Dr. Rachel Barrack of ‘Animal Acupuncture’: “Don’t “overtreat” your pet”

Don’t “overtreat” your pet: Obesity is a HUGE problem in both dogs (and cats.) It has been shown that obesity is linked to major medical problems in both dogs and cats including cancer, degenerative joint disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and decreased life expectancy and quality of life. The most commonly seen cause […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Don’t “overtreat” your pet: Obesity is a HUGE problem in both dogs (and cats.) It has been shown that obesity is linked to major medical problems in both dogs and cats including cancer, degenerative joint disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and decreased life expectancy and quality of life. The most commonly seen cause of obesity in pets is overfeeding — particularly overfeeding treats. Allocate some of your dogs daily kibble to use as a training treat.


As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Rachel Barrack, founder of Animal Acupuncture.

Dr. Rachel Barrack is a doctor of veterinary medicine, certified veterinary acupuncturist, and certified veterinary Chinese herbalist. While she has extensive training and experience in western medicine, her technique is rooted in ancient Chinese healing arts.

Dr. Barrack has worked in environments ranging from small animal clinics to animal shelters to wildlife conservation centers. Most recently, she worked at Belmont and Aqueduct Racetracks both in private practice and as a regulatory veterinarian and racing official.

Dr. Barrack received her degree in veterinary medicine from the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. She later went on to study Traditional Chinese Medicine under animal care pioneer Dr. Huisheng Xie at the Chi Institute, where she achieved certifications in both veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbology.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Becoming a veterinarian is one of the accomplishments that I am most proud of — I was that little kid who always loved animals and would loudly proclaim to anyone who would listen, “I’m going to become a horse doctor!” and I actually did it. Not many people successfully achieve their childhood dreams.

I received my degree in veterinary medicine from the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. I later went on to study Traditional Chinese Medicine under animal care pioneer Dr. Huisheng Xie at the Chi Institute, where I became certified in both veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbology.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

As a veterinarian, I am always committed to offering my patients the best possible care in order to provide them with the highest quality of life at all times. Therefore, I am always exploring different methods to achieve this goal but never did I expect my area of expertise in Chinese medicine. However, when I started learning about traditional Chinese veterinary medicine and putting acupuncture, Chinese herbology, tui-na (Chinese medical massage), and food therapy into practice and seeing the incredible results I was achieving, the way I practiced medicine became forever changed for the better.

Two specific patients sparked my interest in Chinese medicine. Many years ago, while working full time at Belmont and Aqueduct racetracks, I was faced with a particularly challenging case. This particular horse had a very unusual lameness that would not resolve with extended rest and extensive western treatment. I had heard that acupuncture could be of help so although skeptical, I figured why not give it a shot. I reached out to another colleague who was a certified veterinary acupuncturist and shortly after being treated my patient was able to make a full recovery and eventually returned to racing. I was amazed!

Shortly thereafter I was treating a cat suffering from advanced cancer. Although this cat was receiving palliative western therapy, his owner was looking for something further to make him more comfortable. I watched as another colleague utilized acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy to help better the remainder of this cat’s life.

I was so intrigued that I began studying under Dr Xie of the Chi Institute in Gainesville, FL. Once I began incorporating acupuncture into my veterinary repertoire I was astounded at the amazing benefit I was no offering my patients and my practice of medicine was forever changed. Today, I offer an integrative approach to veterinary medicine which allows me to offer the best of both eastern and western therapies to the animals in my care.

What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

The takeaway from this story is that sometimes life takes you on an unexpected path and that this can be a wonderful thing. Another special story near and dear to my heart is about a patient named Luca, who has Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD).

IVDD is a serious condition in which the cushioning discs in between the vertebrae bulge or herniate into the spinal cord space. This causes nerve compression resulting in pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis. Luca, who is a female mixed breed dog, experienced this situation firsthand and after becoming acutely paralyzed in her hind end, had to have emergency neurosurgery in an effort to rectify the situation. Today, through a combination of Western and Eastern therapies — including acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy, Luca is progressing towards a full recovery!

Seeing my patients happy and healthy, while making unbelievable progress makes me job heartwarming and worth it!

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early in my career, a horse under my care had a complication from a routine procedure. I was unsure of how to proceed but asked a colleague for help. This taught me a valuable lesson, no one knows everything; it’s ok to ask for help.

Asking for help also led me on a path to discovering the amazing world of Chinese medicine and what an asset it is combined with my Western medical expertise.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Over the years I’ve had a lot of people who have helped me pursue my dream of becoming a veterinarian. My family has always been supportive (although I did have to beg for my parents to get me a dog. I finally wore them down at age 16 and got my dalmatian, Bentley).

I have been fortunate to have had many incredible mentors who have imparted their wisdom to me during the course of my veterinary career including — Dr Guy St Jean at Ross University, Drs Erin Groover, Jill Narak, Andy Shores, and Wayne Waguspack at Auburn University, Drs Scott Palmer and Jennifer Smith at New Jersey Equine Clinic, and Dr Huisheng Xie at the Chi Institute.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

Acupuncture is a healing art that has been used in China for thousands of years to treat a variety of medical conditions. It is considered the mainstay of traditional Chinese medicine. At my practice, Animal Acupuncture, we use thin, sterile, stainless steel needles and place into specific points on the body. Most acupuncture points are located along 14 major channels, which form a network that carries blood and energy throughout the entire body.

Acupuncture produces a physiological response. It can provide pain relief, stimulate the immune and nervous systems, increase microcirculation, and decrease inflammation. Acupuncture can also help restore balance between organ systems for optimal health and overall wellbeing.

In making an impact on the world, Acupuncture and western medicine have the same goals — to eliminate disease and support the best quality of life. However, each approach is suited to specific circumstances. Western medicine is ideal for acute disease diagnostics and surgery. Acupuncture can be very effective in treating chronic conditions that western medicine can help but not cure. Traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, focuses on the underlying cause of disease, not just the symptoms manifested in each individual patient. Conventional western drugs act quickly but sometimes come with unwanted side effects. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy can be used to avoid or ameliorate some of those side effects. By combining western and eastern medical knowledge I provide your pet with the most appropriate and best possible care!

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people/pets journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

  1. Exercise: Not only is exercise a great way to bond, it promotes physical well-being for the entire family. It’s also a great stress reliever for kids, parents and pups alike.
  2. Don’t “overtreat” your pet: Obesity is a HUGE problem in both dogs (and cats.) It has been shown that obesity is linked to major medical problems in both dogs and cats including cancer, degenerative joint disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and decreased life expectancy and quality of life. The most commonly seen cause of obesity in pets is overfeeding — particularly overfeeding treats. Allocate some of your dogs daily kibble to use as a training treat.
  3. A healthy diet: I advocate feeding both dogs and cats high quality, nutrient rich balanced diets with appropriate calorie contents to support and maintain a healthy weight and do not advocate giving treats. Your veterinarian can help formulate an appropriate diet for your dog!
  4. Stay calm: Dogs are attuned to the energies of their owners. For this reason, stay calm! Travel, change and new surroundings are not only stressful for humans, but to dogs as well. Staying calm will help to keep your pet calm and not add stress to an already stressful situation. If your dog starts to panic, talk to them calmly, pet them, and provide them with a toy to alleviate anxiety and let them know that they’re okay.
  5. Furry kisses and hugs: because they help everyone’s well-being.☺

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of animals, what would that be?

Don’t knock Acupuncture until you tried it! Acupuncture and western medicine have the same goals — to eliminate disease and support the best quality of life. However, each approach is suited to specific circumstances. Western medicine is ideal for acute disease diagnostics and surgery. Acupuncture can be very effective in treating chronic conditions that western medicine can help but not cure.

Traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, focuses on the underlying cause of disease, not just the symptoms manifested in each individual patient.

Conventional western drugs act quickly but sometimes come with unwanted side effects. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy can be used to avoid or ameliorate some of those side effects. By combining western and eastern medical knowledge,

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Follow along on social at @AnimalAcupuncture and check out my site, animalacupuncture.com.

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Dr. Rachel Barrack of Animal Acupuncture: “Feel free to follow up”

by Dave Philistin
Community//

Combining Eastern and Western Methods for Anxiety and Pain Relief

by Amber Mark
Community//

Keeping calm during COVID-19: Why it’s important for you AND your pets!

by Amber Mark
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.