Ann Arbor Animal Hospital offers several holistic treatments for pets. Holistic therapies are frequently used as complements or even alternatives to standard Western medicine. Like the other alternative medicines, these are used alongside or as replacements for modern drugs and to treat a wide variety of ailments.

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Holistic therapies are frequently used as complements or even alternatives to standard Western medicine and in that spirit, we want to provide a brief introduction to Chinese herbs. Like the other alternative medicines, these are used alongside or as replacements for modern drugs and to treat a wide variety of ailments.

chinese herbs snapshot

The following are some examples of herbs that we prescribe:

  • Yunnan Baiyao, used to stop bleeding. We use it for epistaxis (nosebleed) and with animals at risk for bleeding from inoperable tumors, especially cancer of the spleen. Named for its province of origin, Yunnan, and the color of the final product, it translates literally as “White medicine from Yunnan.” This particular product is a proprietary blend, with the exact formula carefully guarded by the Yunnan Baiyao Group in China. However, there are numerous other recipes produced and measured by manufacturers or hand-mixed in slightly different ratios by skilled practitioners. Important components include Radix Notoginseng and Rhizoma Discorae.
  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu San with added San Leng and E Zhu, a combination of powders used for dogs with mast cell disease. It invigorates blood and Qi, and improves blood circulation when the blood is not flowing through the body as easily as it should. We use it for dogs who are not candidates for surgical removal of tumors, and as a long-term maintenance for dogs with multiple tumors. For some dogs, it is given with the drug prednisone.
  • Wei Qi booster, used to tonify (meaning to strengthen or supplement) Qi and blood, and to enhance immunity. In traditional Chinese medicine, Wei Qi is an animal’s defense or immune system; this booster is a basic part of immune support. Though our most frequent use is after a diagnosis of systemic cancer, it is also used for immune suppression, feline chronic viral disease, and chronic illness.
  • CAS Options by the brand Resources, for immune and antioxidant support. While not a traditional Chinese herb, we often start a dog on this after a diagnosis of cancer. It contains Reishi, Shitake and Maitake mushrooms, as well as green tea and antioxidants.
  • Epimedium Powder, used to tonify kidney Yang and nourish Yin. Epimedium is an ivy-like shrub, also known as horny goat weed. We try this with young dogs with cryptorchidism (undescended testicles) to attempt to aid proper positioning into the scrotum. Cryptorchidism occurs in about 10% of male dogs, and abdominally retained testicles are much more likely to lead to testicular cancer.

We do have herbs for renal support, arthritis, pain management, bladder support, liver support, and cancer support and treatment.

Ann Arbor Animal Hospital has two acupuncturists on staff, Dr. Taryn Clark and Dr. Jessica Franklin. They both studied advanced acupuncture as well as Chinese vet medicine herb and food courses at Chi Institute.

veterinary acupuncture

Dr. Taryn Clark inserts acunpuncture needles into Eli, a 9-year-old dog with painful degenerative hip dysplasia.

Acupuncture has been practiced for a long time—estimates range from 3500-5000 years, with written records dating to the second century BC, though its origins are unclear. Despite ancient sources showing acupuncture being applied to animals, it has only started to catch on in modern veterinary medicine in the last few decades.

How it Works:
Whether the explanation for its effect comes from contemporary medicine (it stimulates nerves and releases endorphins) or traditional Chinese (it restores the flow of Qi through the area), the purpose of acupuncture is to relieve pain and stimulate the healing process.

Benefits include:

  • Drug-free
  • Surgery-free
  • Immediate results

Applications for acupuncture include:

  • Treatment of arthritis, degenerative joint disease, or hip dysplasia
  • General pain management
  • Post-surgery pain
  • Cancer chemotherapy/radiation support
  • Immune support
  • Treatment of nerve dysfunction

Acupuncture can be administered at any time and is frequently tried after other types of treatments such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have failed to produce the desired results or have undesirable side effects. In cases of degenerative nerve disease it actually works better than drugs because it stimulates nerve function. Electroacupuncture, a variation on traditional acupuncture, also involves needles being inserted at specific locations. The difference is that an electric pulse is applied, through two needles at a time, in sessions typically lasting 20 minutes. (See this link to an article from for a more in-depth look at acupuncture.)

An informative study was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) on June 1, 2010, about intervertebral disk disease (IVDD)—a common though difficult and painful disease we see in dogs—and the use of electroacupuncture to treat it. The study showed a significantly higher success rate for dogs who underwent electroacupuncture than for dogs who received decompressive surgery.

  • Electroacupuncture alone saw success in 15 of 19 dogs
  • Decompressive surgery saw success in 4 of 10
  • Surgery followed by acupuncture saw success in 8 of 11

Around 85% of our acupuncture patients are older dogs with musculoskeletal ailments. Some signs that your dog is experiencing pain that acupuncture may be able to assuage:

  • Abnormal sitting or lying posture
  • Restlessness
  • Whining, groaning or other vocalizing
  • Limping, unable to get up or lie down
  • Difficulty getting into car or down stairs
  • Lack of grooming
  • Won’t wag tail
  • Licking or biting area
  • Lack of appetite
  • Trembling

Animal chiropractic helps manage the consequences of decreased range of motion or hypomobility of the joints and spine. It focuses on the neuro-musculo-skeletal system. The brain and spinal cord are the command centers of the nervous system. When the nerve system is dysfunctional (decreased range of motion/hypomobility), the joints do not move freely, causing many symptoms like pain, tension, stiffness, weakness, atrophy, spasms, sensitivity to touch, lameness/gait abnormalities and subsequently loss of function.

The spine is a framework of bones, ligaments, muscles and nerves. It is essentially the highway links the brain to the tips of the nose, toes and tail. Trauma, overuse and underuse can cause the vertebra to have decreased range of motion or restriction causing the surrounding muscles and ligaments to be compromised. During examination, an area of restriction is palpated, the joint is gently brought into tension and a low amplitude, high velocity thrust is applied to that area, bringing motion back into that joint.

The goal of chiropractic therapy is to ultimately re-establish proper neurological transmissions by maintaining normal structural alignment of the spine to allow optimal function of the muscles, nerves and tissues that support the joints, resulting in increased agility and overall performance and health.

Some common conditions that may improve with chiropractic treatment are hip dysplasia, arthritis, acute or chronic injury, difficulty or reluctance going up or down stairs, lameness or unusual gait, disc disease, neurological disease, and pain in the back or neck.

By restoring normal alignment to the joints/vertebra and surrounding musculature, the muscle and nerves are able to resume their normal functions which makes for a healthy neuro-musculo-skeletal system and a healthier animal.