Cynthia Wallis: The Natural Vet
July 18, 2006
Alternative medicine has gone to the dogs.Walk into veterinarian Cynthia Wallis’ office and you will likely find a pooch with needles protruding from several places on its body. Her patients often depart with a variety of herbs to help treat what ails them.Wallis is believed to be the only veterinarian in the Roaring Fork Valley that practices alternative approaches exclusively. Many pet owners in the valley have embraced that kind of care. Her business, The Natural Vet, is booked for several months with appointments and has a waiting list.
Wallis views her practice as a complement to traditional veterinary care, as opposed to competition. She works closely with traditional vets, and many of her patients were referred to her by their regular care providers.Her approach started as a pain in the neck, a very severe pain. Wallis was practicing traditional veterinary care when she broke her neck in a surfing accident and ushered in arthritis. When a friend suggested she try acupuncture, she shook her skepticism and discovered it worked wonders.”I said ‘If this helped me this much, what could it do for my patients?'” she said.After adding training in veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, she’s convinced it does as much for the dogs and other pets in her care as it did for her.Acupuncture can help the body heal itself by triggering physiological changes, according to a brochure provided by Wallis. “For example, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm, and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins and cortisol,” the brochure said.
Endorphins are one of the body’s pain-control chemicals. Cortisol is a natural steroid.Wallis often works with older pets who are dealing with a potentially life-ending ailment. Notchy, for example, is an 11-year-old husky-shepherd mix that has what’s believed to be a cancerous tumor alongside her spine.Every four to six weeks she sees Wallis for acupuncture treatment. Wallis pokes a dozen-or-so thin, sharp, 3-inch needles into strategic points around the dog’s body. Pressure points are used to trigger the immune system and help the dog deal with pain.Wallis also recommended a variety of herbs intended to slow the growth of the tumor. Notchy still sees a traditional vet and takes painkillers. The one-two punch seems effective – she’s lived longer than her regular vet’s expectations.Wallis was upfront from the start that her care could improve Notchy’s quality of life and possibly extend her life expectancy, but not cure her.
Wallis treats all pets – horses, cats, rabbits, donkeys – though dogs are most common. She doesn’t clean teeth, perform annual checkups or do the other things vets commonly do. She gets the call when there is a problem.”Usually by the time people get to me, they’ve tried numerous things,” she said.She’s undaunted by constantly dealing with dogs and pets who are entering the last leg of the race.”I love a challenge,” she said. “I love my job more than any person I know. I wish there were more hours in the day.”