Our five-year-old fluffy mastiff Sofa is a beloved, drooly soul, but for as long as we’ve had him, he’s had some anxiety issues. If he’s separated from us for longer than a couple days, he’s been known to actually scratch or chew himself raw — bad enough to require a trip to the emergency vet on more than one occasion. To add to his issues, he recently started to develop leash aggression after being charged by a neighbor’s dog. Our wonderful vet, Barbara Gomez DVM, has been working with us on these issues through standard means like medication and checking for food allergies. But because she’s also training for her certification in acupuncture, she offered to come over and give Sofa a session for free. Dr. Gomez says:
“Acupuncture can treat anxiety, skin issues. It can treat liver problems, kidney problems. It can treat a lot of things, and itâ€™s good just as general health maintenance too. Itâ€™s good for arthritis and also good for digestive issues if they have chronic vomiting or diarrhea.”
Sofa seemed to think the whole procedure was pretty chill. I suspect he loved the attention, and I know he definitely could not feel the needles — no reaction to them. Afterward, he sure seemed a lot calmer on a walk — even the following day, when we tried a fairly crowded route with lots of dog interaction. Click for more on acupuncture for animals as well as a few more photos. — Mary T.
Dr. Gomez came to our house because she figured our dogs would be more comfortable there. Were they ever — Sofa was content to just lie on the floor as she inserted a needle at the back of his head and at different points down his spine.
Our younger dog, Dahlia, was interested in what was going on (meaning she kept getting in the way) so Dr. Gomez put a needle in the back of her head, too. This was pretty funny because then Dahlia was like, “Cool,” and lay down contentedly the rest of the time.
The needles are very thin and packaged individually for sterility. Sofa didn’t have a reaction to the needles at all, and the whole process from inserting the first needle to letting him rest with them in for awhile to removing them took about 40 minutes. We did hang out with him on the floor petting him so he’d stay relatively still and not dislodge any of them. That may have been his favorite part.
I asked Dr. Gomez a few questions while she was treating Sofa.
Shelterrific: What made you decide to become certified in acupuncture for pets?
Dr. Gomez: Because sometimes I think that with western medicine, weâ€™ve done everything we can and it doesnâ€™t work. I thought it was important to have something else to offer.
Shelterrific: Do you know of any animals who have been helped with acupuncture?
Dr. Gomez: Quite a few. There are animals that are pretty arthritic, and they really do a lot better — theyâ€™re just more comfortable and the owners perceive that theyâ€™re more comfortable. [The acupuncturist she’s studying with] has been seeing some of the same clients for years, so he must be doing something right.
One of my clients — her sister visits from New Jersey — brought her dog in during the holidays and her sister brought her little Yorkie in. The Yorkie is ancient, 17 years old, and used to like going in the car. But it had gotten to the point where she was obnoxious in the car, barking, and now they were worried about having to fly back home. So I did some acupuncture and by the time they got home to the sisterâ€™s house [in town], she said, “I canâ€™t believe how calm the dog was in the car! I really think it helped; she just seemed so much calmer and happier.”
Visit National Geographic to learn more about acupuncture for pets.