Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Animal acupuncture is growing trend

Before Susan Erika Argeres gets her needles ready for her next patient, she puts her stool on top of the examining table.

"Tucker likes to mark his territory," she says.

That's pretty typical on a visit to the vet for dogs like Tucker, a 3-year-old Welsh terrier. What comes next might not be.

Argeres is a doctor of veterinary medicine. But she's also a certified veterinary acupuncturist and part of what she says is a growing trend in Albuquerque.

She plies her needles at various clinics in Albuquerque and makes several house calls a day. In 2003, Argeres opened Argeres Animal Alternatives, where she does massage and acupuncture.

In all, she estimates there are about 25 holistic vets in Albuquerque, 15 of whom do acupuncture.

"You have to be an actual veterinarian to do this," Argeres said.

House calls are usually about $80 and clinic treatments range from $55 to $65, she said.

Finding their way to Argeres is a natural step for most of her clients, she says.

"I think my clients care for their pets how they care for their own well-being. A lot of my clients do treat their medical condition holistically, as well," she said.

Argeres focuses on orthopedic issues. She treats ailments such as hip dysplasia, disk disease often found in dachsunds, arthritis, stiffness and geriatric muscle wasting.

She says some other acupuncturists focus on behavioral issues, seizures, epilepsy and gastrointestinal disorders.

You can tell whether it works by watching the animal, she said. "Sometimes it works wonderfully and sometimes it doesn't. It's wonderful when an animal responds," she said.

Buster was a bulldog that she treated. He came in dragging his legs and barely walking.

"I told the clients `I'm not sure we'll be able to help him,' " she says.

"Now he doesn't even need acupuncture anymore."

Carol Bell, Buster's owner, said an injury as a puppy got worse, and he kept dragging his legs.

"After the acupuncture, he got up and started walking - after the first treatment. He is a miracle dog," she said.

Jacqueline Sams is Argeres' only client with a cat at the moment. Logan, a black domestic short-hair, was suffering from severe joint degeneration.

"I was surprised when the vet suggested it. But our pets are like our kids, and we were willing to try anything," she said. "His general attitude toward life has improved. He is able to jump and move around."

You can also see the treatment having some effect while it's happening.

Tucker, the Welsh terrier with a penchant for marking his territory, first came to see Argeres in July 2006 for lameness in his left knee.

On a recent visit, Argeres greeted her woolly-haired friend. After he sat down on a familiar pink blanket, she massaged his whole body.

Tucker turned in various positions, tilting his head back to make sure Argeres got all the appropriate areas.

"They will usually let you know where they need to be massaged," Argeres said.

As Tucker got the rubdown, he started to lightly drip from the nose and let out several large yawns. He also began to make yummy noises with his mouth.

Those were all signs that Tucker was "in the zone."

Argeres began to insert tiny needles into various points in his body and continued massaging while the needles were in there.

"Good boy, Tucker, sweetie pie. You OK, little man?" she says.

Tucker couldn't talk, but his disposition said he was more than OK.

His eyelids began to get heavy. Tucker was so relaxed, in fact, that he just lay back despite the fact that he had about a dozen needles on his back.

Black said Tucker wasn't always this calm.

"When I first brought him in, I had to keep him under control," she said.

Now Tucker just spreads out on the little blanket and lets Argeres work her magic.

Barbara Madaras, whose sheltie named Joey regained use of a leg through the treatment, said she thinks dogs are especially open to the benefits of acupuncture.

"Pets don't have the cynicism humans do. They totally accept it. They don't come into it with any skepticism or foregone conclusions," she said.