wasn’t eating. Although green beans are among his
favorite foods, he turned his nose up at two bowls of
them placed around the Minnetonka, Minn., house where
the yellow Lab lives.
help, canine massage therapist Heidi Hesse rubbed Brinks
in a specific spot on his ankle, an acupressure point,
to soothe his lower back, bladder and kidneys. After an
hour of massage with Hesse, Brinks regained his appetite
and chowed down on a bowl of the veggies.
is just one of a growing body of alternative therapies
that Mary Kelley and Mark Falstad, Brinks’ humans,
employ to ease the 10-year-old dog’s stiff joints,
jump-start his appetite and soothe his ailing liver.
Acupuncture is another.
people increasingly take a holistic approach to their
health, they’re also looking to alternatives to
conventional medical care for their nonhuman family
members. That’s why a new breed of wellness services
for dogs — from chiropractic and aromatherapy to
Chinese herbs and psychic communication — is springing
up in the Twin Cities.
stems from human stuff," said Dr. Cathy Sinning of
Lake Harriet Veterinary (lakeharrietvet.com).
"There’s more mainstreaming now because of people
learning how it can help themselves."
a third of Americans seek out "complementary and
alternative medicine" to enhance their medical
care, according to studies by the Centers for Disease
Control. That includes using natural products, such as
fish oil to combat heart disease; engaging in mind and
body practices, such as meditation and yoga; or other
approaches such as herbal remedies, traditional Chinese
medicine or homeopathic drugs.
humans, it seems, want their pets to have the same
Sinning and her husband, Jim, began practicing in south
Minneapolis 20 years ago, they were among the few
veterinarians in the area integrating chiropractic and
herbal medicine into standard care. These days, Sinning
said, "most clinics have someone on staff doing
for veterinarians to learn additional
"modalities" have been booming over the past
15 years, said Dr. Barbara Hodges, a holistic
veterinarian and veterinary adviser for the
California-based Humane Society Veterinary Medical
doesn’t view the interest in alternative therapies as
a rejection of traditional veterinarian medicine, just a
complement to it.
simply enlarging your horizons and the array of things
you can offer to your patients," she said.
example, a drug that can help a dog with an ailment
might also cause serious side effects. So some vets
might recommend an herbal remedy or a diet-and-exercise
plan to mitigate those effects.
say alternative treatments can improve circulation or
digestion, ease muscle and joint pain, help animals
recover from injury or surgery and calm a host of
Williams DeLong, a certified aromatherapist who
specializes in working with animals, says aromatherapy
can provide all of those benefits. Oils of herbs and
roots that are known to ease pain travel by scent, and
in a dog "are absorbed into the brain and
bloodstream in less than a second," she said.
a recent appointment, DeLong let 8 1/2-year-old German
shepherd Izzy sniff a canvas tote filled with small
bottles of essential oils. Izzy seemed to choose
cinnamon and ginger by repeatedly licking the caps of
the bottles. DeLong said those scents indicated that
Izzy wanted a "warming" fragrance to help with
going to make you a holiday blend," she told Izzy.
human, Julie Northenscold, was looking for something to
alleviate her dog’s arthritis.
DeLong’s instructions, Northenscold sprays a custom
scent in her home or rubs it into her hands and then
onto Izzy’s coat. Northenscold said that the scents
have proved more effective than other medicines. The
scents also help Izzy, who is deaf, find her owner. An
initial aromatherapy session with DeLong (amywilliamsdelong.com)
and certification for holistic pet practitioners vary
widely. Some are veterinarians, such as animal
acupuncturists, who are required in Minnesota to have a
veterinary degree. Pet massage therapists don’t need
any certification in Minnesota. But Hesse, Brinks’
massage therapist, trained at the Chicago School of
Canine Massage. Her work requires a deep understanding
of dog anatomy, she said. An initial consultation with
her Sound Hound Canine Massage (soundhoundmassage.com)
most practitioners caution pet owners to work with
trained professionals and not to try DIY remedies found
on the internet.
addition to more familiar treatments, there are other,
less common pet care methods available.
Garley is a holistic practitioner who communicates
telepathically with animals. Clients send her a photo of
their pet along with questions they want her to ask
(packages start at $39 for three questions). Garley then
writes back with a "transcript" of the
get a running conversation in my head just like we’re
talking on the phone," said Garley, whose
Minneapolis company is called Animal Bridges (animalbridges.com).
a client with a cat who was howling hired Garley.
"As soon as I connected with the cat, I had a sinus
headache," indicating that was what was ailing the
cat, Garley said.
the massage therapist, hired Garley to "speak"
to her sheepdog before it died, and then again
a little out there, even for me, but it was still
comforting to hear what Lulu said," Hesse said,
tearfully. "I think there is something to it."
Lena Swanson, another local animal communicator, people
describe their pets during a phone call and explain
their concerns. Swanson then places them on hold while
she communicates telepathically with the animal. She
charges $2.75 per minute for her services (lenaswanson.com).
come to her to understand why a cat stopped using its
litter box, or ask a sick pet if it’s time to let go.
sounds so outlandish," Swanson said, but she said
she believes that animal communication is an important
skill many people can learn to tap into. Next month, she
is teaching a course for anyone interested in trying it
lot of people don’t hear words; they just get a gut
sense of knowing what animals say," Swanson said.
"It’s the hardest thing to trust."
all pets come to holistic care through their humans;
sometimes it works the other way.
seeing the reviving effects of acupuncture and massage
on Brinks, Kelley and Falstad are considering trying it
themselves. Kelley has multiple sclerosis and uses a
wheelchair to get around. (Brinks is her service dog.)
they’ll continue to give their pets every option they
can to live comfortably, from mainstream veterinary
medicine to the hands-on healing that practitioners such
as Hesse offer.
might think this is frivolous, but they’re a part of
our family," Kelley said. "They’ve given us
so much. We can give something back."