The love between a pet and its owner is unconditional.
On our best and worst days, a pet offers affection that’s devoid of expectation or judgment.
There may be few humans we can say the same for.
This is why it’s heartbreaking for owners to see their companions suffering. Whether they’re fighting through a fur ball, a muscle ache or a chronic illness, it’s an owner’s duty to ensure his or her pet’s well-being.
When a head scratch or tasty treat isn’t comforting enough, Dr. Rachel Barrack can help.
Barrack is a mobile veterinarian, based in Manhattan, whose practice involves a little something extra. She uses acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapies to treat her feline, canine and equine patients.
And as the owner of 9-year-old Chihuahua Eloise, she knows firsthand about the strength of a pet-and-owner bond.
Barrack’s practice integrates both Western medicine — which is based on diet, medication and surgery — with ancient Eastern, holistic treatments of neurological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, skin, uro-genital and immune-meditated diseases, in addition to providing postoperative healing, palliative care and treatment for behavioral issues. According to Barrack, each method is effective but suits different situations. While pharmaceuticals are better for acute disease and surgery, acupuncture helps chronic conditions. Pharmaceutical drugs, which generally act faster, also often have unpleasant side effects, which can be alleviated using holistic therapies.
“I often see animals that have just undergone surgery to aid in postoperative healing and more chronic conditions that aren’t responding well to Western treatment,” she says.
Since her office is mobile, she practices care directly in the patient’s home, performing acupuncture by inserting hair-thin, stainless steel needles along 14 major channels that carry blood and energy (known as the “chi” in Chinese medicine) throughout the body. The procedure produces a physiological effect that can provide pain relief, stimulate microcirculation and decrease inflammation, with an overall goal of restoring balance among the organ systems.
She urges owners not to be discouraged by the involvement of needles. The treatment, which is virtually painless, actually has a soothing effect on the animal.
“Most of the time, all of the patients are really cooperative,” Barrack says. “There are some common points that I start with for each patient. For the most part, they’re all relaxed. Mom or dad are also nearby to assure them throughout the process.”
Barrack then turns to Chinese herbal therapy, which is used in conjunction with acupuncture.
“It’s analogous to acupuncture,” she says. “They work hand-in-hand with each other.”
An acupuncture patient is provided with a premixed herbal blend that’s created according to the specific diagnosis. The herbs, which help enhance the effects of treatment, are available in a powder, pill or biscuit form.
“The herbs are all natural, but they should be looked at as medication,” Barrack says.
Owners can expect a 60- to 90-minute first visit, during which Barrack gives the pet a health history examination, including a Western physical exam and a Chinese veterinary exam. Barrack and the owner will then determine the primary concerns for the pet and the method of treatment, which can be exclusively a Western or Eastern one, or a combination of both.
“In the case of an acute life-threatening emergency, like broken bones or something that requires surgery, I’m turning to my Western background, so to speak,” she says. “It’s important to know your limitations. Acupuncture can be used to lessen the side effects or in lieu of some Western drugs, but it requires a little bit of patience.”
Barrack recommends beginning with three to five acupuncture treatments.
“Typically, it requires a few treatments to really see the benefits of the needling and more chronic conditions will take a bit longer to evolve through Eastern medicine,” she says.
Barrack treats clients throughout the tristate area. For more, visit animalacupuncture.com.