Restoring rover

At Harmony Vet Clinic, relief for pets can be just a pinprick away.

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.”

Doggy nirvana

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.”



Making Cain able

Meanwhile, in the clinic’s lobby, Cain, a chocolate brown Irish water spaniel arrives with his owner, Mary, in tow. Mogilevsky ushers them into a second treatment room where this handsome 9-year-old dog will receive laser light therapy for issues he’s been having with arthritis.

Cain sits calmly on the massage bed as Mogilevsky holds an electronic paddle over specific places on his back. He weighs 56 pounds and is being treated for pain and inflammation. “The main concern with Cain is his lower back, hips, and left carpus (wrist area), which had a previous injury,” Mogilevsky reports. She’s been seeing this dog for over four years.

[Top] With owner Debbie stroking her head, Noodle relaxes as Dennis places acupuncture needles on her back. [Bottom] Mogilevsky treats Cain with laser therapy for arthritis issues as “mom,” Mary, looks on.

She moves the paddle to his elbow. “When one part of the body isn’t working well, there may be compensatory problems elsewhere. He doesn’t have an elbow problem, but because of his back-end issues, he might overuse his front end,” she explains, so it, too, gets treated. She holds the laser on each spot for 32 seconds. Cain takes it all in stride.

The near-infrared laser light promotes healing by stimulating the cells to produce more energy, Mogilevsky explains. Most commonly it’s used for pain or injury, and the doctors agree it works wonders for healing wounds.

“The laser works where you put it,” Mogilevsky says about the therapy. “It might also be used for a dog with a ruptured disc or arthritic areas. Some dogs don’t do well with needles, so we use this. It’s about taking care of the whole body and working with what the animal best responds to.”

Several years ago, Mary relates, Cain had some paralysis on the left side of his face and couldn’t close his eye or blink. That issue was resolved with acupuncture administered around his eye.

Harmony Vet also specializes in traditional Chinese herbal medicine, and food therapy.

Cats, Dennis admits, can sometimes be more challenging than dogs, and rescued pets in general tend to have more behavioral or emotional issues if they’ve come from a stressful experience.

“But what’s so great is that we’re here to help when others can’t,” Dennis says. “Sometimes we’re the last place people come to make sure their pets are happy and comfortable.”

Dennis and Mogilevsky strive to provide animals with a happier quality of life up until that final, dreaded day. Sometimes there is very little they can do.

“We see a very unique population of people who can afford to do these extra things for their animals,” Dennis says. “Not everyone can do that.”

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