PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Some pet owners are turning to holistic medicine to treat their pets' ailments.
You might wonder what's holistic medicine. Holistic medicine combines traditional health care with complimentary alternatives to restore balance to the body, mind and spirit.
Once a week, for 20 minutes at a time and at a speed of roughly 2.5 miles per hour, Bentley, a six-year-old golden retriever, undergoes therapy.
"He was playing ball with my dad, and he fell in a hole," said Shay Fox. "Tore his ACL, had surgery on that. While he was rehabbing on that, he tore the other one."
Three months ago, Fox brought Bentley to Integrative Veterinarian, a last-ditch effort because nothing else was working.
"He couldn't do anything, so my mom had to keep him closed-off, kind of in a corner, and he's very active, so that was kind of the hardest thing for him, keeping him still," said Fox.
"With a tear, you typically have to repair it, so after the repair, there was a lot of atrophy of the leg," said Dr. Julie Mayer. "Weakness, obviously discomfort."
Strengthening Bentley's muscle was key. The treatment may seem unconventional, at least for a dog, and some would call it alternative. For Dr. Mayer, however, it's the norm.
"I was getting burned out," said Dr. Mayer. "Nothing was healing, so I kept giving steroids and antibiotics and steroids and antibiotics. The ear infections wouldn't heal, the bladder infections wouldn't heal, they kept coming back. I felt like failure because my patients were not getting what they needed."
In 1996, Dr. Mayer became certified in veterinary acupuncture. A few years later, veterinary chiropractic care, and most recently, canine rehabilitation.
"When she first got injured, the orthopedic surgeon was wanting to fuse her wrist," said Karen Jenkins, who owns a dog named Nami. "I really felt in my gut that this was not that bad of an injury, and I didn't want to cripple her."
Jenkins says laser, hydro, and physical therapy, along with acupuncture, helped Nami, her German Shepard, heal.
Despite her age and injuries, Nami remains fairly agile, at the age of 13-and-a-half.
"She's been active and would not have been the case had she had the surgery," said Jenkins. "She would have had a worse outcome. It would have affected her whole body."
"We want her to be able to maneuver through these cones," said Dr. Mayer. "We raise them so we start them low, and then we raise them, and what we want to accomplish is her picking up her feet."
Depending on the injury and condition, Dr. Mayer might use cavalettis on her patients, or peanuts to strengthen a dog's core, and improve balance. Ultra-violet lasers are also an important tool.
For some dog breeds, like mini French bulldogs, they are prone to ailments. Shortly after Donna Hunker rescued two mini French bulldogs, the trouble started.
"One day, [Cooper] started panting, yelped," said Hunker. "They did X-Rays in the back and said, 'oh my gosh, this the worst spine they've ever seen'. They recommended putting him down."
The laser is non-invasive, and allows Dr. Mayer to treat the a precise location. Two-and-a-half years later, and following weekly treatments..Hunker says cooper is up and running
"He stopped with the panting, especially the yipping," said Hunker. "He also would start to walk more normally, and use all four feet again."
Although Dr. Mayer's focus is on holistic treatments and medicines, she says that her practice is innovative because it can be used in conjunction with more traditional care.
According to Dr. Mayer, a dog like Bentley can't fake a recovery.
Most pet insurance plans do cover these treatments.