For the past eight years, Dr. Amber McNamara earned a stellar reputation working with a wide variety of injured animals at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) here on Sanibel, serving as clinic director for the final 12 months of her tenure.
One of the most respected and dedicated veterinary physicians to work on the islands, Dr. Amber - as she is known to nearly everybody - recently decided to launch her own business, Artful Healing Veterinary Acupuncture, LLC, which provides acupuncture services and herbal therapy for pets in the comfort of their own homes.
"I've been thinking about doing this for awhile, but about a month ago I got serious about it," said McNamara. "When I learned acupuncture as part of my training at the Chi Institute, I hoped it would eventually become part of my own practice in the future."
Renowned veterinary physician Dr. Amber McNamara, pictured with her dog Maxwell, recently launched a mobile pet acupuncture, Tui-na and herbal therapy practice serving Southwest Florida, including Sanibel and Captiva.
A 2003 graduate of Purdue University (where she earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine), Dr. Amber also graduated from the Chi Institute in 2007, where licensed veterinarians master traditional Chinese medicine skills including veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
"It's a different way of approaching medical problems or health issues an animal may have, geared towards getting their bodies back in balance and helping it heal itself," she explained.
Her training at the Chi Institute, and in subsequent years in practice at CROW, solidified Dr. Amber's belief in traditional Chinese veterinary medical treatments (TCVM), which have been utilized for centuries to improve health and well-being for animals. Treatment principles are simultaneously very simple and extremely complex. The goal of TCVM treatment is whole-body balance, including organ interactions, smooth qi (energy) and blood flow, excesses and deficiencies, and immune function.
According to McNamara, veterinary acupuncture therapy promotes balance, and has benefits for health conditions and ailments including:
Back pain and weakness
Vomiting, constipation and diarrhea
Cough and asthma
Anxiety and restlessness
Artful Healing Veterinary Acupuncture provides mobile acupuncture services as well as herbal therapy, food therapy and Tui-na. Chinese herbs are prescription medications designed to treat a number of ailments and complement acupuncture. Tui-na is a method of medical manipulation ("massage") that helps to move and balance energy flow. This therapy can help to warm cool areas of the body, loosen stiff joints and support weak organs.
"I thought the the most beneficial way I could do this was offer it in people's homes," said McNamara. "That way it's more comfortable for your pets and less stressful on them, since they're going to be more relaxed in their own environment."
She explained that all animals - dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, rabbits, etc. - have channels of energy ("meridians") that run from the nose to the tail, among internal organs, and along all four limbs. Acupuncture allows access to these channels through specific points on the outside of the animal's body. These points can be stimulated by acupuncture needles, laser therapy, electro-acupuncture or by pressure with the hands and fingers. Administration of fluids, vitamins, medication, or the application of heat at a specific point may also be helpful.
Following a physical examination of your pet, specific acupuncture points along these meridians are selected that will help the body correct imbalances.
Once a diagnosis has been made, a treatment plan will be developed that could include acupuncture, herbal treatment, massage or changes in diet.
"I think people are becoming more open-minded about medical alternatives these days, and something like acupuncture could be beneficial to your animals," she added. "Sometimes you might not be content with how your pet is responding to traditional medicines, which sometimes may mask bigger problems. What we can do is offer something more holistic and natural."