By Lori Simmons Zelenko
MERGING EASTERN AND WESTERN MEDICINE MEET THE ANIMAL ACUPUNCUTURIST
It’s been said that pets are the new children. To that end, just as we seek every remedy when our kids get sick and do our very best to keep them in perfect health, so we turn to the vet to help our pets live longer and stay stronger. But there are times when the traditional approach of Western medicine does not solve everything where the health of our pets is concerned. That’s where Chinese Medicine comes in. Combining the two ways of treating our pets, Dr. Rachel Barrack, a licensed veterinarian, certified veterinary acupuncturist, and certified veterinary Chinese herbalist takes an integrative approach to healing. She draws upon her extensive training in both eastern and western veterinary medicine to treat and heal animals.(www.animalacupuncture.
MM: What is the difference between Eastern and Western Medicine?
RB: Acupuncture and western medicine have the same goals—to eliminate disease and support the best quality of life. However, each approach is suited to specific circumstances. Western medicine is ideal for acute disease diagnostics and surgery. Acupuncture can be very effective in treating chronic conditions that western medicine can help but not cure. Traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, focuses on the underlying cause of disease, not just the symptoms manifested in each individual patient. Conventional western drugs act quickly but sometimes come with unwanted side effects. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy can be used to avoid or ameliorate some of those side effects.
MM: How do you bridge both worlds?
RB: Putting patients’ wellbeing first and foremost and focusing on what I can do to help optimize their quality of life is always at the forefront of my mind. It is this focus that helps me bridge my eastern and western training to provide the most appropriate and best possible care.
MM: When do you know what is right for your pet?
RB: Every animal is unique so a treatment that works for one pet might not be the best option for your pet. My extensive eastern and western training allows me to determine if one kind of treatment would be more beneficial than the other or if a combination of approaches would be ideal.
MM: What are benefits of acupuncture for pet (i.e. improves arthritis)?
RB: There are lots of benefits of acupuncture and Chinese medicine! Acupuncture is performed by inserting thin, sterile, stainless steel needles into specific points on the body. Most acupuncture points are located along 14 major channels, which form a network that carries blood and energy throughout the entire body. Acupuncture produces a physiological response. It can provide pain relief, stimulate the immune and nervous systems, increase microcirculation, and decrease inflammation. Acupuncture can also help restore balance between organ systems for optimal health and overall wellbeing. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be used to treat an endless array of conditions in both humans and animals. Some common applications for dogs and cats include: • Degenerative joint disease • Neurological disease (seizures, disc disease) • Gastrointestinal issues (anorexia, diarrhea, vomiting) • Cardiovascular and respiratory disease • Renal disease • Skin disease • Urogenital disease (incontinence) • Immune-mediated diseases • Chronic ear infections • Neoplasia • Post operative healing • Behavioral issues Acupuncture can also be used to provide the best possible quality of life for animals on palliative care.
MM: What are recommendations for herbs and when are they most effective?
RB: Chinese herbs are often used in conjunction with acupuncture to optimize and lengthen its effects or in lieu of acupuncture if treatments are not possible. These herbs are available in capsule, powder, and tablet form and are typically readily ingested and easily digested.
MM: What total wellness steps with an Eastern slant do you recommend for aging pets?
RB: Aging pets can benefit from receiving Chinese medical care to help with some of the health problems commonly associated with getting older. One of the most commonly complaints in elderly pets is arthritis. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy can be extremely beneficial in slowing the progression of degenerative joint disease and helping to eliminate some of the associated aches and pains. Lovely, kind and of course, compassionate with animals Dr. Barrack has the magic touch. I was lucky enough to have Dr. Barrack treat my Annabelle, a rescued Shih Tzu, 10-years-old, now but with me three years. After one uber-relaxing acupuncture session with Dr. Barrack, ‘Belle found a new lease on life, the heat and tension in her lower back was released and with that physical stress gone, she is noticeably lighter on her feet, more playful and energized. A changed dog!
I hear this result from one session is unusual but I can only say I am grateful that the shy, withdrawn Shih Tzu I’d been coaxing to connect became a party animal. Thank you to Dr. Barrack for bringing out the best in ‘Belle.