Acupuncture For Dogs? | Central Oregon Pets | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

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Special Issues & Guides » Central Oregon Pets

Acupuncture For Dogs?

As Eastern medicine gains popularity and credibility among humans, local dogs appear to find the treatment beneficial



Yogi the toy poodle is one of Dr. Steve Blauvelt's smallest—and hardest working—patients. Yogi regularly volunteers for Partners in Care, a hospice organization in Bend. At only 4 pounds, 6 ounces and a "teddy bear" haircut, Yogi is "great with frail patients," according to Yogi's human, Bonnie Smith.

But Yogi's sympathetic qualities—which provide a source of comfort and joy to those who are struggling—can sometimes overwhelm him: he might get an upset stomach or growth lethargic, Smith said.

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"Because he's so small, and so sensitive, that makes him more susceptible to stresses in the world in general," Smith said. "Acupuncture helps him relax."

Yogi turns 5 in May and he's on an all organic diet and eats many herbs prescribed by Blauvelt. Smith expects him to live more than 20 years. But Yogi often experiences inflammation in his hind quarters from his knees flipping out of joint, which is not uncommon in this breed, Smith said.

"After acupuncture Yogi feels so great," Smith said. "He's running around, jumping, playing, making jokes and hiding things and trying to find them."

Smith embraced acupuncture for her own general health maintenance years ago and thought it could be helpful for Yogi because she suspected he might be in pain.

"A lot of clients come to me and say, 'Well, we go to a naturopath; we like it for our own health, so we'd like more of a holistic approach for our animal,'" Blauvelt said. He's been practicing veterinary medicine for 32 years and first trained in animal acupuncture in 2003. He runs Four Paws Wellness Center in Bend, one of a dozen or so clinics that offer Eastern approaches to pet health.

"People get frustrated with conventional medicine because drugs are so expensive," Blauvelt said. "There is a fair amount of discontent in the human world with health care.

"I appreciate the value of Western medicine, allopathic medicine, especially for acute care emergencies, but I think for chronic disease and chronic illness—that is where integrative medicine can be a benefit," Blauvelt said.

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Dr. Scott Shaw, owner and chief veterinarian at Westside Pet Hospital, said acupuncture is particularly appropriate for treating more chronic conditions. Shaw values both Eastern and Western medicine for different reasons.

"Herniated discs are a good example to understand the two different approaches," Shaw said. "This is painful for the animal and paralyzes its hind legs. In Western medicine you can surgically remove part of the bone to release the compression, but there is nothing to relieve the damage to the spinal cord itself. With electro-acupuncture, it transmits a low-intensity electric current through needles which decreases pain and stimulates nerve function. I also use an herbal combination that relieves inflammation and stimulates nerve conduction."

Dr. Leslie McIntyre of Sage Veterinary Alternatives began her practice in Bend in the 1990s, when she was one of only two vets in Oregon providing acupuncture to pets; now 14 vets in Bend provide the service, she said.

"It's gone from being a truly fringe practice to very mainstream," McIntyre said. "Just in the past couple of years vet insurance companies began to reimburse for acupuncture."

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She uses needles to treat a range of conditions, both chronic and acute pain, as well as immune disorders and skin and intestinal problems.

"Acupuncture supports organ function which may prolong a pet's life," McIntyre said. "We treat a lot of cancer here."

"Sometimes we have a dog that is paralyzed or extremely weak," she said. "Acupuncture can get them walking again without surgical intervention. Seizures are another example of a condition that responds well to a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs."

Unlike many other vets in Bend who use acupuncture in an integrative way in their practice, McIntyre focuses exclusively on alternative practices like acupuncture, cold laser therapy and chiropractic, and it's paying off. She just welcomed Dr. Stephanie Sheen to her clinic in January in order to meet the demand of her growing clientele.

For humans interested in acupuncture treatment for their pets, over a dozen veterinary clinics in Bend offer alternative and complimentary medicine including acupuncture, chiropractic, Chinese herbs, physical therapy and more. All vets performing acupuncture in the U.S. are first trained as animal doctors and then have additional courses to learn Eastern medicine.

Local Veterinary Clinics Offering Acupuncture

About The Author

Laurel Brauns

Laurel has toured the national coffeehouse circuit as a singer-songwriter and spent years buried in psychology books to earn her (in-progress) PhD. She was rescued from both artistic and academic obscurity by The Source Weekly where she loves telling stories about the people who make this community a better place...

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