AJ is a 13-year-old Australian shepherd suffering from arthritis and digestive issues.
Her owner, Jody Lennen of Stockton, wanted to alleviate pain for her beloved dog and supplement the traditional medicine she’s getting, so she took AJ to Oakwood Veterinary Hospital in Woodbridge to see acupuncture specialist Dr. John Lindsey.
Acupuncture is a practice from Chinese medicine that is meant to increase, manipulate or reduce the patient’s energy levels. With AJ, Lindsey reduced her energy with three needles and added to it with one needle.
Lindsey stuck the four thin needles into AJ, on the back of the neck, the front shoulder and the hind quarters.
“Endorphins are released to the brain to make you feel better and more relaxed,” he said.
The needle triggers the nerves, telling the brain to release the endorphins, Lindsey said. That makes the animal feel better and become more relaxed, he added.
Lindsey stuck four thin needles into AJ’s body for about five minutes. She’s progressing, Lindsey said, but time will tell how well the treatment works for her.
Although conditions can cause animals’ bodies to react differently, a typical treatment calls for acupuncture once a week for a month. Then Lindsey will examine the pet to determine how well the acupuncture’s working.
“It’s pretty easy with arthritis — you can see if he’s walking better,” Lindsey said.
If a pet’s been having seizures, have they gone away? If the problem is with the liver, kidney or other organ, then he might order another round of lab work to get a new diagnosis.
If there’s little or no improvement, he said, he might terminate the acupuncture treatments. If the animal shows improvement, then the acupuncture will continue, but perhaps twice a month instead of weekly, he said.
Lindsey was a veterinarian at Sierra Veterinary Clinic in Stockton for almost 14 years, until Oakwood owner Dr. Ruth Smith hired him away. Lindsey’s been at the Woodbridge hospital on Lower Sacramento Road since May.
“It’s cool, huh?” Smith said. “My own cat is showing good results already.”
Three of the needles came out easily after about five minutes, but one stayed in when Lindsey tried to pull it out of AJ’s body. AJ’s body indicated that she needed longer treatment in that spot, Lindsey said. A couple of minutes later, the needle came out with ease.
Acupuncture isn’t for everyone, Lindsey admits. Some animals’ owners don’t believe in it and insist on traditional Western medicine for their pets. Oakwood will stick to traditional medicine if that is the client’s desire.
“Some people accuse me of voodoo,” Lindsey said. “I don’t take it personally.”
Lindsey said he practices what is known in the industry as “integrative medicine,” a combination of acupuncture, herbs and traditional medicine.
Just like traditional medicine, acupuncture works on some people and animals and not on others, he said.
“It’s not a cure-all,” Lindsey said. “There is no medicine that’s a cure-all.”
Marilyn Koski, a faculty clinical veterinarian at University of California, Davis, said the practice of acupuncture dates back to 450 B.C. in China. In those days, the Chinese used acupuncture on their horses and livestock to make sure they remained healthy during military conquests, Koski said.
“It’s still controversial,” Koski said regarding the use of veterinary acupuncture. “It’s controversial with humans also. There are still a lot of questions on how it actually works.”
Nevertheless, acupuncture became more accepted in the United States in the 1970s and ’80s, and even more so in the ’90s, she said.
Lindsey also uses Chinese herbs for liver, kidney, pancreatic and skin problems to go with acupuncture and traditional medicine.
“It’s like having more tools in your toolbox,” he said. “If one wrench doesn’t work, you try another one.”
Acupuncture for your cat or dog will cost about $200 to $250 for the first month, Lindsey said. After that, your pet will have fewer treatments, decreasing the cost. Some insurance companies cover acupuncture, while others don’t, he said.
“There are a lot of people out there who love the alternative medicine, but there are some people who kind of roll their eyes,” said Smith, who has been practicing veterinary medicine for 35 years.
“It’s the alternative things besides drugs,” Smith said. “Drugs are good, but there are things besides drugs. We’re really excited about it.”
Koski cited a study by Harvard Medical School that states that one in three people in the United States uses alternative medicine. Seventy percent of them, however, don’t tell their physicians, she said.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.