TOTAL PET CARE; A Pet Clinic in Middleburg Includes Ancient Chinese Healing Methods and Modern Physical Therapy in Its Veterinary Practice

Article excerpt

Byline: August Brown, Times-Union staff writer

The scene at Creekside Veterinary Associates in Middleburg starts off like a straight-to-video horror movie. A young female technician calmly sits typing at her desk. She's beckoned to the back operating room by the head veterinarian, whose reputation for being a little "unconventional" was often gossiped about behind closed doors at other clinics.

The technician walks down the hallway and into the surgery ward. Suddenly, the laughing vet calls her into a cinder block room full of steel cages. When the girl looks around, she finds herself standing before a gleaming display of sharp metal . . . acupuncture needles?

Yep, that's right. Fran Reed's methods may go against the grain, but they're certainly nothing to be afraid of. Reed, along with her husband and fellow veterinarian, Scott, have integrated Western technology, modern physical therapy and ancient Chinese healing methods into a veterinary practice unlike any other in Northeast Florida.

"We tell our clients that an integrated approach is the best, and that neither Eastern or Western medicine is better," said Reed, a petite, sprightly woman who uses medical jargon around humans and cheek-pinching baby talk with animals.

"Western and Eastern approaches rely on each other quite a bit, and we treat from both angles, depending on how the pet responds."

Creekside clinic, which opened in June, isn't the first in the Jacksonville area to employ alternative remedies such as acupuncture and therapeutic massage. But it is one of the first in the Southeast to incorporate state-of-the-art technology, Eastern holistic healing and a comprehensive pre- and post-operative physical therapy program for animals.

The rarity of Creekside's philosophy is apparent from the first step through the door. The waiting room floor is lined with a non-slip surface to make it easier for pets to walk. Small touches, like heated exam tables for animals, make the visit more pleasant for everyone involved. And though it seems like a no-brainer, the well-separated canine and feline wards keep the yapping and yowling to a bare minimum.

But the differences become more obvious when Reed reaches into a cabinet that holds both a variable-intensity ultrasound machine and packs of tiny silver acupuncture needles. Both can be effective, but patients and their ailments react differently to each approach. Antibiotics may cure a foot infection in a dog, but acupuncture may be the only way to help a sluggish hamster (yes, Reed has performed acupuncture on a hamster).

While Western medicine relies heavily on drugs and surgeries to treat specific symptoms, Chinese medicine focuses on treating the body as a whole. Ancient practitioners of acupuncture lacked the comprehensive anatomical knowledge of the West, but their approach may prove to be just as valid.

"There are 365 pressure points on the human body that correspond with different organs," Reed said.

Reed admitted that she came to the University of Florida's veterinary acupuncture program as a skeptic but was amazed at the results that even a single session could produce. She studied under Huisheng Xie, a world-renowned equine acupuncturist and lecturer in the Alternative and Complementary Medicines program at the University of Florida's Veterinary College. …