Complementary &
Alternative Medicine

Holistic Veterinary Care from Oakland Veterinary Referral Services, Including Acupuncture, Herbal & Nutritional Therapies


The Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) department is a holistic service providing treatments designed to treat your whole pet. Taking into consideration your petís entire medical history and personality, we work to treat the underlying cause of disease. This translates into improved health, energy and quality of life. Working together with you and your regular veterinarian, we provide a treatment program that bests fits the needs of you and your pet.

The CAM department works closely with the oncology department to provide complementary interventions that can be used in conjunction with mainstream treatments. Through this multi-modality approach, we are able to offer our cancer patients additional treatment options for the best possible outcome and quality of life. The CAM department also provides treatment options for patients who are not good candidates for conventional cancer therapies. In order to provide a thorough assessment and the most appropriate treatment recommendations, an Integrative Oncology Consultation is required for new oncology patients when there is interest in alternative cancer therapies, to discuss both standard conventional treatments as well as alternative medicine treatment options. For pets who are already patients of the oncology department when alternative medicine treatments or an integrative oncology therapy approach is elected, a CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) Consultation can be scheduled to discuss integrative treatment therapies and develop a patient-specific treatment plan.

The Complementary and Alternative Medicine department at OVRS is centered on Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment principles and therapies and encompasses treatment modalities such as acupuncture, botanical/ herbal therapies, nutraceuticals, and nutritional therapies. These treatments can be effective in managing and treating a wide variety of medical conditions. While complementary and alternative treatments can be very successful, they may not be appropriate for every pet and are not without potential side effects or drug interactions. Our mission is to provide educated, authoritative, current, and safe treatment options.

Questions About Complementary & Alternative Medicine

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture has been used successfully in humans and animals for over 4000 years. It is a means of helping the body heal itself and is still the treatment of choice for many medical problems for over one-quarter of the world's population. Acupuncture in now becoming more widely accepted in the western world and is being used with increasing frequency in veterinary medicine. It is not a cure-all. However, when applied appropriately, it is very effective for the treatment of many veterinary conditions, some of which have a poor response to treatment with conventional medicine.

Acupuncture is the insertion of very small needles into and just below the skin at certain places called acupoints. Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupoints as points in the skin that communicate, by way of a meridian (energy channel), to one or more internal organs. According to traditional Chinese medical philosophy, disease is an imbalance of energy within the body. The goal of acupuncture therapy is to re-balance the energy flow in the body thereby allowing the body to heal itself. Treatment of an affected acupoint will promote a change in its associated organ. This explanation is similar to the Western medicine concept of viscerosomatic and somatovisceral reflexes as well as trigger points associated with myofascial and visceral pain.

Are there any side effects from acupuncture?

Acupuncture is not a painful procedure. Although the insertion of the needle can cause a brief sensation (similar to a mosquito bite), which may cause temporary discomfort, most animals do not react to the needle insertion and many fall asleep during treatment. Acupuncture has a relaxing effect on the body and can cause some pets to be very sleepy after treatment. This can sometimes last for a day or two. Your pet should still eat normally and be able to do their normal activities.

Adverse side effects from acupuncture are very rare but can include bleeding or bruising at the acupuncture site, transient pain on insertion of the needle, or infection. Acupuncture is not appropriate for every pet and careful case selection is important in making this treatment a successful and enjoyable experience. Acupuncture does require that your pet remain lying down and still for 10-25 minutes. Therefore, very excitable or aggressive pets may not be good candidates for acupuncture treatment.

Who can benefit from Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)? What conditions is it used to treat?

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is a comprehensive approach to health care. Ancient and novel treatments are combined with conventional, main-stream diagnostics and treatment modalities to treat both acute (sudden onset) and chronic (long-standing) conditions.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine can be used alone, or in combination with conventional treatments. It is also commonly used for cases in which conventional medications are not achieving the desired results or are resulting in undesirable side effects, and in cases where surgery is not feasible.

There is a growing body of evidence documenting the benefits of acupuncture, herbal and nutritional treatments in cancer therapy. Numerous clinical studies are emerging in human literature on the effectiveness of CAM for the treatment of cancer-related disorders. When used in conjunction with conventional treatments, CAM can be used to restore the bodyís balance, strengthen the immune system, increase responsiveness to chemotherapy, and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

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Our Complementary & Alternative Medicine Expertise

  • Acupuncture
  • Electro-acupuncture
  • Deep infrared therapy/PDT
  • Botanical/herbal therapies
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Energy therapy
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Tour Our Complementary & Alternative Medicine Department

Department Hours

Our department hours are
Monday and Tuesday, 9am-6pm
Wednesday hours alternate weekly from 9am-6pm and 11am-8pm

Meet Our Veterinarians

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Dr. Bannink, DVM, CVA (IVAS)
Oncology/ Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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Dr. Erin Bannink is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine specialty of oncology. Dr. Bannink has a special interest in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and values a holistic approach to treatment, offering both Integrative and regular oncology consultations. She received her certification in veterinary acupuncture (CVA) through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS).