Why you should consider acupuncture for your pets

Why you should consider acupuncture for your pets

July 3rd, 2012 by Karen Nazor Hill in Life Entertainment

Dr. Karen Turner Knarr finishes attaching electrodes to acupuncture needles in the hind quarters of Sassy a six-year-old lab-boxer mix with arthritic hips and knees, during a session of electro-acupuncture at East Ridge Animal Hospital on Wednesday. Dr. Knarr applies the Chinese medicinal art of acupuncture to the treatment of animals a few days per week at East Ridge Animal Hospital. While she mostly works with smaller animals like dogs and cats, she also has used the techniques on horses. Acupuncture has been found to be effective in pain management and in treatment of arthritis and related injuries.

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

Fact file

-- Name: Dr. Karen Turner Knarr.

--Age: 48.

-- Family: Husband Robert Knarr; children Kathryn, 19, and Jackson, 9.

-- Pets: 3 horses, 3 cats, 10 laying hens and a rabbit.

-- Hometown: Rainsville, Ala.

-- Education: 1989 graduate, Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.

--Favorite book: "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.

-- Favorite movie: "Secretariat."

-- Favorite singer: Jimmy Buffett.

-- What would people be surprised to learn about you? "I enjoy rug hooking."

When local veterinarian Karen Turner Knarr realized firsthand the benefits of acupuncture, she thought the procedure would benefit animals as well.

"It's another tool for helping with pain," Knarr said. "I thought it would be particularly helpful to dogs with arthritis."

The veterinarian soon learned there were several educational institutes in the United States that focused on acupuncture and alternative healing techniques for animals. She contacted the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine in Reddick, Fla., and soon enrolled in a 160-hour, six-month course offered exclusively for licensed veterinarians.

According to Chi Institute's website, tcvm.cm, its mission is to train licensed veterinarians to become "cutting-edge animal health-care providers, capable of practicing veterinary acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and other traditional Chinese veterinary medicine skills."

After completing the course, Knarr was the first veterinarian in the Chattanooga providing acupuncture treatment to animals. Today, there are at least two other veterinarians offering the service in the area.

Knarr said the positive benefits of applying acupuncture and alternative medicine to animals are the same as for humans.

"It works," she said.

Knarr received certification in veterinary acupuncture in 2005 and certification in veterinary food therapy in 2011. She is working toward certification in veterinary herbal therapy.

Q What was the general perception locally of acupuncture on animals at the time you began offering it in your practice?

A Mixed. Few people had even heard about it at the time because the practice wasn't brought to North America until around 1997. Though it's a 4,000-year-old practice in China, it's still new to many Americans. Today, my clients are more open-minded to the procedure because many animals can't take medicine. And, very important, there are no side effects to acupuncture. The needles are very, very small.

Q How do the animals respond since they are not sedated for the acupuncture treatment?

A Dogs are amazing. Big dogs will usually sit or lie down when I'm putting the needles in, and they'll stay still for 20 minutes. Smaller dogs like to be held. Cats are good, too. But I have found that the older the cat, the better they'll respond. They typically will sit throughout the treatment. Many owners tell me their pets actually look forward to getting the acupuncture treatment.

Q What are the benefits of acupuncture?

A It jump-starts the healing process. In this country, we're used to taking pills for everything. The acupuncture process, together with conventional veterinary care, works. It helps the immune system.

Q What ailments are treated with acupuncture?

A General pain, arthritis, back problems, gastrointestinal, increases immune system for cancer patients, kidney, bladder and skin problems.

Q What animals do you treat with acupuncture?

A Mostly dogs, but a few horses and cats. It typically makes them sleepy.

Q What's the cost of a treatment?

A A first treatment is $65; follow-up treatments are $50.

Q Are all your clients aware of your alternative treatments?

A I always bring it up. Some people are aware of what alternative treatments offer, and others have no idea. I have clients who only want alternative treatments for their animals. I want to do what's best for the animal. A lot more people are open-minded to alternative medicine, and it's wonderful to see their response.

Q What percentage of your practice do you consider alternative?

A About 30 percent alternative and 70 percent conventional. I do use the needles for dogs and cats after surgery when waking them up.

Q Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A Doing more alternative medicine. I really enjoy it.