By Anna Skinner
When a member of the family is sick, they visit the doctor. And some members of the family aren’t always human.
Pets often experience many of the same physical ailments that humans do, such as cancer and arthritis. And sometimes, traditional medicine just doesn’t do the trick.
That’s why Dr. Steve Nichols, a veterinarian at the Springmill Pet Wellness Clinic, recently started implementing alternative medicine into his practice.
Nichols uses traditional medicinal routes as well, and he hasn’t always supported the alternative therapies. He said if someone came to him while he was in vet school and said he would be helping pets with alternative medicine, he would have laughed.
But a personal experience with acupuncture cleared his skepticism.
“I had some lower back issues potentially going to send me towards surgery. I had a friend suggest acupuncture, and I’ve had very good luck with that and have avoided surgery to date,” Nichols said. “It opened my eyes to the fact that there are things out there that allow me to offer a next step for a client instead of saying, ‘There’s nothing else I can do.’ In conventional medicine, a lot of times, we get to the point where we are faced with a surgery, or we don’t have any other options and (are) making no impactful changes. It really opened my eyes to the fact that there are other things out there that are impactful for the patient and the client.”
Although the Springmill Pet Wellness Clinic has only been open since January, Nichols went about receiving his certification to administrate alternative therapies approximately 10 years ago. Before Springmill Pet Wellness Clinic, he worked at Bridgeview Animal Hospital in Fishers but moved to the practice in Westfield because it was much closer to his Sheridan home.
Some of the modalities that Nichols uses in his practice include acupuncture, oxygenation therapy, prolotherapy, herb incorporation and more.
“The majority of people come to us for acupuncture and laser therapy when there’s an orthopedic or some type of movement issue going on with their pet,” Nichols said.
But sometimes, Nichols encounters a skeptic who doesn’t believe the alternative therapies will work for their pet.
“Unfortunately, mindset is critical for us. If you believe something is going to work, that has a tremendous amount of impact on how your body responds to it,” Nichols said. “The skeptics are very difficult people to move towards a more centric mindset or open to those modalities.”
Yet many of Nichols’ clients can’t sing him enough praises. Stephanie Statnick of Indianapolis brought her 11 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever to Nichols after her vet prescribed anti-inflammatories for shoulder pain, and the medication didn’t work.
“He’s had acupuncture and is on supplements, and once he gets going, he really enjoys his walks and has a little swagger back to his personality,” Statnick said. “I felt like it was worth trying. I’m still not sure why it works, but I have seen that it does.”
Robin Kellman of Carmel had a similar experience with her Coton du Tulear, Sunny. Sunny has a neurological disorder similar to Parkinson’s. Her disease drove Kellman to Nichols because with traditional medicine, there was nothing to be done. Nichols has treated Sunny for five years by using acupuncture and lasers.
“It absolutely improved her life,” Kellman said. “She has trouble when she’s walking and falls down, but now she gets back up and keeps on going. We have not seen deterioration in her since we’ve been treating her.”
Although the clinic only treats household pets, Nichols answers calls to treat equine animals as well. To contact him or learn more, call the clinic at 317-399-1832.
Meet Steve Nichols
Work: Springmill Pet Wellness Clinic, 224 W. 161st St., Westfield.
School: Undergrad and grad both completed at the University of Illinois.
Why he became a veterinatian: “What got me into the whole wanting-to-be-a-veterinarian thing was my experience with horses when I was a kid. By the time I was in fifth grade, I knew what I wanted to be.”
Family: Wife Katie.
Pets: Three dogs, four horses and four cats.