Acupuncture offers answers for Oxford vet

Republican-American 1996 by Ann Marie Somma

OXFORD- Veterinarian Marcie Fallek approaches the subject of acupuncture with a controlled yet inspiring conviction, much like how a theologian explains the mysteries of faith to a non-believer.

"Acupuncture treats the body as a whole," Fallek said. "that same principle works on animals as it does on humans."

Fallek learned about veterinary acupuncture when her dog Annie was diagnosed with arthritis. As a trained veterinarian at the time, she was aware of the side effects of the drugs needed to cure her dog.

"I wanted a more holistic approach," Fallek said, "So I took her to an acupuncturist."

Soon after her dog's treatment, Fallek decided to become a licensed veterinarian acupuncturist. She took a course in Atlanta given by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, an organization that promotes veterinary acupuncture as a part of veterinary health care.

She is one of seven such veterinarians in the state, and 350 in the country.

Veterinary acupuncture is believed to have begun in China 3,000 years ago for the treatment of large animals. The Chinese also used it as prventive medicine for maladies such as colic in horses.

Fallek said acupuncture on small animals began in the United States only 20 years ago, but was never practiced in China.

"Acupuncture is based on the concept that we are energetic beings," she said. "Einstein discovered it at the turn of the century with his theory of relativity. Our bodies are concentrated energy. The chinese call this Qi."

Qi, she explained, is the difference betweeen life and death.

"A dying plant is low in Qi, a child's laughter is high in Qi," she said.

As an acupuncturist, she assists the flow of Qi by inserting needles into specific points in the body, called meridians.

"Imagine an irrigation system," Fallek said. "The energy in our bodies is like the flow of water. If it becomes trapped in a dam, the flow of water is cut off.

Acupuncture, she said, release the blockage by placing needles in the meridians. Through training, an acupuncturist learns where to place the needles along the meridian.

Fallek said about 80 percent of her patients benefit from treatments and most of them see her when the Western medicine has failed. "But it doesn't work for every (animal)," she said.

Traditional veterinarians, such as Cheryl Sackler of the Naugatuck Veterinarian Hospital, are much more skeptical.

"The few cases I have seen I have not been impressed," she said. She said she does, however, refer some of her patients to acupuncturists. "I do it when I have nothing left to offer these animals."

Fallek said acupuncture works best on animals with bone and muscle ailments, or skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.

"Some animals get the same diseases as their owners," she said. "Animals pick up the vibrations they live in."

Acupuncture produced miraculous effects for Bandit, a 13-year-old schnauzer, Fallek said. The dog came to her with an enlarged heart and liver and fluid in its lungs. And Bandit had stopped eating.

"We were planning for his funeral," said Rosemary Strauss, Bandit's owner. The dog's traditional-medicine veterinarian saw little hope.

Fallek made a house call to treat Bandit. "After his first treatment he ate a pound of roast beef," she said.