At Harmony Vet Clinic, relief for pets can be just a pinprick away.
Veterinarians Lynne Dennis and Dawn Mogilevsky support animal health with veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
Photographs by Sarah Maughan
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
Acupuncture and laser light therapy are no longer just for humans. At Harmony Vet Clinic on Monona Drive, veterinarians Lynne Dennis and Dawn Mogilevsky treat pets with the same methods, and for many of the same reasons.
Most of the animal patients they see are dealing with geriatric or chronic issues — pain, weakness, disc disease, arthritis, or tendon and ligament injuries. Besides acupuncture or laser therapy, more athletic dogs may also get spinal manipulation, the animal equivalent of chiropractic. “We also see chronic disease that doesn’t respond well to western medicine,” Dennis says, “like animals with gastrointestinal disease, or cancer patients experiencing post-chemo side effects such as nausea, poor appetite, a decrease in energy, or immune support.”
Dennis also works with larger farm animals like goats or sheep. Harmony Vet does not perform typical veterinary care such as vaccines, X-rays, MRIs, blood work, nail clipping, or euthanasia. Here, about half of their patients are referred from other veterinary offices when animals don’t respond as hoped to standard treatment.
“We prefer to send pets back to their primary vet clinics for prescription items, because we tend to use herbal and natural supplements pretty exclusively,” notes Mogilevsky. “Everyone should have a primary veterinarian for their pet’s general care. We integrate what they do with our care, as well.”
With decades of veterinary expertise between them, Dennis and Mogilevsky combined their practices and founded Harmony Vet in 2012. While most of their clients are cats and dogs, they’ve treated rabbits, tortoises, horses, cows, and Dennis’ own bearded dragon. Dennis says she’ll treat anything that “isn’t going to hurt me, like an alligator.”
Animals are not restrained during visits, nor is sedation typically used. “The more you try to restrain an animal, the more upset they’ll get and the less they’ll respond,” Dennis says. “So we try hard to create a calming atmosphere, use treats for distraction, have music, soft tables, and pheromone plug-ins for anxious dogs.”
On this visit, we meet Noodle, a beautiful and gentle 7-year-old labradoodle suffering from environmental allergies that particularly affect her ears and feet. “We’re also treating her with some herbs for a mammary cancer that has come back, unfortunately,” Dennis explains.
Noodle’s owner, Debbie, has been bringing her dog to Harmony Vet almost monthly for about two years despite the long drive from Freeport, Ill. “She’s had some chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture has made a big difference,” notes Debbie.
Acupuncture needles for Noodle the labradoodle are either a half inch or an inch long. [Bottom] Dennis attaches one just in front of Noodle’s right ear.
The dog first came to the clinic for false (pseudo) pregnancies she was experiencing — her body would think she was pregnant but she wasn’t. Those issues have since been resolved.
In the exam room, Dennis stoops to greet Noodle almost nose to nose, cradling her head, checking her teeth and tongue, stroking and praising, and asking Debbie if she’s noticed any changes. Noodle then climbs onto a cushy massage bed that sits about 18 inches off the floor and lies down obediently. Debbie takes a seat next to her, petting her head constantly for reassurance.
The dog recently had a cancerous mass removed, and Dennis inspects the surgical area, but Noodle’s treatment today is primarily for allergic issues like itchy ears and paws, as well as an overall treatment to balance her meridians, or pathways of energy.
Dennis will use needles that are either a half inch or one inch in length. “They’re just needles,” she says, and do not contain any medicine. With Noodle lying on her side, Dennis examines the dog before placing needles in front of each ear.
Noodle yawns. She knows the drill.
“Acupuncture is very calming,” Dennis says. “It releases chemicals in the brain — such as endorphins and serotonins — and once animals are used to it they’ll typically fall asleep.”
Dennis feels around Noodle’s torso, counting vertebrae on the dog’s spine to precisely locate other placement points. “There are 361 described acupuncture points in people. We don’t use all of those in dogs but we use a lot of them,” she acknowledges. She inserts one needle between the dog’s shoulders and another inside its lower leg. “Acupuncture points are very anatomically described as to where they are, generally. Specific placement has to do with what you’re feeling when you touch the animal,” she says.
The labradoodle receives a total of 17 needles today. They will remain attached for about 20 to 30 minutes while the dog relaxes.
Noodle sighs. Doggy nirvana.
It usually takes several treatments before relief is evident, but Noodle is an old pro. “I notice that she is calmer and more tired afterwards, but in a good, relaxing way,” Debbie notes. “That allows for her system to focus on healing. Even tomorrow, she’ll itch less and be more playful and active.”