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Pet therapy: Using acupuncture and physical therapy to help your pooch

Posted at 9:40 AM, May 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-16 09:40:50-04

Many pet owners see their animal friends as extensions of themselves. Some are even like children and are given the best of everything - even post-surgery care.

Pet owners are looking to physical therapy treatments and acupuncture for their furry friends, just like they would for themselves.

One dog owner, Cheryl Everett, became concerned after her long-haired dachshund named Tucker suddenly lost function in his back legs.

"It's hard," Cheryl said. "And to see him scooch around and try to walk was very very difficult."

Cheryl says an injury to the disks in Tucker's back paralyzed him. Even with surgery, there was no guarantee he would be walking again, like he is today.

"He ended up being totally paralyzed in the back end," Cheryl said. "Couldn't walk, and we had that 24 hour window to have him get an MRI and surgery."

The surgery definitely helped. But doctors are also crediting Tucker's recovery with help from physical therapy and acupuncture.

Doctor Tanya Bork at the Village Veterinary Clinic of Hamburg says physical therapy and acupuncture for pets is just like it is for humans.

"Putting needles in certain places that affect the body in certain ways," Bork said. "So examining the pet to find out what their problem is, and then treating them accordingly."

Bork says pets with neurological or intestinal problems, and similar issues, make good candidates for acupuncture.

"Most of what I see is chronic pain, so they can reduce the oral medication they give," Bork said. "Or give their pet a better quality of life."

And pet owner Cheryl has definitely improved Tucker's quality of life by combining acupuncture with physical therapy after his surgery. Doctors use physical therapy to build back muscle in their pet patients to prevent further injuries, just like a doctor would do for a person after surgery.

While both treatments can be helpful, veterinarians say acupuncture isn't for all pets.

"There are certain cases of course with progressive diseases we can't stop," Bork said. "But what we try to do is make that animal's quality of life better in the meantime."

Cheryl says bringing Tucker for physical therapy and acupuncture treatments was the best thing for him.

"They know what they're doing more than I do," Cheryl said. "I could do PT at home. But, I didn't expect to have the result he would have had by coming here."