Bentley hobbled into the room, his hips stiff and his back legs dragging behind. He made it slowly to the veterinary tech's leg and looked up at her, begging for a scratch behind his ears. His tongue hung out of his mouth and he sat down, exhausted from the walk from the car to the front desk of Riverwoods Pet Hospital in Provo.

The 8-year-old English bulldog has tried several kinds of arthritis medications since the arthritis started setting in three years ago. Nothing seemed to help the inflammation in his back hips. His owner, Kendra Pierce, decided to try the acupuncture.

"He thinks he's a puppy and runs around and then can't get up," Pierce said.

Five years ago, Dr. Yoeny Calas-Dobson integrated traditional Chinese medicine into her daily practice of western medicine.

"I believe in Western medicine like blood work, X-rays and antibiotics, but I began to think, 'What else can I do?"' Dobson said. Before integrating acupuncture and aquapressure, she did a lot of research and training and now believes that acupuncture makes Western medicine that much better.

Traditional Chinese medicine treats the human body as a whole and involves several systems which are mapped out by meridians. The systems are generally named after anatomical organs but not necessarily directly associated with them. Acupuncture is a treatment that stimulates the body's 14 major meridians -- or energy-carrying channels -- to correct imbalances in the ying and the yang. The fine needles are put into points found along those meridians to replenish where there is deficiency, drain where there is excess and promote free flow where there is stagnation. It is believed that the treatment increases the release of endorphins -- a morphine-like chemical made in the body -- to decrease pain.

Acupuncture has been done on animals for the past 3,000 years, when it was first reported being done on an Asian elephant. Since she started incorporating this practice, Dobson has treated about 60 different animals such as ferrets, birds, iguanas, horses, cats, dogs and other exotics for things such as sprains, muscle and tendon injuries, arthritis and neuromuscular diseases.

As Bentley got his first and second treatments for his arthritis, he looked longingly at Pierce, who stood in the doorway of the exam room watching. During the session the animals are not sedated and, surprisingly, don't seem to notice as the needles are stuck in their muscles.

First the veterinarian heats and massages the animal and then finds the master points along the meridians to put in the needles. Combinations of different master points are used to treat different things. For example, to treat early heart disease, needles are put into the bladder meridian, the spleen meridian, heart meridian and conception meridian. Once all the needles are positioned -- and Dobson likes to use at least 10 -- they sit for about 30 minutes. Occasionally, the needles will pop out of the muscle as it starts to relax, and the veterinary tech lightly taps them back in. Depending on the injury and its severity, Dobson will then add aquapressure, where she injects a B-12 liquid to help keep the meridians clear for longer, or electro stimulation, where she attaches small electrodes to the needles that send small pulses of electricity to stimulate the release of endorphins.

"This is just another beautiful part of medicine treatment," Dobson said.

Dobson recommends getting one treatment weekly for four to six weeks. She uses several different modalities to treat her patients such as acupressure, aquapressure, acupuncture, laser and herbal medicine. Most often in the hour and a half session she uses all of these methods.

When Dobson brought the idea of integrating acupuncture to her practice, the other veterinary technicians were really hesitant.

"Why don't we just use drugs?" Heather Riggs remembers asking. "But after the first couple of cases and seeing the results, it was unbelievable."

Both Bentley and Pierce agree. By the second treatment Bentley was walking faster and farther than he had in three years.

"I can't describe how much it's helped," Pierce said. "I didn't believe in it completely and now I do. I hate to admit that, but it's true."

It's hard not to believe in it when she watched Bentley spring through the hallway after getting off the exam table, something she hadn't seen since he was diagnosed three years ago. Once he found a willing hand for a scratch, his head fell back and his tongue almost reached to the floor.

"He's so much happier," Pierce smiled.

For more information about acupuncture for pets, visit or call (801) 224-2233.


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