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Acupuncture: Its not just for people

A Lake Oswego veterinary hospital is offering the Chinese treatment to animals
by: Vern Uyetake, Veterinarian Molly McAllister uses acupuncture to treat her nine-year-old dog, Brink, who is in remission from lymphoma. McAllister is now offering acupuncture at Oswego Veterinary Hospital.

The Oswego Veterinary Hospital is offering a new service for pet owners who may be out of options for the ills plaguing their four-legged friends.

Pet acupuncture, now accessible at the facility, focuses on preventative and therapeutic health care.

'It's not perfect for everything, but it gives us another way to treat diseases we might not otherwise be able to treat,' said Molly McAllister, one of three veterinarians at the facility and the only veterinarian providing acupuncture.

McAllister has more than just professional experience with the method. She uses acupuncture to treat her dog, Brink, a nine-year-old mixed breed now in remission from lymphoma.

Monthly treatments for Brink aim to prevent possible recurrence of the disease. Acupuncture can have both calming and stimulating effects on parts of the body, depending on the desired outcome.

'They can be used for pain relief and they can be used to stimulate appetite, calming vomiting and things like that,' said McAllister.

'Acupuncture balances the body so the idea is you can use the same points to have two different effects.'

The treatment involves inserting a very thin needle, much thinner than the hollow needles used to draw blood, into trigger points on an animal's body. Those needles stay in place between five and 30 minutes.

In Brink's case, McAllister inserts calming needles first. She says most animals find the procedure, which releases endorphins, relaxing. During the procedure, Brink sprawls out on the floor.

McAllister tries to involve pet owners in holding or sitting beside their animals to make acupuncture more enjoyable.

Acupuncture treatments are tailored to the individual animal, McAllister said. In Brink's case, he receives stimulation for the kidneys, which in Chinese medicine are associated with life force. As an older dog, Brink benefits from kidney stimulation because it also addresses hearing loss, arthritis and bone issues.

Brink also receives stimulation to increase blood flow, address lameness in his rear legs and stimulate his immune system. His cancer was an immune-related disease. During chemotherapy treatments, Brink also received acupuncture to reduce his vomiting and diarrhea.

'What I would use on him in remission from lymphoma would be different from what I'd use on another dog in remission from lymphoma,' said McAllister.

'Usually it's something that requires several treatments in a row to get the desired effect.'

The cost is $75 per treatment for any animal. Any acupuncture treatment is preceded by a regular exam and other diagnostics to identify problems. McAllister said acupuncture can be performed on any creature, and she uses the treatment for her pet dogs, cat and horses.

Acupuncture has been a mainstay in China for thousands of years and was once used to treat farm animals.

'It became more of a modality used in the U.S. since the '70s,' McAllister said.

You have to be a veterinarian to administer acupuncture to animals because it's considered a surgical procedure.

McAllister studied the specialty through a 120-hour continuing education program she attended in San Diego. She is certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, but acupuncture is not a recognized specialty by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Oswego Veterinary Hospital is located at 590 SW Third St. Open hours are from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contact the hospital at 503-636-3001.