and their owners.
He finds the treatments work well with dogs and cats. With dogs, it helps with arthritis and hip dysplasia. In cats, the treatments help with kidney disease.
“We’re glad to be able to offer it," Schramm said. “It’s not my main focus, but I’m happy to be able to have it as a tool that’s available for treatment. It’s a completely different way of thinking about medicine in pets."
Narda G. Robinson, director of the Colorado State University Center for Comparative and Integrative Pain Medicine and founder and director of the university’s Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians Program, said her goal is to train vets about the science behind acupuncture.
Robinson said about 25 of the CSU vet school’s 130 fourth year students usually take the acupuncture course during their final year.
“This is not about energy. It’s about how to interface with the nervous system. The points aren’t points of invisible chi. They are nerves and blood vessels," she said.
Robinson also is working to set standards for pet acupuncture.
“People can decide. This gets absorbed into every organ of the body," she said. “An animal doesn’t have that choice. We can’t ask pet if they want the treatment. We don’t always know if it’s helping," she said.
Dr. Bonnie Wright, a board certified anesthesiologist in pain control who has been treating pets with acupuncture for the past five years and works at the Fort Collins Emergency Veterinary Hospital, said acupuncture is a profound way to provide pain relief for animals.
Using acupuncture taps into the body’s own pain relieving chemistry, she said.
One of the biggest benefits of acupuncture is its ability to help extend the lives of pets whose back injuries or paralysis previously would have caused them to be euthanized, said Wright, who helps teach Robinson’s acupuncture class at CSU.
“Acupuncture offers us choices to use in place of surgery or euthanizing. It can get paralyzed dogs walking again. This can give owners of these geriatrics other options so they don’t get to a point where they feel forced to decide because acupuncture can help restore function."
Sara B. Hansen has spent the past 20-plus years as a professional editor and writer. She decided to create her own dream job by launching Dog’s Best Life. She grew up with family dogs and since she bought her first house, she’s had a furry companion or two to help make it a home. She currently shares her heart and home with Sydney, an Australian Shepherd-Corgi mix. You can reach Sara @ [email protected].