Pet treatments change as animals become family members

Pet treatments change as animals become family members

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - We've become a more holistic society and that's transitioning into the way we care for our pets.

Despite the expense, common alternative therapies for humans, like acupuncture and hydrotherapy, are now being used to treat pets when more traditional options have failed. Local veterinarians say treatments are evolving because the way we feel about our pets is evolving.

Eleven-year-old Labrador Retriever Harry is not only part of the family, he's Chrissy Thomas's baby.  Two years ago, Harry started having debilitating seizures and medicine wasn't working. Thomas said she knew she had to start thinking out of the box.

"It wasn't the end, it was just a bump and it worked," she explains.

What worked, says Thomas, was acupuncture. The form of Chinese medicine has been done for thousands of years on humans and more recently on pets.

"Part of our evaluation of the pet is to figure out what the imbalance is, we choose acupuncture points based on imbalance and that brings the body back to homeostasis," explains Dr. Julie Sheil.

Dr. Sheil has been a veterinarian for 18 years. She's now certified in veterinary acupuncture. Each session costs $125 per hour and it includes cold laser treatment, which is another form of alternative therapy gaining popularity.

"This whole treatment will take five minutes. Harry doesn't feel anything, doesn't produce heat," explains Dr. Sheil as she performs the laser treatment.

The red laser beam stimulates tissue at the cellular level. Pro-athletes actually do these treatments.

"It can relieve pain and inflammation. It can increase blood flow to an area such as an arthritic hip. It can speed wound healing by promoting collagen production," explains Dr. Sheil.

"It works. He's a happy dog and that's important to me," says Thomas.


"It's amazing the lengths people will go to for their pets," says Dr. Kane Henderson of the West Park Animal Hospital.

In his 20 years as a vet, Dr. Henderson says he's seen a huge transition in treatment options.

"30-40 years ago most of what we did for dogs was what the farm vet did out of the back of his truck when he was there to treat cattle," Dr. Henderson said.

Dr. Henderson's West Park practice had one of the first hydrotherapy machines in Ohio.  The underwater treadmill sessions cost $60 an hour and help rehabilitate dogs, like black Labrador Ruby, who've had orthopedic surgeries.

"She wasn't using her leg a whole lot, she would put it down occasionally, but with the help of the treadmill, she started continuously using her leg," explains owner and hydrotherapy technician Marie Getzlass.

Hydrotherapy works three ways. The water temp is 96 degrees, which improves blood flow and circulation to the joints. The water resistance helps build muscle mass and the water buoyancy reduces the impact on the joints.

"In all reality, they suffer the same ailments people do, and so everything we know and do for people, we can apply to dogs," explains Dr. Henderson.


Dr. Sheil says all of these alternative therapies work best as an integrative approach.

"If you break a bone for example, you want a western medicine doctor. However, after that broken bone has been fixed, you can use acupuncture and laser therapy to help speed the healing of that bone, help inflammation and pain as they recover," Dr. Sheil said.

The alternative treatments are also popular because they don't have side effects.

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