How far would you go to save your pet’s life?

A News Center 7 special report is revealing specialized, alterative treatments available in the Miami Valley can ease pets’ pain and, in some cases, help them avoid surgery.

One of the non-traditional treatments is hydrotherapy--in the form of an underwater treadmill.

Cathy Derrico operates Centerville’s Veterinary Alternatives.

She wears hip waders as she joins 5-year old Wally, a Lab, in the enclosure, then fills it with 90-degree water.

Wally has had surgery on both legs for torn ACLs. The underwater treadmill takes weight off his joints and helps him build muscle.

In another room nearby, Cindy Abbott waits with her 16-year-old West Highland White Terrier.

“This is my little guy. This is the man in my life. This is little Winston. He is a little bit over 16,” Abbott told News Center 7′s Cheryl McHenry.

Three years ago, little Winston hurt his back jumping over some snow. His vet told Cindy the injury was inoperable. Winston was in pain and standard treatments weren’t working. Cindy feared the worst.

“I really wasn’t sure if he was going to make it that year,” Cindy said.

So Winston’s primary vet suggested Cindy take him to see Dr. Julie Servaites. She starts each visit with a nose-to-tail exam.

“How’s he feeling today?” Servaites said. “He’s doing real good.”

To ease Winson’s back pain, Dr. Servaites uses acupuncture.

“We have a lot of stereotypes in this type of medicine where people may be afraid that the needles hurt, or ‘my dog’s not going to sit still for needles,’ and ‘you can put needles in cats?’ The acupuncture needle design is really meant to not hurt and we really just want to separate skin cells so we can get to the acupuncture point,” Dr. Servaites said.

Cindy brings Winston in every two weeks for treatment.

“How big of a change have you seen in him since he’s been coming here?” McHenry asked.

“Huge,” Cindy said.

4-year-old Dexter is more than a companion. He’s a dog with a job. He’s Officer Darcy Workman’s partner with Buckeye Search and Rescue.

“He does human remains detection,” Officer Workman said. “He finds deceased individuals. When he works, he comes alive and just gets so excited. You can tell he was born to do this.”

He’s a search and rescue dog who was first rescued by Officer Workman.

“He was down in Alabama. He had been abused. He had been chained to a tree. He’s got some scars on his leg from that,” Officer Workman said.

Dr. Servaites treated Dexter’s leg injuries with acupuncture and laser therapy, and then she discovered a more serious problem--a cancerous mass on his chest.

Darcy said visits to Dr. Servaites became even more important.

“And after he would get his chemotherapy treatments, he would come in and get treatment from Dr. Servaites, and I think it helped him deal with the chemo and detox,” Darcy said. “He worked and deployed through his treatments. He handled the treatments very good.”

Dr. Servaites said many pet insurance plans now cover these non-traditional services. When they help a patient avoid surgery, she says the cost savings can be even greater.

“Your pet may need a spinal surgery, or the surgeon may say, ‘Let’s try acupuncture and medical management.’ That could be something like saving around $8,000. Treatments for us are probably going to range maybe about $1,000.”

These treatments, combined with Chinese herbs Dr. Servaites prescribes, she said have helped heal these dogs’ injuries. However, the best preventive care an owner can give their pet is to control their weight.

“Obesity can be detrimental to your pet’s health,” Dr. Servaites said.

She cited a Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine study which shows the average reduction in lifespan for overweight dogs among twelve common breeds. For example:

--Excess weight might shorten a Golden Retriever’s life by eight months.

--Beagles’ and Dachshunds’ by two years.

--And a Yorkshire Terrier’s life by as much as two and a half years.

“By keeping their fitness up and their calories down, they’re going live longer and be happier,” Dr. Servaites said.

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