340 MAY/JUNE 2015 | BETHESDAMAGAZINE.COM
SHORTLY AFTER DENISE
Unterman of Takoma Park adopted Honeybee
last fall, she noticed that the 5-year-old
mixed-breed dog was limping on her
hind legs and often very stiff after long
periods of lying down. So Unterman took
Honeybee to a Rockville veterinary practice, where the dog was diagnosed with
arthritis stemming from hip dysplasia.
Honeybee’s condition didn’t require
surgery, Unterman learned, but something needed to be done to ease her
discomfort. Unterman’s vet at Pet
Dominion recommended trying acupuncture, a practice normally used to
Unterman says she noticed a dramatic
improvement in Honeybee’s condition
after the first treatment, which was
combined with laser heat therapy. After
three treatments over five weeks, much
of the dog’s arthritis pain was eliminated, Unterman says.
“She bounces around, she doesn’t
favor her bad leg,” Unterman says. “She
doesn’t look like a dog who has arthritis.”
Local vets say that acupuncture for
animals, which stems from the ancient
Chinese practice, is rapidly gaining popularity among pet owners as a way to treat
pain, neurological disorders and gastrointestinal disorders in dogs and cats.
The treatment, offered by area vets since
More pet owners are
trying acupuncture for
their cats and dogs
B Y ALEXANDRA NOWICKI
the 1980s, involves the insertion of small
needles to ease discomfort by stimulating
the body’s natural reactions. In 2014, the
American Veterinary Medical Association
voted to begin formally working with the
American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (AAVA) as an ally organization.
Nicole Karrasch, an anesthesiologist
and acupuncturist at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Friendship Heights,
believes that acupuncture is becoming more popular because pet owners
are doing more to keep their pets alive
longer. Older pets are more likely to
suffer from ailments and diseases that
seem to be responsive to acupuncture.
Karrasch says that acupuncture can
be a less invasive form of treatment and
produce fewer negative side effects than
pain medications. But acupuncture can’t
be used in place of surgery, she says: “It
can be a good supplemental treatment.”
Acupuncture also can be helpful in
treating behavioral problems such as anxiety disorders, phobias and elimination
disorders, like house-soiling. Often, the
treatment will be used in conjunction with
medications or behavioral classes, says
Christina Zeoli, an associate veterinarian
and acupuncturist at Pet Dominion, where
acupuncture sessions cost $50 to $100.
Some clients may shy away from
the treatment because they think it is
“some weird holistic approach,” Zeoli
says. However, she points out that the
practice is based on knowledge of anat-
omy and physiology. Several veterinary
schools and organizations, such as the
AAVA and the International Veterinary
Acupuncture Society, certify vets in the
practice of acupuncture—it’s smart for
pet owners to ask about certifications
before beginning any treatment.
“It’s very safe, that’s the big benefit.
There are hardly any side effects,” Zeoli
Last fall, Allen Malman’s 8-year-old
calico, Midge, became the first cat to be
treated with acupuncture at Pet Dominion. The cat was treated for a limp in her
front leg and severe constipation, says
Malman, a Bethesda resident.
On treatment days, Malman dropped
Midge off at Pet Dominion in the morning to help the cat acclimate to being
away from home. In the afternoon, she
was placed in an exam room where classical music was playing.
After eight sessions, Midge no longer
needed monthly treatments for constipation and was able to move as she had
before developing a limp. “It seems to
be an effective treatment,” Malman says.
“We have been very happy.” n
Alexandra Nowicki is an editorial intern.