Pets getting a cross-cultural lift

Deseret Morning News, Monday, January 09, 2006

DNEWS pet acupuncture

Dr. Yoeny Calas-Dobson uses a laser on a pressure point of an iguana at the Riverwoods Pet Hospital. She uses both Western and Eastern medicinal approaches. Dan Lund, for the Deseret Morning News

Pets getting a cross-cultural lift

Provo veterinarian includes Chinese medical practices

By Jeremy Twitchell
Deseret Morning News

PROVO — In his cage, Lama frantically claws at the floor in a vain effort to dig his way out. Every few seconds, he pauses to lift his head and yelp then lowers his head again and takes another scratch at the stubborn metal flooring.

Lama, a 2 1/2-year old Lhasa apso, has suffered seizures and shown bouts of uncontrollable behavior. Normally, a veterinarian would conduct a battery of tests and begin a trial-and-error process of prescription medication to cure the problem.

Dr. Yoeny Calas-Dobson, Lama’s veterinarian at the Riverwoods Pet Hospital in Provo, said there is nothing wrong with that approach. But she also incorporates traditional Chinese medicinal practices — including acupuncture — into her treatment.

And, she said, the results have been “excellent.”

“So far, all the modalities I’ve tried, I have had really good results,” Calas-Dobson said. “Don’t get me wrong, I still do blood work, I still to radiographs, I still do surgeries if I have to. All I’m saying is you want to be able to use the Western medicine knowledge but implement Eastern medicine.”

Calas-Dobson has been practicing for 20 years and said she began taking an interest in Chinese medicine about four years ago after seeing a number of animals with “idiopathic” conditions — physical and behavioral problems with no clear cause or cure.

“I saw more and more of that,” Calas-Dobson said. “I saw a lot of disease processes where the owners just basically have to live with it. And I said, ‘There’s got to be more than just living with it.’ ”

Calas-Dobson took casual courses for years, but four months ago, she began an intensive certification course through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, a nonprofit organization based in Colorado dedicated to promoting veterinary acupuncture as a helpful tool when combined with Western treatment practices.

When she finishes the course in two months, Calas-Dobson will be the fourth IVAS-certified acupuncturist in Utah and the first in Utah County.

Just as when it is practiced on humans, acupuncture for animals is based on the traditional Chinese concept that an energy called Qi (pronounced “chee”) moves through the body along routes called meridians. A blockage or imbalance of that energy flow is the source of physical ailments, and ailments in one part of the body can be treated at another part of the body that shares the same meridian.

“That’s the cool thing about traditional Chinese medicine,” Calas-Dobson said. “I don’t have to be in the same area, but I can treat the animals, using these modalities, in a whole other part of the body.”

Studies have confirmed that proper stimulation of certain pressure points can release hormones and endorphins that are vital to the healing process, according to the Web site for IVAS.

Calas-Dobson employs five methods, or modalities, to stimulate pressure points: traditional acupuncture using dry needles, low-intensity lasers, acupressure (massaging), moxa (an herblike substance that burns with a high level of heat, then warms pressure points), and aquapressure (the injection of liquid substances, in this case Vitamin B12).

DNEWS pet acupuncture

Janni Kimble, left, assists as Dr. Yoeny Calas-Dobson treats Lama, a Lhasa apso, with acupuncture. Dan Lund, for the Deseret Morning News

Today, Lama receives laser stimulation at a meridian point just above the space between his eyes, then some acupuncture treatment at the base of his neck. Finally, he gets a couple shots of aquapressure into points on his front legs.

He sits calmly in place while the treatment is administered, showing no signs of discomfort during the process or while one of Calas-Dobson’s assistants holds and pets him for about 20 minutes while the treatments are allowed to run their course.

The average treatment lasts 10-30 minutes. IVAS recommends a treatment schedule of four to six weeks, with one to three visits per week for the best results.

Sometimes, results are obvious much sooner, as Linda Karen, a client of Dobson’s, found out earlier this month.

Karen’s ferret, Lola, had an infected, swollen eyelid that was not responding to antibiotics. Calas-Dobson suggested an acupuncture session.

“I had no problem with that,” Karen said. “I figured she knows what she’s doing. You just have to trust the doctor sometimes.”

After one treatment, the eyelid began to lose its redness, and after two, it was almost back to normal.

“I’m just totally amazed,” Karen said. “It’s like night and day.”

Karen snapped a picture of Lola before trying acupuncture, fearing the condition was irreversible and she would have to put Lola down. Now, that photo is the “before” photo on the vet clinic’s Web site, next to a photo of a nearly cured Lola taken just two visits later.

“I would recommend acupuncture without a doubt,” Karen said. “It made a big difference.”

Calas-Dobson said one of the best things about acupuncture and the other modalities is they are a no-risk — and usually no-pain — treatment option.

“The nice thing about acupuncture is you do no wrong,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about doing a treatment that is going to kill the animal, and there are no drug reactions.”

Many of her clients have been surprised at the broad range of maladies that acupuncture can treat, but most have been very open to the idea when she suggests it, Calas-Dobson said.

“A lot of the clients nowadays are very educated.” she said. “They want to eat healthier, they want to live longer but with a better quality of life, not in a diseased, dilapidated, decrepit stage. I think that as our population becomes more educated in our own modalities, a lot of my clients are very open to trying this.”

More information about animal acupuncture and other treatment options is available at or The Riverwoods Pet Hospital is at 3820 N. University.


© 2006 Deseret News Publishing Company

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