By Jill Draper
When Dr. Sally Barchman was in veterinarian school at Iowa State, there was a holistic medicine club for students. She wasn’t interested.
“I remember thinking they were weirdos. I wasn’t ready for that yet.” But years later, after she joined State Line Animal Hospital & Holistic Health and worked alongside Dr. Cheri Jones, she changed her mind. Jones had recently become certified in acupuncture before she died from cancer in 2013, and Barchman (who goes by Dr. Sally) achieved the same certification a year later.
“I kind of did it in her honor,” she says. “Now I see the benefits every day.”
Acupuncture plus chiropractic adjustments, massage, Chinese herbs, cold lasers and food therapy are techniques she offers to dog and cat patients in combination with conventional medicine at her practice tucked behind Gates Bar-B-Q at 2009 W. 104th St. in Leawood.
“Holistic health can mean a lot of things. In my practice it means whole body health or integrated medicine,” she says. “We let the owners choose how they want their pets to be treated. I’m not against surgery, but there’s a lot you can avoid with alternative care.”
Some of the most common problems that can be treated with this type of care are back disease and arthritis, Barchman says. “We’ve helped paralyzed dogs of all sizes, and dachshunds in particular, so they were able to walk again.”
In another example, one of her colleagues, Dr. Kimberly Hunt, an animal chiropractor, found some restrictions in the neck muscles of a dog with a persistent cough. Hunt was able to adjust the animal’s neck, and the cough went away.
Incontinence is also a big issue that can benefit from chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture and herbs, Barchman says, rattling off the name of one Chinese medicine that translates to “Old Man Wet Shoes.” She describes Qi, a word for life force or energy, as an important concept. “When you get older, things sag. If you boost the Qi, it can help.” She diagnoses energy imbalances by examining an animal’s tongue and comparing left and right femoral pulses.
“There are layers upon layers to consider,” she says, explaining that Chinese medicine takes a more individualized approach to health, while Western medicine usually treats all dogs and cats with the same nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for inflammation and pain.
Massage is still another therapy available at the clinic. “I know it sounds so Leawood—oh, it’s massage day for my pet,” she jokes, but points out that after a good massage her Great Dane was able to jump in and out of the car more easily. Massage is helpful for anxiety, too.
What about CBD (cannabis) for pets? Barchman says it can be useful for three main things: anxiety, inflammation and seizures. She cites its success rate as 50-50. “Some people say it’s a game changer for their pet. I tell people to try it, and if one brand doesn’t work, try another brand.”
Trying different foods also can be healing. In Chinese medicine, foods like chicken and lamb are classified as “hot,” while others like white fish, turkey and duck are “cold.” Salmon and beef are neutral. Dogs with too much internal heat tend to get arthritis or endocrine deficiencies. It makes them anxious and crazy, she says. Cold animals are less common, but these include some cats and elderly toy breeds like yorkies. Switching to a more appropriate protein is then prescribed.
Barchman collaborates with many local vets in the area. While other vets remain skeptical, she says the results are straightforward. “There’s no placebo effect with animals—it either works or it doesn’t.”
“It’s definitely becoming more popular. We get new clients everyday who are looking for this kind of thing.” See more at statelineah.com.