WESLEY CHAPEL — Spunky, Oliver and Gator were suffering and their owners faced tough decisions because the usual medical treatments no longer worked.
But a local vet with a different technique stepped in and gave Spunky the quarter horse, Oliver the King Charles spaniel and Gator the dachshund many more months —perhaps years — of healthy living.
The three owners say they're grateful and amazed.
Marlene Siegel, a Wesley Chapel veterinarian at Pasco Veterinary Medical Center, has used veterinarian orthopedic manipulation, or VOM, for the past year and is certified in the practice.
"The treatment is a hybrid between veterinary and chiropractic," Siegel says, explaining how allowing increased blood flow causes the nerves to reset to normal activity and increase energy from the spine to various organs.
"VOM treats the body from the inside out. It's a way to assist the body in healing itself and it alleviates pain," Siegel says, adding that she's handled more than 500 cases and estimates her success rate at about 95 percent, including Spunky, Oliver and Gator.
Quarter horse Spunky is 41, about 11 years older than the normal horse life expectancy. Owner Dana Kuhns of Zephyrhills said Spunky's appetite was gone and her arthritis was so severe that when she was down her legs simply couldn't push her back to standing.
"My equine vet would pump her with meds to get her up, but you could see the pain in her eyes," Kuhns said.
Melanie McGavern, a veterinarian from Zephyrhills Veterinary Clinic, suggested to Kuhns that Siegel's treatments might prevent having to euthanize Spunky.
Siegel arrived to find Spunky "frozen" in place. After two hours of treatment, Spunky walked out of the barn and trotted through the pasture.
"I couldn't stop crying," Kuhns said. "My Spunky could be the poster child for Dr. Marlene's work."
A year later Spunky, after two intense sessions and a few followup treatments, is doing great and as Kuhns says, "Well, she's eating like a horse!"
"She receives general meds, her regular shots, good feed and proper care," Kuhns says, agreeing with Siegel that a strong combination of the right things brings success for those like Spunky.
Oliver, 7, a King Charles spaniel owned by Lisa McColl, had been stricken with pancreatitis and was having severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. He had no interest in his toys and, in particular, didn't allow touching on his head.
"Traditional meds were not working. We brought Oliver to Dr. Siegel and after the first treatment there was profound difference," says McColl.
"He went home and got one of his toys. My husband was so shocked," explains McColl, stroking Oliver's head.
After five months of treatment Oliver's diarrhea is gone and there's minimal vomiting.
Gator, 11, a dachshund owned by Jennifer and Chris Straussner of Zephyrhills, had an acute disc rupture. When Gator couldn't stand, Jennifer turned to an emergency vet listing and, by chance, found Siegel.
Gator's first treatment brought change but it was after several treatments over a few weeks that Gator showed huge improvement.
"After a week he was trying to use his legs and then within two weeks he could go up and down steps. I was so amazed. She saved him," says Straussner.
Rosie, 13, a golden retriever owned by Christine Bleich, is another success story, coming back from osteoarthritis that limited her walking to improved mobility or as Siegel says, "She's profoundly stronger."
There's Elmer, a Yorkshire terrier with a collapsed trachea. Owner Nancy Carpenter sought Siegel's help and after one treatment Elmer slept through the night with no coughing, has since gone off meds and is now breathing easily.
"I generally do three or four therapeutic treatments. Once we achieve the goal, then we decrease frequency of treatments until we get to maintenance maybe quarterly or twice a year, depending on the animal," explained Siegel, adding that every case is different and no two treatments the same.
Treatments run $65 to $195 depending on instruments used. Clients generally have no home followup, except possible stretching.
Where does Siegel see VOM fitting in?
"If we can make adjustments part of an animal's routine health maintenance just as we give vaccines, we could slow down disease from occurring in the first place," she says.