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Holistic Vets

An alternative path to health



Acupuncture is more than just a pain reliever. It can boost the immune system and improve organ functions in humans and animals.

Photo by Monika Wisniewska

Holistic healthcare has become part of our collective consciousness as an alternative or complement to traditional medicine. So it shouldn’t be surprising to discover this kind of treatment now extends into veterinary care. Not many practitioners treat pets holistically, but luckily Fairfield County has a handful of veterinarians making strides in this field. Dr. Wendy Harris, the founder of Chi Pet in Wilton, is one such holistic vet eager to educate people about alternative therapies for our pets. “It’s an approach of looking at the animal as a whole and not as a symptom,” she explains.

One of Dr. Harris’s most successful treatments is acupuncture. While humans have been practicing and receiving acupuncture for thousands of years, the practice took a few years longer to catch on for dogs and was approved as an “alternate therapy” by the American Veterinary Medical Association in 1988. There are different types of acupuncture, but all share the same goal of restoring the flow of Qi (or chi) and allowing the return to homeostasis.

“Often, my clients come to me when they feel they have exhausted their options with their traditional vets and hope to find some relief for their pets that doesn’t come with potential negative side effects,” explains Dr. Harris. “Occasionally, their pet has already experienced some side effect and is no longer able to take Western medication.”

Dr. Harris has seen many positive outcomes with acupuncture treatment. One relieved pet owner says, “Prior to starting acupuncture treatment almost four years ago, my dog Alice could barely walk and was always in pain. After treatment, she is walking better and feeling better.” The results of acupuncture require patience, and the outcome of the treatment varies. Studies have shown acupuncture to have a plethora of benefits from pain relief to boosting immune regulation. Treatment lasts for approximately 20 minutes, and each pet reacts differently to the therapy.  Just like their human counterparts, some pet patients don’t like to be needled, while others fall asleep during their session.

Dr. Harris also utilizes non-invasive therapies, including Chinese herbs, supplements, and food therapy. Most clients are willing to prepare fresh food for their pets to enhance results. “It is a repetitive therapy, so usually we start with three visits in three weeks. Then, on to a maintenance schedule determined by the patient’s response to the treatment,” Dr. Harris explains. Initial visits run from $150 to $250 (subject to change with additional treatments). Follow-ups start at $85. 

Dachshund breeders have long known a secret that is catching on with all types of pets. Chiropractic care can help animals as much as it does humans. Dr. Rebecca Saria of Gold Coast Mobile Veterinarian Service, based in Milford, is an expert who travels all over Fairfield County offering chiropractic services. Her very first chiropractic patient was a Boxer named Lucy who had scratched her eye and could not bear weight on one of her front legs. Lucy’s “mom” brought her to the emergency room, where the ER veterinarian diagnosed her with a brain and spinal tumor, then recommended euthanasia. Lucy’s owner decided to see Dr. Saria for a second opinion.

After a thorough examination, Dr. Saria suggested that Lucy might have a cervical spinal impingement and tried adjusting her. “Lucy’s issues resolved almost instantly. Her leg was weight bearing within moments, her head was straight, and her droopy eye opened wide,” she explains.

Chiropractic care isn’t for every animal, but “there can be massive benefits for cardiac patients, animals with kidney, liver, or endocrine issues, and those with immune mediated or neurological issues,” says Dr. Saria. Like many holistic vets, she believes that chiropractic is not just a science but also an art—so pet owners should find a practitioner that works best with their pet. Gold Coast Mobile Veterinarian Service also offers Bach-flower treatments. Bach flowers are energetic essences of flowers used to resonate with the patient for a particular emotional need. Although there are commercial formulas made, Dr. Saria prefers to create individual formulations to personalize each pet’s treatment.  

Additionally, Dr. Jeff Feinmann of Wilton-based Home Vet hosts an online community where pet owners can connect to learn about the different holistic treatments available. Dr. Feinmann blogs on a variety of topics, from therapeutic exercises to vaccinations. Visit homevet.com to learn more.

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