September 30, 2014

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Pet owners turning to acupuncture for their furry friends

Pinner is so busy gobbling down some American cheese, she doesn’t seem to notice Stephanie Dean of Happy Pet Vet in North Ridgeville placing another needle in her foot.

Dr. Stephanie Dean, in background, performs acupuncture on Pinner, a female Lab, at the Happy Pet Veterinary Hospital in North Ridgeville on April 19 after receiving conventional treatment for a variety of ailments. Assistant veterinarian Kelly Kearney holds the animal on a table. (CT photos by Chuck Humel.)

Dr. Stephanie Dean, in background, performs acupuncture on Pinner, a female Lab, at the Happy Pet Veterinary Hospital in North Ridgeville on April 19 after receiving conventional treatment for a variety of ailments. Assistant veterinarian Kelly Kearney holds the animal on a table. (CT photos by Chuck Humel.)

Reggie, Pinner’s chocolate Lab littermate and faithful sidekick, watches from his usual spot on the floor with an eye on the cheese treat.

That last needle joined 35 others that Dean has strategically placed in Pinner during her half-hour canine acupuncture session. That’s down from the 44 that Pinner had placed during her first visit. Pinner is more bothered by standing still than she is by the thin metallic needles.

Dean pays special attention to her four-legged patient’s feet and between the toes.

“It’s like a reset button for the liver,” Dean said.

Newburgh Heights neighbors Kathy Edwards and Carol Ruzicka were themselves on pins and needles when it came to Pinner’s health.

The adopted dog had experienced deteriorating health due to advanced liver disease since coming to live with the co-owners a little over a year ago. She had gained 20 pounds — almost all of it abdominal fluid — and her epileptic seizures had gotten worse with as many as eight to 10 episodes a day.

The adopters were losing hope, and money, after trying different medications, regimens and diets with their regular veterinarian — all with no success. Then a friend was doing some research for them on the Internet and suggested they try acupuncture.

Edwards, a Cleveland Clinic nurse, and Ruzicka, a concert master violinist with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra who also teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Music, were open-minded to the suggestion.

They had both personally tried acupuncture and had success with it. Edwards had even sought acupuncture for her since-deceased Lab/English springer spaniel mix Otis more than 20 years ago when he lost the use of his back legs. After a few sessions, he was jumping in and out of the car.

After thousands of dollars spent on traditional Western veterinary medicine, the co-owners and longtime family friends were financially stretched, but not ready to give up on their fur kid. They decided to call Dean, one of a handful of veterinarians in Northeast Ohio certified in pet acupuncture.

Edwards and Ruzicka aren’t alone.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, pet owners will spend $24 billion dollars this year on their pets’ medical care. That’s billion with a “b,” and it’s an amount greater than the gross domestic product of more than half the world’s countries.

And part of that $24 billion is spent on alternative medical treatments such as acupuncture. The Eastern medicine treatment of sticking needles into the skin to stimulate or unblock channels of energy within the body is used to aid in everything from dermatological disorders to incontinence to hip dysplasia in pets.

“We basically had nothing to lose,” said Dean, who sees an average of two acupuncture patients a day. “Pinner was a barrel with legs and her quality of life was poor. Her appetite was poor and the fluid accumulation and constant seizures meant that Pinner couldn’t play or go for walks. I expressed concern to the client that we were very late in the course of Pinner’s disease. We started intensely, doing acupuncture every four days.”

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, acupuncture is among the oldest healing practices in the world. As part of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is used to restore and maintain health through the stimulation of specific points on the body. It’s more than 3,000 years old.

Pinner’s treatment combines Eastern and Western medicine. Dean has kept her on her traditional Western prescription medications, but she’s also added the acupuncture, Chinese herbs and a little extra milk thistle for good measure — something her co-owners came up with.

After about three months of acupuncture sessions, Pinner is the picture of health, sleek and svelte with a beautiful, shiny coat. She is playful and active, and you’d never guess she was a dog on her deathbed a few months before.

Dean said Pinner has gone from a 39½-inch belly circumference to 27 inches and is down to a normal 78 pounds from the fluid-filled 100. She is only seeing Dean once a month now.

“I’m an optimist, but Pinner’s progress is impressive,” Dean said. “She is doing phenomenally well.”

At about $50 per session, Edwards and Ruzicka feel the money is well spent. And actually cheaper and more effective than some of the other more traditional treatments they tried, they said.

“We don’t have kids, so these are our babies,” said Ruzicka, looking at Pinner and Reggie. “It’s money well spent.”

“She (Pinner) looks great and is doing well,” Edwards said. “In fact, we’re so happy with the results that we’ve started Reggie on acupuncture now with Dr. Dean, too, for his allergies and arthritis. He just went around the block for the first time in a long time and his allergies are better.”

Contact Karen Uthe Semancik at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.