Acupuncture isn’t for humans alone

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: July 4, 2013

When local veterinarian Carla Wilkie first saw Oreo, a 13-year-old cat, it could barely move a limb.

Her mid back was stiff and she couldn’t jump or run or even comfortably groom herself anymore but spinal X-rays showed no arthritis.

Six months later, Wilkie received an email with a video attachment.

It was Oreo, happily jumping up the cat tree and impressing everyone with other antics.


Dr. Carla Wilkie treats a patient at the Eagleview Veterniary Hospital in this file photo. Photo: Gagandeep Ghuman

It was acupuncture that did the trick.

 “A lot of her chronic immobility responded to care without drugs or surgery,” notes Wilkie.

Dr. Wilikie can tell you more such stories about how acupuncture can work for pets in a way that traditional western medicine might not.

“It’s seen as alternative medicine, but I prefer to see it as a more holistic and inclusive method of treatment,” Wilkie says.

An ancient Chinese practice that uses sterile needles or electrical stimulation to target specific points on the body, acupuncture is now being used by veterinarians like Wilkie across North America to relieve pain and tension in pets.

From severe arthritis to dyspepsia to sore back, strains, allergy, acupuncture is being used as an alternative and as a complement to the western medicine.

It’s also gaining popularity among pet owners in Squamish.

Wilkie has been a veterinarian for 20 years, but it’s only in the past few years ago that she decided to pursue acupuncture.

After intensive training from International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS), she started seeing patients in both Squamish and West Vancouver.

“From seeing one patient every week, I see at least ten patients in a week now,” Wilkie says.

Still, she runs into people who are not aware of acupuncture as an alternate treatment method.

Although Wilkie works in both medical traditions, she says acupuncture demands patience from pets and their owners.

In some cases, it’s the last ‘port of call’ in bringing about a change in the condition of the pet.

“It’s time consuming and slow, but with acupuncture, I’m also looking at quality of life improvements,” she said.

It might take more time, but it’s emerging as a popular option for people across North America, said Simon Flynn, executive director of the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture.

The nonprofit group has a membership of 800 veterinary acupuncturists, compared with about 200 a decade ago, Flynn told the Washington Post in a recent interview.

It’s driven by pet owners who had acupuncture and want their pets to have the same kind of therapy, Flynn said.