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Today’s pets, like their humans, may benefit from alternative medicine.

More than ever, people are turning to alternative medicine to heal what ails them. But did you know that visits to the acupuncturist and the massage therapist aren’t just for humans anymore? Nearly every alternative therapy used to treat pet owners also has the potential of treating pets.   

Acupuncture can be used to relieve pain and strengthen the immune system, while herbal medicines can serve to aid nutrition and sometimes can act as a remedy to illness or injury when nothing else works.

“Some people call it holistic, some alternative and some integrative medicine. It’s just a matter of personal preference,” says Lori Freije, DVM. “‘Integrative’ would best describe my practice because I believe both Eastern and Western medicine have a place in healing.”

Freije is a Tulsa veterinarian who firmly believes in the benefits of alternative medicine like acupuncture, massage, herbal medicine and hydrotherapy, and provides these services to her clients at South Memorial Animal Hospital.

This is not to say traditional medicine isn’t necessary.

Simply defined, reiki is mindful meditation, as compared to yoga, which is meditation in movement.  Reiki uses meditation and breathing techniques to quiet the mind, decreasing stress and increasing overall, improved well-being.“

There are times when you definitely need antibiotics and surgery,” she says.

Interest in alternative health options for dogs has grown so much that the American Veterinary Medical Association now recognizes alternative medicine as a valid form of treatment.

Used in combination, traditional medicine can treat injury or disease, while alternative medicine can aid the healing process. In the case of a dog having surgery, medication is needed to prevent infection, but a holistic treatment may be added to the regimen to ease pain and promote healing.

Freije, became interested in alternative medicine as her frustration grew with the number of heartbroken owners bringing their pets to her to be euthanized due to decreased mobility and pain.

“The dogs were of sound mind and totally healthy in every other way,” Freije explains. “I wanted to find an alternative to help these animals.”

She obtained certification in canine rehabilitation and is presently working towards a certification in canine acupuncture.

Acupuncture assists in the treatment of arthritis, paralysis and pain management and can improve the quality of life for an animal that is living with cancer.

“[Acupuncture] absolutely blows me away how well it works in conjunction with Western medicine,” she says.

Enter reiki for dogs.

Tulsa is fortunate to have local expert, Karren O’Sullivan, a certified Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA) practitioner and instructor.

“Reiki is a Japanese meditative practice. Translated it means ‘spiritual energy,’” explains O’Sullivan.  “Simply defined, reiki is mindful meditation, as compared to yoga, which is meditation in movement.  Reiki uses meditation and breathing techniques to quiet the mind, decreasing stress and increasing overall, improved well-being.”

It is important for a dog or cat to be offered reiki in their home environment where they feel most comfortable,”

A life-long animal lover, O’Sullivan was a registered nurse for 20 years. When she retired in 2001, she knew that she wanted to combine her healing history and love for animals to create a rewarding second career.

Reiki can be used to treat both physical and behavioral issues. The practice is even beneficial to an animal as it transitions into death.

“I get grounded myself with my own meditation, and the animal is free to move around. As they sense the energy, they can choose whether or not to receive it,” says O’Sullivan. “Sometimes they go into a really deep sleep, and then the healing starts.”

O’Sullivan works closely with veterinarians to provide a calming presence for animals so that the immune system is boosted and the animal receives faster results.

O’Sullivan volunteers her time at the Tulsa Animal Shelter. She also teaches reiki classes to shelter employees and other area animal lovers, and makes house calls as part of her private practice.

“It is important for a dog or cat to be offered reiki in their home environment where they feel most comfortable,” she says.

As the American Holistic Veterinary Association explains, “holistic thinking is centered on love, empathy and respect.” The right treatment can improve your pet’s health, happiness, and possibly even extend its life.

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