Monthly Archives: May 2012

Acupuncture for Pets Works!

Dr. Lee Pickett performing acupuncture on a dog
Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine therapy, is used in conjunction with conventional Western medicine to treat dogs and cats with pain or weakness associated with degenerative joint disease (including osteoarthritis due to hip dysplasia), spondylosis, intervertebral disc disease and traumatic nerve injuries. Veterinarians also use acupuncture in allergic skin disease, lick granulomas, seizures and kidney failure, and in birds with psychological feather-picking. Techniques and Treatment Schedules Treatment consists of one or more of the following techniques, depending on the pet’s medical condition: 1) dry needle acupuncture, the insertion of sterile acupuncture needles into the skin at various locations – points – where they are retained for about 15 minutes; 2) electro-acupuncture, which provides a small, non-painful electrical current to some of the needles; 3) moxibustion, warming the acupuncture point by burning the herb mugwort (Artemis vulgaris) above the surface of the skin; or 4) aquapuncture, injecting a substance such as Vitamin B complex into an acupuncture point. Most dogs don’t mind acupuncture treatments and actually come to enjoy them, although not all cats tolerate them well. A family member usually holds the pet during treatment. A typical treatment schedule starts with two treatments per week for the first two weeks, then one treatment per week for a month. Subtle improvement usually is noted by the fourth treatment. If no improvement is seen by the sixth treatment, additional treatments are unlikely to prove beneficial. After maximal improvement is achieved, treatments are gradually stretched out to a schedule that meets the pet’s needs. Generally, maintenance treatments are repeated every one to two months throughout the pet’s life. At Bernville Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Lee Pickett provides acupuncture therapy. How Acupuncture Works Some, but not all, of the actions of acupuncture can be explained in terms familiar to conventional Western medicine and science. Acupuncture is thought to exert its pain-relieving effects by releasing brain chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin, and by blocking transmission of pain signals up the spinal cord to the brain. Function is thought to be enhanced through increased blood circulation to the area needled. In traditional Chinese medicine, disease is thought to result from an imbalance of yin and yang (essentially an imbalance of normal homeostasis) as well as abnormal flow of Qi (loosely translated to mean energy) and blood (similar but not identical to the Western concept of blood.) The objective of acupuncture therapy is to restore balance and enhance the flow of Qi and blood. Precautions Before acupuncture therapy begins, a conventional Western workup is done to determine whether other therapies would be more appropriate or even whether acupuncture is contraindicated. For example, it is essential to differentiate joint pain due to osteoarthritis (a chronic degenerative disorder for which acupuncture is useful) from pain caused by Lyme disease or septic arthritis (infections for which other treatment is more appropriate) or bone cancer (which will develop faster with acupuncture treatments.) Adverse reactions from acupuncture are rare if the correct points, depths of needle insertion, needling techniques and retention times are used. The possibility of infection, though extremely low, is minimized by using sterile needles and needling only uninfected skin. Bleeding occurs only rarely; when it does, the few drops released from the acupuncture point are a positive sign. For a day or so after an acupuncture treatment, the pet may experience drowsiness or weakness. These transient effects are considered good prognostic signs, but treatments should not be scheduled for the day before competition or heavy exercise (e.g., obedience trials, agility trials or hunting.) Other potential adverse reactions include hives and increased growth rate of established tumors. Corticosteroids, particularly at high doses, may block some of the effects of acupuncture. Suggested Reading Altman, Sheldon. Acupuncture Therapy in Small Animal Practice. Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Third Edition, Edited by Stephen J. Ettinger, 1989, pp. 484-498. Kendall, D.E. A Scientific Model for Acupuncture, Part I. American Journal of Acupuncture 17(3):251-268. Kendall, D.E. A Scientific Model for Acupuncture, Part II. American Journal of Acupuncture 17(4):343-360. Schoen, Allen M. Veterinary Acupuncture: Ancient Art to Modern Medicine. American Veterinary Publications, Inc., California, 1994. Schwartz, Cheryl. Four Paws, Five Directions. Celestial Arts Publishing, California, 1996.


ARL is quite full right now, especially since kitten season has begun. Once kittens arrive, the adult cats often get overlooked. In an effort to find good homes for as many pets as possible, the ARL is now offering half off the adoption fee for any pet who has been there for more than 3 months and free adoptions for any pet here longer than 6 months. Please look for the caption below each pet’s photo on the Adoptable Pets page for eligibility. Thank you for considering adult pets! For more information, please contact

Vote for Canine Partners for Life on June 26 in the Toyota 100 Cars for Good Program

Our good friends at Canine Partners for Life have been selected as a finalist in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program. Now they need your support to win the vehicle of their choice! Tell your friends to vote for Canine Partners for Life at on June 26th. Set a reminder in your calendar today and ask your friends to do the same! For more information, go to  


Dear Daisy Dog During her annual exam, my dog Misty tested positive for Lyme disease on the SNAP test. The veterinarian vaccinated her but did not treat her for the disease. Another veterinarian recommended an antibiotic. Which treatment is correct? Daisy Responds If you had asked one more veterinarian, you might well have received a third recommendation: to conduct a Lyme C6 quantitative antibody test and base the treatment decision on the result. According to a poll conducted in May by the veterinary journal Clinician’s Brief, veterinarians are evenly divided among the three treatment options. Let me explain the theory behind each, to help you become a better informed member of Misty’s heath care team. First, let’s look at the decision not to prescribe an antibiotic but to vaccinate instead. The SNAP test showed Misty had been exposed to Lyme disease. She wasn’t sick, so your veterinarian felt she required no treatment. Moreover, the potential risks of antibiotic use may outweigh the negligible benefits in this situation. Furthermore, no study has proven that treating non-clinical Lyme-positive dogs prevents them from getting sick later. With regard to Lyme vaccination, the SNAP test proved Misty’s lifestyle exposes her to ticks, so your veterinarian vaccinated her to prevent disease in the future. Many veterinarians also recommend a product that kills ticks, such as K9 Advantix or Frontline Plus. The second option, to treat all dogs that test positive, is employed by one-third of veterinarians, because they feel the antibiotic is relatively safe and inexpensive, and they’re not very concerned about bacteria becoming resistant to it in the future. Finally, one-third of veterinarians recommend an additional test, usually the Lyme C6 quantitative antibody test to determine exactly how high the dog’s antibody level is. Levels below 30 indicate exposure but not active disease. On the other hand, if the C6 quantitative test detects antibody levels over 30, most veterinarians treat with an antibiotic. The SNAP test shows only whether the dog has antibodies but doesn’t measure the level. All three treatment options are considered acceptable. Unfortunately, no one knows yet which will prove to be the best course.

Dogs & Cats must be vaccinated for rabies as required by Pennsylvania law

Vaccinations are a critical part of preventive care for your pet. Vaccines protect our pets from many diseases including rabies, distemper and Lyme disease (May is Lyme disease awareness month and we’ll have a full story about it tomorrow). Each dog and cat is different, so our veterinarians develop custom vaccinations plans for each pet. Our veterinarians will determine which vaccinations your pet needs and how often they will be administered. For more information about our vaccines, go to or call to schedule an appointment 610.488.0166

Ask the Vet’s Pets: Our Own Dr. Lee Pickett Discusses the Heat & Your Pets

Ask the Vet’s Pets is an entertaining, educational veterinary advice column written by Dr. Lee Pickett and her pets. If you have a dog, cat or other pet and would like to learn more about veterinary care, please click here. You’ll find 800 pages of answers to questions asked by other pet lovers. One of Dr Pickett’s columnists is Daisy Dog. Daisy Dog is the pen name of Annie, an English setter rescued in 2005 at the age of five. She is bright, affectionate and eager to please.

Dear Daisy Dog

Now that the weather has turned warm, our Bernese mountain dog, Jack, digs through the mulch so he can lie in the cool soil. He’s tracking dirt and mulch into the house, and I’m the cleaning lady. Help!

Daisy Responds

I do the same thing, because the soil is so deliciously cool. Mom reacts as you do -– then immediately gets out the doggie pool (called a kiddie pool in the stores), sets it in the shade and fills it with cool water. The pool is even more fun than the dirt, because I can lie down in it, dunk my toys and splash my wolfhound brother. You won’t mind Jack’s dripping coat if you give him a summer “teddy bear” haircut. Get rid of the long, thick hair, but leave a few inches to protect his skin from the summer sun. If Jack doesn’t like water, you can cool a shaded area of the patio by hosing it off occasionally. Or entice him with a wood pallet covered by tile or a sheet of vinyl. If his Swiss mountain heritage is particularly strong, you may need to position an electric fan at a shaded outdoor area. Or just explain to him the virtues of air-conditioned indoor living during the warm summer months.