TURNER — Scooby didn’t seem to mind the acupuncture needles. Three were inserted around his head, then four, then five. One on the side of his back leg. Another at the base of his neck.

The 7-year-old yellow Labrador retriever panted serenely, then leaned against his owner, Michelle Emerson, for a scratch behind the ears. It was his fourth visit to Shannon Bennett at the Turner Veterinary Service for acupuncture and, by all outward appearances, he was OK with that.  

“It’s so stressful to give him medication, but he loves this,” Emerson said.

Since Bennett, a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist, started offering acupuncture seven months ago, she’s averaged at least a couple of clients a day — most of them dogs and cats with arthritis, gastrointestinal problems, seizures or other issues.

Once, she treated a rooster. He had frostbite.

“There are still times that I’m surprised (by the result),” Bennett said. “Still. And I’m so enthusiastic about it. He immediately settled down; he was able to relax his foot. He kind of settled down for a nap.”

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Bennett has always been intrigued by complimentary or integrative medicine, those therapies just outside the Western medicine mainstream. She liked that acupuncture and other techniques could work in conjunction with more standard American remedies, like medication.   

“My goal is to integrate,” she said. “I do think they have strengths and weaknesses, and they can help each other really nicely.”

But Bennett wanted to establish a conventional practice before offering something more unusual — so for the past 10 years, she’s focused on traditional veterinary care. 

Then, last August, Bennett decided it was time. She began offering acupuncture to clients in Turner while she trained under neurology specialists at the Florida-based Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. In January, she received her certification.    

Bennett wasn’t sure how clients would react to the suggestion that their pets try acupuncture. But she’s been pleased by the response.

“So many people have told me, ‘Oh, I’ve had acupuncture for my headaches.’ A lot of people have had personal experience,” she said. “It’s sort of mainstream now.”

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Emerson chose acupuncture for Scooby in December after he had a seizure. Tests ruled out acute illnesses, like meningitis and infection. Bennett diagnosed epilepsy.

She laid out Scooby’s options, including traditional medication. Emerson leaned toward trying acupuncture first.

She prefers more natural remedies, both for her pets and for herself.

“I’m just trying everything possible that’s more natural,” she said. “I think that way, our body can adjust to it better.”

Although typically an excitable dog, Scooby didn’t seem disturbed by his first 40- to 60-minute session. Emerson took that as a good sign. 

“He didn’t try to really shake them out,” Emerson said. “She (Bennett) leaves us alone after she puts them in and I was taking pictures of him because everyone wanted to see. He just did really, really well.” 

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Scooby now takes an herbal medicine and gets acupuncture once every few weeks. He hasn’t had another seizure.

Bennett has seen that kind of response in other animals, too. Dogs whose anxiety can’t be controlled by medication but who calm down after acupuncture. Dogs whose stomach issues resolve. Cats whose skin conditions clear up.

But Bennett is careful not to hold up acupuncture as a cure-all.

“I’ve just seen some really amazing things,” Bennett said. “But I certainly wouldn’t want to set that expectation up for every family, every animal, every vet.”

And while most animals tolerate the dozen or so needles Bennett uses in her treatments — some even fall asleep — not all of them do.

“With my kitties, I’m really happy if I get six in,” Bennett said. “Actually, most of the cats are surprisingly tolerant. But they’re cats. We do everything on their terms.” 

Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected].


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