April 18, 2016
Alternative health care option expands to pets
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Dr. Nicole Kayser, of HeartFire Veterinary Acupunture and Holistic Health Care, 27 N. Church St., uses a laser on Smokey, as his owner, Cal Hite, of South Otselic, looks on.
Two years ago South Otselic resident, Cal Hite, took his dog — Smokey — to Cornell University for an ultrasound and heard the one word no one wants to hear: cancer.
An enlarged prostate had recently been discovered in Smokey and doctors at Cornell told Hite there was a 95 percent change it was cancer, predicting the dog had about three to four months to live.
“There’s my sick dog,” Hite said Friday, looking at a rambunctious Smokey running around the patient room of HeartFire Veterinary Acupuncture and Holistic Health Care, at 27 N. Church St., Cortland.
Hite didn’t want to put Smokey through chemotherapy and began looking for an alternative route to help his pet. He was advised to see Dr. Nicole Kayser, the founder of HeartFire and a 21-year practicing veterinarian. Her methods were unusual, but Hite decided to give holistic care a try.
Through acupuncture, changing Smokey’s diet and prescribing Chinese herbal medicines, Kayser said she was able to slow down the growth of the tumor and boost Smokey’s immune system. The treatments are not a one-time-visit-fixes-all solution. Hite visits Kayser regularly throughout the year to keep Smokey happy and comfortable for as long as possible.
Kayser said acupuncture and Chinese medicine can extend periods of remission and improve quality of life.
Hite said Smokey does have a few small issues due to the enlarged prostate, but seeing his dog hyper and active, and a month away from turning13 years old, he is very pleased with the results.
And being able to provide that happiness for pet and owner has been Kayser’s lifelong dream.
“I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 8 years old,” Kayser said. “I love animals and always wanted to work with animals. People said if you don’t get into vet school, which is harder to get into than med school, you got to have an alternative plan. I had no alternative plans. This is all I wanted to do.”
But practicing traditional Chinese veterinary medicine wasn’t always her career goal. Kayser started in a small animal practice, after graduating from Cornell University’s veterinary program in 1995.
After a few years with the practice she transitioned into relief work — filling in for vets who were out sick, on vacation, etc. Over a span of 11 years she worked with more than 35 practices in Central New York while doing relief work.
During that time, Kayser said she became interested in how nutrition can be used to not only help people, but animals, too, and wanted to learn more. She enrolled in a food therapy program at the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine in Gainesville, Florida, which eventually introduced her to a radical alternative to Western medicine.
“In China, they would eat food according to what was going on in their body and what they needed to strengthen. So, that’s what I went and studied first and the whole theory just caught my attention as far as the idea of not just treating symptoms,” Kayser said. “By rebalancing the entire body, the body can heal itself and a lot of the symptoms will fall away. Whereas in Western medicine we look at what the symptom is and treat just that symptom and don’t really go into the whole underlying (reason) of why is the symptom is there.”
After initially going for only food therapy, Kayser ended up graduating from the institute in 2011, having completed courses in food therapy, Chinese medicine, acupuncture and herbal studies.
With the benefit of having worked at many veterinary practices, Kayser, after graduating, went around to a few practices, had them pick a patient, and for free, demonstrated her new method of acupuncture in front of the staff and clients. Her point was to show that acupuncture doesn’t hurt the dog. And she said throughout her demonstrations the dogs were relaxed and some even fell asleep.
She said there were some doctors who were not sold on her methods, partly because they didn’t understand them, and would take her patients off the herbal medicines she had prescribed them.
But over time, seeing the alternative medicines were actually helping, they began to respect the different approach. Some, she said, are even starting to become certified acupuncturists. It helped to give Kayser credibility and slowly grow her own holistic practice focusing on small animals.
In addition to the traditional cats and dogs, Kayser has also once worked on a possum. She said although it would be a little more complicated, she could even acupuncture a turtle if needed. And for the hyperactive pets, she has a laser acupuncture machine where light stimulates the acupuncture point instead of the needle.
Every animal is different in terms of what treatment and medicine they need. Kayser said that there has never been an animal she hasn’t been able to treat with acupuncture, and has yet to have a patient think their pet didn’t feel better after the treatments. That kind of satisfaction has been attracting people from all over.
“I have people who come from Pennsylvania, New York City, Rochester. They come from all over, and I have as much as I know what to do with,” Kayser said.
She said there are instances where Western practices and Chinese practice can work together, because neither have a solution for everything.
“I look at it as, if your dog gets hit by a car, you’re not going to run to your acupuncturist,” Kayser said. “I think in Western medicine they have a real hard time with chronic, ongoing things. They’re really good at acute onset things, whereas Eastern medicine is better at the long, chronic things.”
But through her Chinese practices, she has been able to help numerous pets, like Smokey, in furthering a happy life for them. Kayser said there was a cat with diarrhea whose vet had exhausted every option of trying stop it, but couldn’t. The vet sent the cat to Kayser, and after a week of acupuncture and herbs, the diarrhea stopped.
Kayser also told of a Shitzu she saw which one day went down on all four legs and couldn’t walk anymore. The dog had numerous blood tests done at Cornell, went through biopsies and MRIs, but still there was no clear answer. The owner wanted to try a different method, rather than going through chemotherapy. After two acupuncture treatments, the dog was up running around and playing, Kayser said.
“As someone who practiced regular medicine for 18 years, before I started doing this, I’m blown away,” Kayser said. “I’m absolutely blown away at things that have happened.”
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