“I begin yawning in front of the dog, not out of boredom, but to get the dog to yawn back so I can look at the tongue and smell their breath,” said Doe Risko, certified animal acupressure practitioner in Northeast Portland, describing her initial approach to animals she’s treating.
Risko has lived in Portland for 40 years; 20 years in her 100-year old house on Northeast Multnomah Street where patients walk on leash through a garden wall gate and take a ramp up to a separate entrance to the office with two rooms. Once inside the room, Risko allows the animals to go off leash, sniff around the room and sense that “no one gets hurt and no pain is inflicted here” while she interviews the owners to learn what ailments or injuries their pets have. Risko only sees animals that have been referred by a veterinarian.
The initial appointment takes about 90 minutes, during which time Risko learns about the dog’s life and conditions. A student of Chinese medicine, she believes in holistic treatment, evaluating the animal’s diet, exercise, behavior and environment. While talking to the animal’s owner, Risko waits patiently for the dog to come to her, allowing the dog to make the initial contact. She then inspects the paws, feels the coat, looks in the ears and mouth while gathering information about any behavior changes, medications and previous injuries.
When Risko graduated from the Tallgrass Institute in Colorado five years ago, there were fewer than 50 certified animal acupressure practitioners in the country. Oregon state law requires such practitioners to obtain prior permission from a veterinarian. Acupressure involves fingertip pressure on an acupuncture point. According to Risko, touching the points by finger or laser can determine the health of the animal’s organs. Laser or light therapy is gaining support in vet clinics, according to the August 2013 issue of the Whole Dog Journal (WDJ). Risko has practiced acupressure on her own animals for eight years. She began working with cold laser therapy in 2008 when she opened her practice.
Cold laser acupuncture
Cold laser has been in existence since 1967. Laser therapy does three things, according to the article in WDJ: increases healing, decreases inflammation and decreases pain. According to Risko, the advantages of laser acupuncture are: it’s fast, clean, noninvasive and accurate. Painless and safe, cold laser does not puncture or heat the skin.
Laser treatment is not recommended for pregnant animals or those diagnosed with cancer. Laser therapy can potentially stimulate growth of cancerous cells and is not recommended if an animal is undergoing chemotherapy.
Cost of cold laser acupuncture
After the initial 90-minute appointment, Risko reports that some dogs will drag their humans to her door, in anticipation of a laser or acupressure treatment. The number of treatments depends on variables such as the dog’s age, severity of the complaint and stage of illness. Typically, two 45-minute treatments follow the initial 90-minute session. The cost is $75 for the first evaluative 90-minute appointment; $50 for each subsequent 45-minute appointment. Risko generally sees some positive result after the third appointment.
Risko has treated a good cross section of breeds including dachshunds who often experience back issues. She’s successfully treated dogs that had hip dysplasia, anxiety and joint issues.
After inspecting the pet and exchanging information with their owners, Risko opens the treatment room to let a dog explore on their own, again sniffing the floor, wool rug and furnishings. She uses all natural products to clean the floors and rugs.
Cold laser acupuncture process
A cold laser probe, like a “needle of light” is attached to her computer which has five different programs. She tests the machine every time she turns it on. Risko feels around the dog by hand, assessing acupuncture points along two meridian pathways while speaking in a calm voice.
She’s seeking alarm points that indicate an acute situation or association points that indicate a chronic condition. According to WDJ, “damaged or compromised cells and tissues have been shown to have a significantly higher response to laser therapy than normal healthy structures.”
During the first hour, Risko determines the points she’ll work on. If she identifies an acute situation, she is often able to locate the source. Laser treatment takes anywhere from 15 seconds to 1.5 minutes per point. Needles used for acupuncture stay in 20 minutes.
Risko uses acupressure on the dog to assess organ health. Her goal during the procedure is to get the animal totally relaxed; in fact, 60-65 percent of dogs fall asleep during treatment.
Treating cats with lasers
About 95 percent of Risko’s clients are dogs, with cats making up the rest. Frequent cat issues include wrist and elbow problems. “Cats are more difficult to treat as it takes longer to get them comfortable enough to trust you,” said Risko. In order to avoid potential retinal damage to all animals, she uses a soft black fabric cone to protect their faces.
WDJ concludes that laser therapy is becoming a huge component of pain management and rehabilitation for pets. For more information, see the article at whole-dog-journal.com.
For more information about Doe Risko’s acupressure and laser therapy practice, see pdxlasertherapy.com; email moc.y1493158364pareh1493158364tresa1493158364ltepx1493158364dp@of1493158364ni1493158364 or call (503) 336-1340.