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When Fido is sick as a dog, more pet owners turn to aromatherapy, massage, even psychics

Sharyn Jackson, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

Brinks wasn't eating. Although green beans are among his favorite foods, he turned his nose up at two bowls of them placed around the Minnetonka, Minn., house where the yellow Lab lives.

To help, canine massage therapist Heidi Hesse rubbed Brinks in a specific spot on his ankle, an acupressure point, to soothe his lower back, bladder and kidneys. After an hour of massage with Hesse, Brinks regained his appetite and chowed down on a bowl of the veggies.

Massage is just one of a growing body of alternative therapies that Mary Kelley and Mark Falstad, Brinks' humans, employ to ease the 10-year-old dog's stiff joints, jump-start his appetite and soothe his ailing liver. Acupuncture is another.

As people increasingly take a holistic approach to their health, they're also looking to alternatives to conventional medical care for their nonhuman family members. That's why a new breed of wellness services for dogs -- from chiropractic and aromatherapy to Chinese herbs and psychic communication -- is springing up in the Twin Cities.

"It stems from human stuff," said Dr. Cathy Sinning of Lake Harriet Veterinary (­ "There's more mainstreaming now because of people learning how it can help themselves."

Almost a third of Americans seek out "complementary and alternative medicine" to enhance their medical care, according to studies by the Centers for Disease Control. That includes using natural products, such as fish oil to combat heart disease; engaging in mind and body practices, such as meditation and yoga; or other approaches such as herbal remedies, traditional Chinese medicine or homeopathic drugs.

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More humans, it seems, want their pets to have the same options.

When Sinning and her husband, Jim, began practicing in south Minneapolis 20 years ago, they were among the few veterinarians in the area integrating chiropractic and herbal medicine into standard care. These days, Sinning said, "most clinics have someone on staff doing acupuncture."

Courses for veterinarians to learn additional "modalities" have been booming over the past 15 years, said Dr. Barbara Hodges, a holistic veterinarian and veterinary adviser for the California-based Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

Hodges doesn't view the interest in alternative therapies as a rejection of traditional veterinarian medicine, just a complement to it.


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