Holistic care for pets
By Fred Bellet | Hernando TodayBehind the glass window of the treatment room, Gerald Johnson was inserting the last two of 14 stainless steel, electrical acupuncture needles into his patient.
Published: December 27, 2012
Published: December 27, 2012
Assistant Lisa Matthews comforted the 4-year-old by holding her head as the doctor placed the last needle in, just over the region of the gall bladder.
All along, the patient didn't flinch and maintained her puppy dog eyes.
The patient's name was Sula, short for Ursula. Sula is a miniature longhaired dachshund and she's among Johnson's patients that undergo holistic veterinary treatment at the Silverthorn Animal Clinic.
Sula, according to Matthews, became a patient after another dog, a much larger Rottweiler, sat on her back and ruptured a disc, causing chronic pain.
At the time of treatment, Sula didn't seem to mind the needles and once the electrical impulse began flowing through the wires from the electronic acupunctoscope, the dog's energy changed.
Sula was surely showing signs of relaxation and feeling relief from any pain.
As the electrical acupuncture can take 10 minutes or longer, the emphasis for utilizing the treatment is placed on various evaluations based upon clinical history, diagnostic tests and what the physical examination reveals. The number of acupuncture needles depends on what the treatment is for.
The holistic treatment has an effect on everyone involved, Johnson said, and encourages the pet owner to be present during the treatment.
Johnson said some veterinarians take issue regarding the medical claims of acupuncture: "Some of my colleagues pooh-pooh it saying there's not enough research yet."
While acupuncture may not be standard practice for all veterinarians, Johnson has seen positive results from various holistic treatment options.
Sonya Kennedy of Brooksville says she and her husband live a holistic lifestyle. Recently, they extended that lifestyle to their pet Chihuahua, Topolino.
One day, Kennedy and Topolino were playing the usual game of fetch when something happened.
"I threw the ball but he didn't run for it. He just sat there and stared at me," she said.
Kennedy knew something was wrong.
The next day, "he was dragging both back legs behind him. He was paralyzed," she said. Kennedy sought help, and her suspicions were confirmed — Topolino was diagnosed with a ruptured disc.
"A lot of people put their animals down with an injury like this," Kennedy said. "They think the dog is suffering and they have to put the animal down."
Surgery is expensive and for some, she said with a sigh, it's not an alternative.
Rather than see Topolino suffer, Kennedy sought out a holistic veterinarian. After all, she and her husband were very much in tune with holistic and alternative medicine for themselves.
"We knew we wanted to heal Topolino holistically," she said.
Topolino became a patient of Johnson. It took about a month of weekly electrical acupuncture treatments in conjunction with homeopathy remedies, vitamins and Chinese herbs for Topolino to make a comeback.
According to Kennedy, Topolino was back to being a happy dog. She said the cost of the acupuncture treatments was affordable, compared to the only alternative, which is surgery, she said.
Kennedy misses the fun of throwing the ball and having Topolino retrieve it, she said.
"We don't play ball anymore." It's just a precaution.
A University of Florida alumnus, Johnson introduced the ancient science of acupuncture into his traditional practice because he was frustrated with typical veterinary medicine. Acupuncture got the ball rolling in offering options to his patients.
He studied the benefits of Chinese herbs and progressed to homeopathic, chiropractic and massage therapy among other treatments associated with alternative, holistic, naturopathic or nonconventional approaches.
It's lucky for Samson he did.
Samson is a 13-month-old German mountain dog, also known as a Leonberger. As he waited for his regularly scheduled chiropractic adjustment, he rested his large head on the floor, twice the size of the feet of his owner, Ron Davis of Brooksville.
When standing, Samson is about two feet high and weighs in at nearly 140 pounds. Also known as Sammy, he has been a patient of the Silverthorn Animal Clinic since he was a month old.
"I bring him here on a regular basis to keep him lined up" said Davis, referring to the straightness of Samson's spine.
"He's still got another year of growth," Davis added, so he's been keeping an eye on the dog's bone development.
From the waiting room to the examination room, Samson knew the way.
Samson's large body compelled Johnson to use parts of his own body — his legs, hips and knees — to keep Samson in place during the examination.
Like a chiropractor would on a human body, Johnson uses his hands to probe the dog's body for any anomaly, to see what's out of place.
"He's very flexible," Johnson said.
The chiropractic adjustment works deeper than just the skeleton. It goes to the nervous system, and with the correct alignment comesthe right circulation through the body, and improved communication between the brain and the internal organs.
"Samson gets a chiropractic adjustment from front to back, just mainly for his alignment," Johnson said.
As Johnson worked in the neck area, he made a cervical adjustment and tilted Samson's head. By the look on the dog's face, it may have been a spot in need of relief.
"I go through the body in segments and check the alignment, Johnson said. "What we find, we adjust."
At the end of the session, Johnson used an instrument called an adjusting tool. The spring-loaded tool looks like a fancy corkscrew, but is capable of moving a vertebra back into place. Samson paid no attention to the snapping tool as the doctor moved it up his back.
At the completion of the treatment, the huge dog seemed happy and lunged forward to give the doctor a smooch on his face.
Instead Samson landed on the doctor's shoulder. Just as he did, Samson's gums lashed a little drool Johnson's way. The doctor was quick enough to tilt his head to the right, avoiding the splatter.
He gave Samson a kiss goodbye.
Before leaving the clinic, Davis said, "Dr. Johnson has done a marvelous job with Samson," adding that there are only five Leonberger dogs in the state of Florida. Davis wants to keep his in good shape.