Ruth Dalto always knew she would work with animals.
“I think I was born with it,” she says.
Dalto, a veterinarian, had her own pets by the third grade, and as early as fifth grade she was pretending to be a vet.
“My friend and I would see other kids’ hamsters and guinea pigs,” she says.
Before going to veterinary school – she’s a graduate of University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine – she was seeing a chiropractor and acupuncturist. When her dog developed arthritis, she decided to try a holistic approach, and when she couldn’t find a vet who could do it, she took him to her own acupuncturist. It was an experience that eventually led her to become a holistic veterinarian.
Now, at her Yarmouth-based office, Holistic Healing for Animals, Dalto practices veterinary chiropractic, acupuncture and homeopathy. Sometimes, Dalto will treat a pet with all three approaches, and other times will just focus on one or two. Her treatment depends on each individual case, and Dalto goes through a process with every animal to figure out what would be best for the pet, and the owner. Her alternative approaches, she says, treat the patient as a whole and help restore balance to the body.
“Usually, people come in with a (pet’s) specific complaint that they want addressed, so we talk about that, then I go over all aspects of the animal’s health all the different organ systems, what’s going wrong and what’s not. I wait until I see the animal for the first time and get all the history. I do a physical exam and I do some chiropractic, then I come up with a treatment plan based on what I find,” she says. “Sometimes I lean toward the acupuncture, sometimes I lean toward homeopathy, sometimes use more nutritional supplements than other times, depending on the animal, the person, and what works for both of them.”
Joan Dempsey of New Gloucester has a 5-year-old English shorthaired pointer, Logan, who has been a patient of Dalto’s for years, and Dempsey says she appreciates the open-mindedness that Dalto brings to Logan’s treatment possibilities.
“I love that Dr. Dalto is very good at listening to what’s going on and she’s really great about considering options with us,” says Dempsey. “She doesn’t just say, ‘This is what needs to be done.’ She offers ideas and really listens to our ideas. It feels like a real collaboration in our pet’s health, and that just makes a huge difference.”
For Logan, it’s a big treat when it’s time to visit Dr. Dalto.
“He absolutely loves her and loves the office, so it’s actually really pleasurable,” says Dempsey.
Not only are the visits enjoyable for Logan, but according to Dempsey, they have significantly changed his life. Logan was born with bad knees, and when he came to Dempsey he could barely walk.
“We were told by other veterinarians that he’d have to have two knee replacement surgeries,” says Dempsey, “but we went to Dr. Dalto when he was about a year and a half and he has been like brand new for years now. We’ve done a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs and chiropractic, and you would never know that there’s anything wrong with his knees.”
Dalto says that holistic healing for animals is comparable to holistic healing for humans. “With acupuncture, I give them a Chinese medical diagnosis, look at the pulse, the tongue, their symptoms, all their behaviors, and then treat based on that with the acupuncture,” she says.
Dalto often recommends chiropractic for treatment as well as for preventative care.
“Dogs especially can be prone to arthritis and bad backs because they’re out there and they’re active. I think some maintenance chiropractic through their life may prevent or put off arthritic or bad back issues,” she says.
Dalto has seen animals from a goat to a guinea pig, but her focus is on dogs and cats. “You would think maybe you couldn’t put needles in a cat,” she said, “but most of them do really well with it and they respond really well to chiropractic – moving better, feeling better”
After much success with Logan, Dempsey has brought both her cats to Holistic Healing and both times left with homeopathic treatments that “worked beautifully.”
Dalto says that holistic healing not only gives animals “an enhanced sense of well-being,” but also “gets at their medical issues and problems at a core level and makes them stronger from the inside out.”
She also offers some health recommendations that pet owners can practice at home: “I think really good diet and nutrition is a big key to health, whether you’re doing premium canned wet or dry food, or ideally raw or home prepped. Limit vaccines and chemical exposure as much as you can. Of course: proper exercise. And I think just a loving home – the energy we put out there really makes a big difference.”