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Holistic Movement and Dogs

Acupuncture and organic food? Why can’t dogs get the same treatments?

By Simone Ellin Photography Kirsten Beckerman

Recently, my husband and I made the difficult decision to place Libby, our beloved goldendoodle (part golden retriever, part standard poodle), on Phenobarbital, a drug used to control epilepsy. After witnessing the 4-year-old pup’s frightening seizures on three separate occasions, we did not want her to suffer another one.

It is not long after Libby began taking the medication that I speak with Robyn Jacobs, founder and resident artist for Pet Tags Creations, a company that creates personalized dog identification tags from which a portion of the proceeds goes to pet rescues and adoptions.

“You should try taking her for acupuncture,” Jacobs tells me. “Call my friend, Fred.”

Fred Wolfson runs Acupuncture For All, a new clinic in Mount Washington. I had driven by the clinic several times and assumed it offered treatment (for humans) on a sliding-scale fee structure. As it turned out, Wolfson does offer sliding scale (or pay-what-you-can with guidelines of $20-$40 per treatment) acupuncture for people, but he also provides the treatment for dogs, cats and, on occasion, ferrets!

When I speak with Wolfson, he explains that acupuncture can help animals with a variety of ailments — emotional and physical — including stress, anxiety, shyness, hip dysplasia, spinal and muscle conditions, injury recovery, allergies and digestive disorders. He tells me that acupuncture might help in the treatment of Libby’s epilepsy, but he also cautions that, as with other pet health problems, acupuncture should be used as an adjunct, not a replacement, for traditional medicine.

In fact, he explains, sometimes acupuncture can help an animal adjust to prescribed medicines.

Acupuncture,” says Wolfson, a 1983 Randallstown High School graduate who received his acupuncture training at the Tai Sophia School in Laurel, Md., “has no negative side effects. All of its effects are positive. Most pets don’t even feel the needles. Usually, they experience a great calming effect and often they fall asleep.”

Since animal patients can’t speak, the success of treatment is assessed by behavioral and physical changes seen by the owner and acupuncturist.

Downstairs from Wolfson’s clinic, another pet enthusiast offers dog-centered services. Roger Stanley, who owns Scrub-a-Dub Dog, believes in a holistic approach to pet care, and his business offers do-it-yourself dog baths. He also sells all-natural bath products for dogs, organic foods, and a variety of dog leashes and accessories, some made with natural fibers.

“We believe in approaching dog health from all directions,” says Stanley, who got the idea to open Scrub-a-Dub Dog because of its close proximity to Robert E. Lee park at Lake Roland, a popular destination for dogs and their “people.”

Stanley, who has two standard poodles of his own, feeds them organic, locally made food, without wheat, corn or fillers. Many dogs, he adds, do well on a fish rather than meat-based diet.

“We see a lot of dogs with skin allergies and intestinal problems, and with a change in diet and shampoo, we see dramatic results,” he says.

Robyn Jacobs Keeping it holistic

Robyn Jacobs discovered the joy of dogs in 1995, when she found her first dog, Bailey, a border collie-hound mix, while “doggie dating” on petfinder.com .

After Bailey passed away, Jacobs started dog-sitting, and over the years she has cared for dozens of dogs. She adopted Logan, a border collie-akita mix through an organization called Paws to the Rescue.

As a massage therapist, Jacobs already values healthy eating and holistic living, and she adheres to those principles when it comes to pet care. Currently, she feeds Logan a dry food that is organic and adds vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots and zucchini. Meat, eggs, cottage cheese or yogurt are also part of his diet.

She is contemplating giving Logan raw meat instead of the mix of dry food, veggies, dairy products and meat. “The pet food business has only been around for about a century,” she points out. “Before that, dogs ate human food and, when living in the wild, they subsisted on raw meat.”

Robyn Jacobs“Logan had a ton of allergies, so I changed his food to a salmon source, which is much less allergenic. His allergies all cleared up,” she says.

Although organic dog food is a huge expense — the brand she buys is a lower-priced organic type, and it costs $46 for each 30-pound bag — Jacobs does not see that as a deterrent.

“How much do you spend on food?” she asks. “You should spend it on your dog too.”

Jacobs is equally concerned about the emotional and mental health of her dog. “I take Logan to work every day,” she says. “Dogs need to have exercise and activities in their lives.”

These things are all part of a well-rounded dog,” she stresses. “I love to educate people about dog care. If you love them you should take good care of them.”

Photo captions:
Pet lover Fred Wolfson offers acupuncture for dogs, cats and even ferrets.Robyn Jacobs, who feeds her dog Logan organic dry food mixed with vegetables, is contemplating a change. Should she replace the dry mix with raw meat?
April 2011

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