MANSFIELD — Ringo is an outgoing, playful yellow lab most of the time. But every few weeks, the 7-year-old rescue starts to slow down.
When that happens, his owner Marsha Dixey knows it's time for a tune-up. Ringo has a chronic spinal condition called spondylosis, which can cause limping, back pain and stiffness.
When Dixey moved back to Mansfield from Dallas, Texas, she worried that she would have to drive all the way to Columbus to get Ringo the care he needed. Instead, she was delighted to find an option in Richland County.
Ringo receives regular physical therapy and acupuncture at Mohican Veterinary Wellness, a new integrative veterinary practice at 371 Cline Avenue.
Veterinarian Cheryl Becker opened the practice earlier this year. Becker graduated from the Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. Since 2011, she’s earned certifications in canine rehabilitation, veterinary acupuncture, veterinary Chinese herbal medicine and veterinary medical manipulation.
After years of working as a relief vet, subbing in at other practices when colleagues were sick or out of the office, Becker decided to bring her passion for holistic care to a permanent location in Richland County.
“I wanted to concentrate on these specific types of treatments. There's not a lot of out there, in this area specifically, she said. “We don't do the things that a general practitioner does. We are not here to compete with them. We are here to help them as well as help our patients.”
Mohican Veterinary Wellness offers unique treatments including physical therapy, acupuncture, laser therapy, herbal medicine, food and nutrition therapy and veterinary medical manipulation.
Veterinary medical manipulation is similar to chiropractic work. Laser therapy uses light energy to trigger reactions in the pet’s cell to decrease inflammation.
“It’s called photobiomodulation – putting energy back into the cells,” Becker said. “It works with the mitochondria.
“We also use it to help warm up muscles sometimes before we do some physical therapy, but it's usually for pain control and healing.”
These methods are sometimes called “alternative” or “holistic.” Becker said she prefers the term integrative. As a licensed veterinarian with multiple certifications, she believes in combining traditional and alternative methods to meet her patients’ needs.
“I tend to call it integrative because I'm doing these alternate modalities to help their general practice veterinarians with what they're doing,” she said. “I try to keep in touch with their quote-unquote regular veterinarian and work with them.”
Becker has been interested in holistic methods for years. That interest grew when she saw the limitations of traditional medications firsthand.
“NSAIDs alone don’t work for everyone,” she explained.
The physical therapy room at Mohican Veterinary Wellness offers a doggie-size treadmill, Cavaletti conditioning rails and yoga balls and donuts.
Ringo’s owner said he loves going to the vet and comes back energized and ready to play.
“He’s so excited to go. He gets a lot of attention while he’s there, so he loves that,” she said. “When he comes home, he goes out in the yard with me, he wants to play ball.”
In addition to regular care at Mohican Veterinary Wellness, Ringo takes medication to help manage his spondylosis and regularly sees a traditional veterinarian.
Dixey said she was a little skeptical at first, but the combination of traditional and holistic veterinary medicine has been great for her pooch.
“It totally has enhanced his quality of life,” she said. “I feel very comfortable that I’m giving him the best life he can have as a dog.”
Becker estimated that she and her team have treated between 75 and 80 cats and canines since the practice launched in January. Some come for arthritis or pain relief, others visit to improve healing and post-surgical outcomes or address neurological damage.
While there are no quick fixes, Becker and her team work to alleviate pain, improve quality of life and increase pets’ longevity. Lifestyle changes like a healthier diet and regular exercise are often required.
“What you put in your body is extremely important for your overall health in pets as well as people,” Becker explained. “I'm not saying you need to make their food every day. But just like us, get some real food in their system. Eat more vegetables, eat more fruits, real meat.
“In my opinion, the dog and cat food that comes in a bag typically is just processed and processed food isn't good for us, so how can it be good for them?”