A centuries-old method of pain relief is being used to treat pets in Munster.

Dr. Won Han, a veterinarian at Munster Animal Hospital, practices acupuncture, the traditional Chinese method of inserting needles into the skin to stimulate parts of the body. "We offer it as a means of integrated service in conjunction with conventional therapy, usually when conventional therapy has reached its limits or owners can no longer afford the next level of service," he says. "They turn to alternative or additional treatments that are available."

Acupuncture practitioners say the act of inserting needles into specific points on the body produces a healing response, providing pain relief or other health benefits for pets that are similar to humans. It can be practiced in both dogs and cats, Han says, and can improve conditions related to the musculoskeletal, reproductive, neurological or gastrointestinal systems.

"Cats seem to respond quicker than dogs do," he says. "It usually takes three to four therapy sessions to see noticeable changes with animals, but we have seen changes happening sooner than that."

Shirley Myers knows the healing power of acupuncture. Han performed the treatment on her beagle, Lennon, after he suddenly became paralyzed due to a slipped disk. "He always sleeps in his cage, and one morning he didn't come out," she says. "I went in there, and he couldn't move."

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She immediately took him to Munster Animal Hospital. "I was just hysterical," the Whiting resident says. "I didn't know what happened." After fitting Lennon with a dog wheelchair and beginning physical therapy, Han recommended acupuncture as part of his treatment plan. "Within four months, he was perfect," Myers says. "Now this dog runs so fast we can't keep up with him."

Han, who has been offering the service at Munster Animal Hospital for three years, went through a two-year training process at the Chi Institute in Florida. It was there he learned about the four branches of traditional Chinese veterinary medicine: acupuncture, herbal medicine, food therapy and Tui-na, a form of Chinese medical massage in which different manipulations are applied to promote circulation and correct imbalances within the organs.

Although Han offers the acupuncture service to mostly cats and dogs, it can be used to treat many different animals, including horses. He says most of the pets he works with cooperate very well.

In addition to acupuncture, Munster Animal Hospital offers other alternative therapies in conjunction with traditional medicine and surgery, including chiropractic, homeopathy, laser therapy, magnetic therapy and massage therapy.