Northwest Indiana veterinarians turn to Chinese Medicine, holistic approaches to ease pain, chronic conditions in dogs

Dr. Daniel King said other veterinarians considered him "a quack" when he started performing acupuncture on animals 12 to 14 years ago.

Is your pet in pain? Just like humans, telltale signs might include limping, lethargy, loss of appetite and fatigue. Pets, like their owners, may respond to various medications or treatments for pain or disease, as our bodies are similar.

Just as alternative treatments have evolved and are more available to humans, Chinese medicine for pets has recently become more popular.

“In Chinese medicine theory, disease is understood as an imbalance in the body, and diagnosis proceeds through identifying the underlying ‘pattern’ of disharmony,” according to the Chai Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine’s website. Pattern diagnosis examines not only signs of disease but also takes a holistic approach to see how these signs relate to the individual patient. The age, sex, temperament, activity level and animal’s environment are taken into consideration, which is different from a traditional Western medical diagnosis.

Dr. Daniel King, a veterinarian on staff twice per month at Auntie Barbara’s Bed, Bath and Biscuit, a 14-suite doggie hotel on 10 acres in Lowell, said he has administered acupuncture for around 12 to 14 years. King is certified in animal acupuncture and Chinese herbology, as well as tui na, a type of therapeutic massage. Since selling his practice in 2008, he maintains a home office in Tolono, Illinois, just south of Champaign-Urbana, and also works part time in Wheeling, Illinois.

“The other veterinarians called me a quack when I first started performing acupuncture on animals,” he said. “Now, since neuro-research has documented what acupuncture can do to restore pathways and it’s a viable alternative to traditional Western medicine, I get a lot of referrals from the same people who didn’t believe it before.”

King explained that acupuncture helps restore nerve flow balance and circulation in the body. Inserting needles into specific points on the body can produce a healing response, providing pain relief or other health benefits.

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King said acupuncture can typically resolve a dog’s pain in as little as three or four visits. After five sessions, dogs with some paralysis may regain up to 90% of normal function, with maintenance visits.

“In 70% of the cases, normal function may be restored to 70%,” said King. “Depending on age, some animals will regain 80-90%.

“If you have pain, your brain decreases nerve flow to stabilize the situation but results in locking in the pain. Acupuncture works to restore that nerve flow and decrease the pain. It works with pets just like it does with people, as our nervous systems are wired similarly.”

He is also an advocate of Chinese herbals, which he said are not supplements but are used for specific diseases and disease patterns.

“Depending on the situation, instead of insulin, I might treat diabetic pets with herbals,” he noted. “For geriatric and chronic issues, herbals are more gentle than Western drugs, which cause many side effects.”