Sticking it to pet pain

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Carla McCann
Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ellen Thoma’s best friend and companion, Pearl, is suffering from the infirmities of old age.

At 14, Pearl’s joints and neck can be painful and stiff, symptoms characteristic of arthritis.

About a year ago, Thoma found Pearl lying still on a snow-covered backyard at their Edgerton home.

The future for the 110-pound bull mastiff and rottweiler mix canine looked grim, Thoma said.

“I would do anything to keep her comfortable and with me,” Thoma said. “She has taken care of me all of these years. Now, it’s my turn to take care of her.” And that’s exactly what Thoma has done.

Pearl has regained her joyful spirit, loving nature and a spring in her walk.

Thoma has no doubts that much of Pearl’s recovery can be attributed to alternative and holistic veterinarian care.

Pearl now receives acupuncture treatments and herbal remedies to control her arthritic pain.

“With just one round of acupuncture, she was running down the street,” Thoma said. “It’s all pretty amazing.”

For Dr. Jody Bearman, who operates the Anshen Veterinary Practice in Madison, Pearl’s turnaround wasn’t a surprise.

In addition to being a certified veterinary acupuncturist, Bearman also is trained in Tui-na or Chinese physical therapy and massage. She is Pearl’s veterinarian.

Acupuncture is one of the oldest and most commonly used medical procedures in the world. It originated in China more than 2,000 years ago.

“Probably, billions of people and animals have benefited from it,” Bearman said.

But it wasn’t until 1971, after a New York Times reporter wrote about Chinese doctors using needles to ease surgical pain, that it moved into the United States’ holistic medical arena.

Chinese practitioners for centuries have kept meticulous records of their treatments, including information as to what types of herbs will heal specific ailments, Bearman said.

Acupuncture involves stimulating anatomical points on the body by penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the skilled hands of a practitioner or by electrical stimulation.

Bearman earned a traditional degree in veterinary medicine in 1992 from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and completed the Chi Institute for Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine courses in mixed animal acupuncture in 2005.

Her schooling also has included courses through the Chi Institute on herbal medicines.

After seeing the results of alternative care, Bearman switched her health care focus from western to eastern medicine.

“I worked with western medicine for 14 years,” Bearman said.

But the side effects of western medicine can be alarming, and many diseases are not treatable with traditional medicine and procedures, Bearman said.

“We see many dogs with cancer, who are given but a month or two to live,” Bearman said.

After being treated with Chinese medicine, they have lived much longer, she said.

Indy is one of those dogs.

The Airedale was diagnosed with terminal cancer at 7 and given about 10 months to live. Veterinarians recommended surgery and radiation to treat the disease that appeared on the dog’s face in the form of a golf ball size tumor, said Stacy Klein, Indy’s owner.

“I wasn’t comfortable putting Indy through all of that,” said Klein, who’s from Madison.

Besides, no guarantee existed that the treatments would save Indy’s life, Klein said.

She turned to Bearman for help.

“My initial thought was to just get her on herbs,” Klein said.

In addition to prescribing healing herbs, Bearman also did several acupuncture treatments on Indy.

Since then, Indy’s tumor has diminished in size.

“You can hardly see it,” Klein said.

It’s been a year since Indy was given but months to live, Klein said.

And she’s still doing well.

Bearman also has prescribed specific foods to help treat Indy, Klein said.

“I credit Indy’s current wellness to herbal therapy and acupuncture treatments,” Klein said.

No other explanation seems to fit the situation, Klein said.

Indy had a fast growing cancer that threatened to kill her. Now, she shows no sign of the disease, Klein said.


Acupuncture is one of the key components of traditional Chinese medicine.

It is based on the concept that disease results from disruption in the flow of qi and imbalance in the forces of yin and yang.

Yin represents the cold, slow or passive principle, while yang represents the hot, excited or active principle, according to the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine’s Web site.

One of the major assumptions in traditional Chinese Medicine is that health is achieved by maintaining the body in a “balanced state” and that disease is due to an internal imbalance of yin and yang, the Web site said.

That imbalance leads to blockage in the flow of qi along pathways known as meridians. It is believed that the body has 12 main meridians and eight secondary meridians and more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the body that connect them, according to the center.

Although studies have documented acupuncture’s effects, they have failed to fully explain how acupuncture works within the framework of the Western system of medicine that commonly is practiced in the United States.

It is proposed that acupuncture produces its effects through regulating the nervous system, thus aiding the activity of pain-killing biochemicals such as endorphins and immune system cells at specific sites in the body, the center reported.

Studies also have shown that acupuncture might alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones, which affect parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes that regulate a person’s blood pressure, blood flow and body temperature, the center reported.


Animal acupuncture often is done during a veterinary house call.

The treatment requires no special preparation. The canines don’t need to be sedated.

Although dogs, like people, all have different personalities, many dogs don’t feel the tiny pricks of the acupuncture needles, said Dr. Jody Bearman.

The time a needle is left in place varies, depending on the illness. Although Bearman removes the needles, a body naturally will push out an acupuncture needle when it’s no longer needed, she said.

For more information about acupuncture and other holistic options for animals, call Bearman at (608) 333-7811 or contact her by e-mail at drjodybearman@sbcglobal.net.

Bearman makes house and farm visits and also works out of the All Pets Veterinary Clinic, 1009 N. Gammon Road, Middleton. The clinic’s number is (608) 831-1392.

Last updated: 9:14 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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