Pet Zen: Homeopathic treatments could help heal cats and dogs

Kristin D'Agostino

Nubi Wan Kenobi, a 5-year-old black cat, is sitting quietly on the couch, watching pins being stuck into his back with the same lazy disinterest he might eye a bird outside the kitchen window.

He is no stranger to acupuncture. Just weeks ago he was diagnosed with kidney stones and his mom, Jeanie Marie Kraft, owner of Four Paws Acupuncture in Salem, treated his pain by placing about seven needles along his hind quarters above his bladder and kidneys.

Today, however it’s obvious Kenobi is back to his old self. After Kraft has placed just three tiny needles in his back, he promptly leaps up off the couch and runs off, leaving mom to chase after the needles.

“Animals know when they need it,” Kraft says. “When they’re well, they won’t sit down and behave.”

She attributes Kenobi’s recovery in large part to the acupuncture and Chinese herbs she gave him, along with the veterinarian’s prescribed antibiotic.

Holistic treatments like acupuncture, Reiki and massage can work in conjunction with veterinarian visits, providing pain and stress relief for animals with arthritis, back or hip problems, urinary tract infections or more serious conditions like cancer. These treatments can also provide a healthy alternative to prescribed painkillers that can have negative side effects on animals.

Kraft, who studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in California, has been treating animals and humans with acupuncture for more than 10 years.

She says the length of an acupuncture treatment depends on the size of the animal. For her clients, Kraft makes house calls like an old-fashioned family doctor, pointing out that pets respond better to the treatment when they’re on their own turf, surrounded by familiar sights and smells.

She begins by giving animals an herbal treatment to calm their nerves. Then she guides a small, hand-held red laser over the troublesome area, which helps soothe the area and prepare it for treatment.

The process itself takes 10 to 25 minutes depending on the size of the animal. Smaller animals require less time.

Many animals react to acupuncture the way a human would to a Swedish massage.

“Oftentimes their hair is all messed up and they have a glazed-eye afterglow,” Kraft says of her clients, chuckling. “They usually go home and sleep the rest of the day and the next day they have a burst of energy.”

Like with humans, acupuncture requires consecutive treatments before any long-term effects can be seen. For most pets six weeks does the trick, though some come for regular visits after that.

Maria Ceddia, from Melrose, has been taking her miniature schnauzer Nikki for treatments for over three years, since the dog injured her leg.

At the time Nikki was sick from prescribed pain medication and unable to walk. Ceddia admits she was skeptical about acupuncture, but decided to give it a try.

“The first time (Kraft) treated her, my dog was purring like a cat; she fell asleep,” she says. “That was the pain. My dog was in a lot of pain.”

After two months of acupuncture Nikki regained her former health and was back on all four paws. Ceddia now takes the dog in regularly for “tune ups.”