Tag Archives: acupuncture for pets

Spring Has Sprung!

CATS everywhere are yowling for attention…the females are restless and the boys are a ’fightin’. Even your spayed and neutered felines are feeling the fun in the air. I have had a few early fighters in my practice already, with small abscess repairs and a not-so-fun week of confinement with that embarrassing e-collar….

Be aware that it is far better to build a “catio,” or other large wired-in area for your kitties, so they can safely play “wildcat” without the associated risk. Along with cat-fights, the risks on the rise as it gets sunnier include coyote predators, owls, bobcats and of course, cars driven by happy teens out for spring and summer fun.

If you must let your kitty wander the ‘hood during the day, please have them in for supper (theirs) by about 5 pm, before dusk descends. If you notice your pet lying around, a little quiet, or subdued, often they have a developing abscess somewhere that just hasn’t demanded your attention yet. It’s best to really feel around for a sore spot on kitty’s body so you can detect that swelling before it gets too big or-yuck-ruptures.

Lastly, let’s talk about restless DOGS and spring. Most of you responsible pet owners have spayed and neutered dogs. But for other reasons, dogs too, want to really get out there and run and play and sniff our (finally) abundant, post-rain grass!

With all of that drive and activity, you may start to notice more knee and elbow strains in the more active pups, and joint stiffness and pronounced limping in those older “weekend warrior” canines. We have been using several amazing ALL-NATURAL products that are REVERSING JOINT DISEASE, REMOVING INFLAMMATION FROM THE JOINTS AND BONES, and doing a little general reverse aging as well. (I’m in for the human version….). Call and ask today about BIOCELL, EXCEL CAMELINA OIL, AND VETSMART HIP AND JOINT…remember, pure, clean, and 95% absorbed the minute it passes their doggy lips!

Let’s keep the SPRING in your pet’s steps this Spring!

Home Remedies 101 – Part 2

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of my most valuable home remedies for pet health that can keep your dog’s tail wagging and kitty purring. These tips will help you to gauge when to call your integrative vet.

I get asked a lot about how to safely remove a ticks from your dogs.  Well let me start by saying that if your dog spends lots of time outdoors, tick checks should be part of your daily routine. Here’s how to spot a tick – and what to do if one has grabbed hold of your pet.

Start by running your fingers slowly over your dog’s entire body. If you feel a bump or swollen area, check to see if a tick has burrowed there. Don’t limit your search to your dog’s torso: check between his toes, under his armpits, the insides of his ears, and around his face and chin.

Ticks can be black, brown or tan and they have eight legs. They can also be tiny: some species are only as large as the head of a pin.

Don’t use your hands or fingers, as you’ll squeeze the tick contents into your dog! Use tweezers or a tick removal device. Pinch the area of skin under the tick to make a “hill”.

Grasp low at the “neck” of the tick or lower, and slowly twist and pull, allowing time for the tick to detach. You may want to apply Frontline spray or topical first to allow ticks to loosen and some even fall off.

It’s normal for a reactionary bump to remain. Just note if there is a black piece still there then this is the head of the tick. The head itself poses no real risk, as the dog’s body will naturally push it out over time.

The tick’s body has the diseases, so as long as it is removed before 24-48 hours of being on the dog-it requires that time for disease transmission. If it’s been longer than 24 hours, plan to consult your vet for tick disease testing and possibly preventative antibiotics.

Unless you can’t get to the tick, you don’t really need a vet to remove it.

I hope you found this article helpful.

Much love, light and health.

Dr. Tiffany Margolin

Dr. Tiffany Margolin posing with a dog

Holistic Approaches: Back or Leg Pain in Dogs

holistic approaches to back or leg pain in dogs

Just the other day I received a call from a VERY distressed owner.

“Doctor, Cici isn’t doing well at all and she has a leg problem. We have X-rays but she is still limping and can’t seem to get comfortable. Can you help her?”

I wondered about the X-rays. I’ve so often heard, “Oh yes, they took X-rays (properly termed radiographs) of EVERYTHING. They didn’t find anything”! 


What Are X-rays Not Picking Up?

Usually, what I find in these cases are that hips, a knee, an elbow or shoulder is the focus of  the radiographs. I cannot TELL you how many times there are NO pictures of the pet’s neck or lower spine. 

Yet, the VAST majority of pain appearing as a limp or stiffness in middle-aged or older dogs comes from the spine.

There are a great number of structures  in the region of the spine, that affect the gait or the way a pet walks. Besides the obvious “disc” (that may bulge or be calcifying), there may be inflammation of structures around the bones, muscle spasms, fibrous tissue from old injuries, or plain, simple “arthritis” of different areas of the spine. ALL of which can cause progressive or intermittent signs.

The important thing is that you can learn to recognize this and help the vet to help your pet.


Signs of Pain in the Back, Legs or Neck:

  • Shifting front leg lameness or limping that is hard to localize to one leg (front legs look for neck issues).
  • Slow to squat or push up from squatting when defecating (lesions in the region of the tailbone).
  • “Hunching” of the lower back, a curve that seems more pronounced than before (this can occur in younger dogs as well with muscle spasms of the back).
  • Spasms that look like a standing seizure in small dogs, in which they curve to one side in a “C” shape and are struggling to walk.
  • Snappiness upon petting, scratching or bumping your dog’s hips or lower back.
  • An intermittent or unexplainable yelp of pain or shaking (often neck pain).

“But doctor, he never cries or whines.” 

Think about your own knees or back. When they hurt, do you cry out? Do you whimper? Dogs are even more stoic than we are. It’s not the sharp, unbearable type of pain (except with acute neck pain) that they are usually suffering. Instead, they tend to “suffer in silence”, which only keeps us from recognizing how uncomfortable they may be.

Although it seems animals don’t “tell us where it hurts,” they actually do. We just need to learn their pain language and pay attention. If you think it’s a leg (and you have an older pet), you may want to be sure to rule out back pain with your veterinarian. 


Back Pain or Leg Pain?

So why is it so important to know whether it’s a “back or a leg?” Because the effective treatment can be radically different. 

When I got the call about Cici, I saw her, and my stomach lurched. This dog was in severe pain. And she was on pain medications appropriate for a JOINT or a LEG. But I realized she had neck pain, and her radiographs were only of the elbow and hip joints. 


Holistic Approaches to Solve Cici’s Pain

Because she was in so much pain, she could not tolerate excessive handling, so her owners decided to try acupuncture, one of our holistic approaches, for her neck and a treatment trial of corticosteroids and muscle relaxants, often the best initial way to address the immediate pain and swelling.

The next day I was hesitant to call, afraid I would hear nothing good. On the contrary, Cici had had her best night in weeks. Her owners were ecstatic, grateful and relieved, and Cici was out of pain (finally).

In reviewing her history, all I had to do was listen (she had a metal rod in her back for gosh sakes)! And to pay attention to her level of stiffness and movement. Dogs with joint pain rarely if ever, shake in pain when lying still. But neck pain is different, often sharp and severe.

I’m happy to report that Cici is feeling like herself again.  She will be under observation and receive continued acupuncture treatments to help as much as possible with her ongoing issues. She is not a candidate for surgery again, and many times these situations can get better and stay that way with the right balance of holistic approaches and western medicine.

For more information about how to tell if your pet is in pain, what to do about it, and if you’re interested in talking further about a couple holistic approaches to your dog’s pain, please call From the heart vet.

Acupuncture: Let’s Needle it Out

Today, From the Heart Mobile Vet offers acupuncture and other holistic forms of care for your pets. This is a relatively new part of my practice because integrative medicine has just begun to gain momentum in veterinarian practices. Let me take you down memory lane to a couple years ago when I first was introduced to acupuncture for animals. 


The Beginning of Acupuncture in Veterinary Care

In recent years, acupuncture has begun to find its way into mainstream veterinary medicine. Not two days ago I was sitting in an informal meeting with several alternative/integrative medicine practitioners. We were discussing how acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal and homeopathic medicine had made its way, finally, into increasing numbers of veterinary clinics. It seemed to me that the grassroots movement and consumer demand in human medicine had applied pressure to the veterinary industry.

I was a classic example of a Western medicine–trained vet. As a graduate in 1991, it was with great pride that I diagnosed most problems with radiographs and blood testing, and if it wasn’t showing up there, it didn’t exist. I used the appropriate pills (as directed by the pharmaceutical companies that conducted our seminars) to “fix” the problem.

As I progressed into the inevitable arena of refractory, unresponsive, chronic illnesses, it was alarmingly clear that we were missing A LOT. We were missing early stages of disease or changes that could indicate the later onset of disease in pets. The occasional oddball veterinarian would mention a brush with acupuncture or chiropractic medicine. There might be a story about ONE animal that they thought benefited.


How Acupuncture Has Helped My Pets

It wasn’t until my own dog was showing obvious signs of stiffness, pain and hesitation to jump, with NO sign on X-rays of arthritis that I really came on board with the needles. I quietly slipped over to the only local animal hospital performing pet acupuncture regularly.

The first day Spirit had her treatment, she was a changed dog. She trotted, tail up, into the park and leaped into the air after a tennis ball! I felt my guilt ease and my curiosity peak.


Benefits of Acupuncture on Animals

Pain, of course, is what most of us hear about when it comes to the application of acupuncture. However, pain is just a minute segment of what this method can treat. There are a myriad of signs, symptoms and conditions that respond to, in many cases, a combination of needling, herbs, and dietary changes. Integrative medicine is just that. There is no way to separate one thing from the other, and diet, the lifestyle of the pet and mode of treatment (including conventional and alternative) all combine for the best outcome.

Speaking of combining, one of the more common areas of feedback I hear is that acupuncture doesn’t “hold.” Well, that is extremely dependent on the condition being treated. I was just reading about intervertebral disc disease. This occurs when there is an actual breakdown of disc material in the back, and the disc collapses, bulges or calcifies and causes extreme spinal pain or paralysis of the legs. As you can imagine, this is usually classified as surgical, since the material is actually moving against the spinal cord and needs to be removed.

However, in many cases, owners do not want to subject their beloved pet to surgery, or would like to exhaust other options prior to performing an extensive, invasive procedure. Although the needles will not actually penetrate the disc space or get near the spinal cord, acupuncture can still be very effective in some cases. If Fido responds, as long as you are consistent about follow-up with regular treatments (a lot better than surgery if it works!), then the results will often “hold.” If they do not, this is an indicator that surgery may be necessary.


Complementary Treatments to Acupuncture

In addition to acupuncture, combining several modalities will often strengthen and prolong good results. A great complement to needling is the application of veterinary orthopedic manipulation (VOM), a nontraumatic activator technique adapted from human chiropractic. This method uses a spring-loaded activator to stimulate and rehabilitate the blood supply to the spinal cord and discs. Sometimes if acupuncture doesn’t achieve the desired result, VOM is used, or vice versa. More often, they can be synergistic and result in a better outcome when used in conjunction.

When combining treatment modalities, a pet owner may want something even less “invasive” or physical than the above treatments. In these cases, I recommend the application of alpha wave technology. This technology uses low-frequency sound waves, applied to the body in various areas, to act as “electroacupuncture.” There are no needles and no current is applied. Rather, the sound waves stimulate your pet’s brain to produce alpha waves. These are the healing waves mammals produce when they sleep. They stimulate endorphins, relaxation and generally promote tissue repair and healing.

Now this information is not intended to steer you away from having a necessary surgery. If your pet has a fractured leg or ruptured tendon, surgery is very important—it reconnects the pieces. Alpha-sonic and acupuncture technology can then be used to speed healing immensely, as a form of physical therapy. VOM is also a very effective way to minimize muscle spasms in the back and to lower the risk of a disc problem during post-operative recovery.

In cases of organ malfunction, acupuncture gets very specific and the application of Chinese medicine principals becomes even more, apparent. Customized herbs and dietary changes must often be implemented, along with regular needle application and the monitoring of blood results.

Education on Acupuncture for Veterinarians

Courses in acupuncture are being taught more widely in veterinary schools, and chapters on acupuncture are now found in many veterinary texts. There is a great difference in the approach Chinese medicine takes to problems as compared to Western medicine. Even the same problem in different animals may be treated quite differently by the acupuncturist. As Chinese medicine deals with the body as a whole, treatment also addresses the whole body or “constitution,” correcting at various levels the imbalances detected. Thus, as the body comes into balance, the specific signs, symptoms and “problem” should respond, and, ultimately, resolve.


Is Acupuncture Right for your Pet?

Realize that acupuncture is a cumulative treatment modality. It can often take several initial treatments to ascertain how well your pet will respond. The sessions may take from 15 to 30 or more minutes. The good news is that, in the hands of a certified and trained practitioner, your pet should have no discomfort and will actually be quite relaxed following these sessions.

One of the most important things to remember is to seek an integrative veterinarian who is aligned with your philosophy and will work with you to find a whole-body approach to your pet’s problem. This way, you and Fido will live a longer and healthier life together.

Natural Healing for Exotic Pets



Why Choose Natural Healing for your Exotic Pets

When one thinks of holistic or complementary medicine, one rarely considers animals, much less EXOTIC animals. The first question I hear is always…”What? Acupuncture for ANIMALS?” The next is, “How do you get them to stay still while you are putting in the needles”? 

As the athletes of the domesticated animals’ world, horses, were the first to reap the benefits of cutting-edge sports medicine treatments, because their athletic performance often has a tangible result, i.e; a monetary value associated with it, owners are willing to invest in finding out how modalities such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage will affect a horse’s performance.

Luckily, now all of our smaller furry friends are benefiting from this. For example, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronate were once the domain of the equine athlete, and now rabbits, reptiles, and birds are able to access these outstanding treatments and supplements, as well as all of their associated benefits.

The following is an in-depth look at what acupuncture, chiropractic, and laser therapy can do for your pet’s health and longevity.

Chiropractic Care- Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation

Are there those of you with rabbits that have back or hind leg problems? Dogs are not alone in suffering from disc disease, spinal nerve degeneration, and back pain. In fact, almost all active rabbits develop some form of a back problem during their lifetime. If you note how a rabbit’s back is shaped and how powerful their hind legs are, you can imagine the stress and strain placed on them throughout their life.

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In the spine, small “subluxations” of joints are actually partial dislocations.  Ouch!  You can imagine the body’s reaction to that.  Your pet’s back muscles and ligaments spasm and they walk stiffly, favor one side, or develop lameness or a splayed leg.  Your rabbit will not make a sound, they just adjust and adjust until they cannot do so anymore.  In this case, chiropractic treatment may be the ideal choice. 

Even severe arthritis in an older pet’s back may do well with gentle forms of chiropractic manipulation. This is because it is not bony arthritis itself causing the pain, but the soft tissue around the arthritic areas, and that can be moved.  At From The Heart Mobile Vet, we use a spring-loaded “activator” to gently tap the vertebrae back into place with minimal distress to your pet.

Chronic or arthritic pain, of course, is different than an accident or acute trauma to the spine and cord.  Chiropractic care may be unsuitable in some situations.  

Low-Level Cold Laser Therapy 



Sometimes, our patients are simply too small or too wiggly for acupuncture. We have options for these patients and they can still get all the benefits! Small mammals such as guinea pigs, rats, and non-mammals including birds and reptiles need an effective alternative to needling.

And yet, there are multiple ways to move Qi and blood in the body, providing excellent results without needles. Modern research has provided new opportunities for acupuncture treatments that did not previously exist, including microcurrent, magnetic treatments, and cold light laser therapy.

History of Laser Treatment 


Scientists began lab experimentation with lasers in the 1950s, with availability outside the lab in the 1960s. Once the quest for laser knowledge began, it was unstoppable. Researchers wanted to know how this new kind of light could change the world of healthcare. Early laser experiments resulted in the realization that laser therapy minimized skin scarring, helped wounds heal faster and affected cellular metabolism.

Benefits of Using Low-Level Lasers on the Body

Most lasers used in therapy are known as low-level lasers or “cold lasers,” (because they don’t produce heat.). These are not the same as lasers used for laser surgery, in which “hot lasers” are used as a scalpel to burn or cut the skin. Studies show that low-level lasers can help regenerate cells, decrease pain, reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and stimulate hair growth, to name a few examples.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of laser acupuncture is that it’s completely painless. Most patients feel nothing at all during laser therapy. This makes it ideal for smaller mammals and for birds.  One effect is immediate calming of the nervous system. This is a great way to treat the smaller mammals, birds, and reptiles.

Laser therapy is most often used and very effective for injuries, infections of the skin, bumblefoot, and sore hocks, healing from surgery, and any place in the body where improving blood flow will aid healing. The only area we may not direct laser light is towards a growing tumor.

Reduction of pain, swelling and redness are advantages of low-level laser therapy as well. If your pet is a candidate for acupuncture, they are often responsive to laser or a combination of the two. However, some cases achieve the best results with acupuncture. Rabbits are generally very amenable to it and quickly relax into the treatment.

Acupuncture on Exotic Pets

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Used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine, acupuncture is now beginning to be integrated into Western health care. In the last ten years, many studies have identified nerve centers and clusters of blood vessels at the ancient mapped acupuncture points. When needles are inserted into these points, signals are sent to the brain to produce anti-inflammatory, anti-pain and healing chemicals to those areas that need it.

There are two primary types of acupuncture taught to vets.  One is the most traditional form that encompasses energy flow and blockages and incorporates a very systemic approach.   The other is more structural and correlates to the parts of the anatomy that are being treated, such as a painful back or neck.

Prior to a first acupuncture consult, it is important to have a thorough physical exam on your pet and any bloodwork or x-rays indicated to help define the problem.  Your  integrative veterinarian will offer the most appropriate treatments, including acupuncture, herbs or laser therapy where indicated. 

How do you know if your pet needs/will respond to acupuncture or laser therapy? Again, choose a qualified veterinary acupuncturist and address the appropriate diagnostic testing to help direct the course of treatment. Acupuncture appears to be very effective with exotic pets when disc disease, soft tissue or ligament pain, or arthritis is present. 

In addition, chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer or a seizure disorder may respond well to acupuncture in combination with Chinese herbs.  Your veterinary acupuncturist will review the diagnosis and examine your pet to complete the assessment.  In most cases, even a nervous pet will readily accept needle placement.  The needles are tiny and inserted swiftly and gently. 

Once the needles are in place, you and your furry child can relax and sit together for 20 to 30 minutes, an experience most animals aren’t used to at an animal hospital.  They appreciate the nap, and when you come for the next visit, they are often much less nervous about the experience.  The effects of the treatment will be evident from immediately to 48 hours after your visit.


Potential Affects of Acupuncture

One note: If your pet has never received an acupuncture treatment, they may release a lot of pent-up acids and toxins during the first or second treatment. While not dangerous, this may create some transient soreness during the first 48 hours after the experience. This is termed a “healing crisis”. Just be patient and follow your veterinarian’s instructions, and by the third day, the positive results are often visible.

Try to make fresh water and gentle movement available to your pet during the days immediately following chiropractic and acupuncture treatments.

So how many sessions will be needed?  What results can you expect?  How long does the treatment last?  It depends upon the condition.  The acuter, or recent, the problem, the fewer treatments are needed to bring blood flow, repair cells and banish pain.  My border collie mix, Spirit, only needed three sessions for her mid-back muscle spasms.  I could always tell when she had a “bad day,” as she was reticent to jump and play, and her ears were down instead of happy and “up”. 

Rabbits will decrease activity or stop doing “binkies”. Reptiles may only decrease general activity or stop producing stools. These simple signs are examples of what you should look for in your own pet.

Chronic conditions, including degenerative arthritis, spinal degeneration, type 2 disc disease and the like, typically respond to a longer treatment program.  After a number of weekly sessions, most animals do well with less frequent visits or with herbs and supplements to continue the effects of the therapy. 

Massage and Physical Therapy at Home 



So what about massage?  Does it have a real place in pet medicine?  Indeed, it does. Massage by a certified pet massage therapist or taught to you by a rehabilitation vet uses acupressure principles to help your pet. Veterinary physical therapists can teach you how to stretch and strengthen your pet at home.

When you think of where you’d rather go, the chiropractor, acupuncturist or massage therapist, many of you pick the massage, simply because it feels so good.  This is not an accident.  Many studies show that the reason it FEELS so good is that massage and therapy releases endorphins (pain blockers), increases circulation to areas that need it, and improves lymphatic flow, the key to your immune system.

Ultimately, the key to choosing treatments that will work for your exotic pet is finding the right exotic specialist who also has knowledge of natural treatments. You may be advised to begin with X-rays, bloodwork, and other recommended procedures.  Following that will be a discussion of the treatment options for your pet’s problem, and a tailored, integrative approach that very often will include some traditional western and some complementary (natural) modalities– working together to maximize healing!

Interested in Natural Healing for your Pet?

Contact us and we’ll do a thorough examination of your pet to determine what type of natural healing mechanism your pet needs.