The lights are low in Dr. Clare Seagren's clinic space. The air smells of flowers and spice and soft music emits a calming tone.
The ambience helps Seagren, a veterinarian, stay centered and focused as she performs acupuncture on her patients which run the gamut from bunnies to ferrets to dogs and horses and even the occasional cow. Some patients, obviously, require barn calls.
Growing up in West Virginia, Seagren had "every animal under the sun." She long dreamed of being a vet and worked at a vet during summers while she was in college.
She practiced traditional veterinary medicine in Lexington for decades, but became interested in acupuncture in 2005 after her horse, Ethel, became so ill Seagren was afraid the show horse would have to be put down.
Fortunately, after being treated with acupuncture, Ethel lived, happily, another seven years, Seagren said.
Seagren studied acupuncture for about a year commuting to the Chi Institute for Veterinary Acupuncture in central Florida. She earned certification from the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture. She is one of only 12 certified veterinary acupuncturists in Kentucky, according to the academy's website.
When she first started her animal acupuncture practice, there was some skepticism, she said. But now people seem more open minded about the Chinese medical treatment.
For Seagren, using acupuncture is a way to heal without hurting. Traditional medicine, which can involve invasive tubes and shots, can cause pain, she said. Acupuncture does no harm and she has found that it is effective in about 80 percent of her patients.
Teresa Christopher, proud pet mom to Alex, is a believer. Six years ago Alex, a King Charles Spaniel, collapsed in the driveway and couldn't walk, Christopher said. After visiting a vet who was a specialist in orthopedics someone recommended Seagren.
Christopher's husband wasn't crazy about the idea.
"He said I might as well just throw money in the back yard," she said.
She went anyway, and the acupuncture worked. Alex went home walking. Now Alex gets maintenance treatments every few weeks.
"I live and breathe acupuncture now," said Christopher. "He's my miracle puppy."
Christopher said Seagren will tell a pet owner when the treatment, which runs around $70 a visit, is not working, and Christopher appreciates that. Seagren said she finds this honest approach works best. And, if there isn't improvement after three or four sessions she encourages the owners to try some other treatment.
But, overall, her philosophy focuses on using acupuncture as a compliment to traditional Western medicine. She doesn't like the term "alternative," medicine, she said. If a vet focusing on Western medicine prescribes a medicine or a treatment, she said, she aims to make her acupuncture work with that plan.
If she has one qualm about the use of acupuncture it's that people too often turn to it as a last resort.