- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 30, 2002

Monique Man-iet is anything but conventional. The veterinarian eschews traditional white scrubs and wears purple because she says dogs don't like white.
"They have had bad things done to them by people in hospitals wearing white coats," she says.
Dr. Maniet practices in the world of alternative medicine, where dogs come to be cured of pain and suffering in a way they have never experienced.
It could mean getting needles stuck into their bodies as part of the acupuncture therapy, or a massage with a laser stick to stimulate their trigger points (hypersensitive areas in the muscles and the fibrous membranes that cover the muscles). Or it could mean using Chinese herbs to soothe their pain.
Whatever Dr. Maniet does, pet owners seem satisfied because they keep returning to Veterinary Holistic Care Clinic in Bethesda when their best friends need attention.
The holistic vet lives up to her name. She speaks with an exotic accent, and like Hercule Poirot, corrects people when they ask if she's French.
"Actually, I am Belgian," she says.
Dr. Maniet, whose untamed mane is streaked with blond, looks younger than her 51 years. She dresses in colors she knows will please her canine and feline patients. She advocates feeding dogs a no-carbohydrate, high-protein diet rich in raw meat and vegetables because she says it keeps them trimmer and healthier than overcooked, packaged and canned foods.
She also asks clients to play classical music for their pets because she says it soothes them.
On the wall of her office is a big poster of five globes joined by a star, explaining acupuncture therapy. There's also a poster of a dog lying on a carpet, legs in the air, before a big fan. It reads: "It's a dog's life."
Peggy Melton recently brought her 12-year-old Rottweiler-mastiff, Maggie, to see Dr. Maniet for the first time. The tall and handsome Maggie, who has hip dysplasia and arthritis, could barely walk. In the days after her treatment, Mrs. Melton says, Maggie has even climbed stairs.
Mrs. Melton first read about Dr. Maniet in Prevention magazine and decided to try her treatments to help the aging, beloved family pet. "Traditional vets just give her pain pills," she said. "They don't really treat what is going on in her body."
On her second visit, Maggie flopped on the floor of Dr. Maniet's examination room, a row of needles sticking out of her spine.
While Mrs. Melton massaged the big, brownish-black dog's ears to keep her from getting too agitated by the pin pricks, Dr. Maniet burned a stick of Chinese herbs she then held above each needle.
"Warming the needles relaxes the muscles, and the smell soothes the dog," she said while her other hand massaged Maggie's legs.
A few minutes later, the needles were out and a visibly relaxed Maggie rested for a moment on the floor. Her journey into the alternative world could result in another pain-free week.

Dr. Maniet and the handful of practicing holistic veterinarians around the country consider animals whole beings with unique physical and emotional traits. To treat them, Dr. Maniet says, they try to nip the disease at its origin.
Holistic veterinarians also believe that good nutrition, environment and mental happiness are important to an animal's well-being and healthy life. Some, like Dr. Maniet, even advise against vaccination because, they say, animals have naturally well-developed immune systems and great resistance to most diseases. Vaccinating them can "mess up their immune system," she says.
She also advocates homeopathy, a medical practice that originated in Germany and uses remedies based on natural substances. She has never vaccinated her own two dogs, 11-year-old Sophie, a basset hound, and 6-year-old Cesar, a Dogue de Bordeaux. They are fit, happy and healthy. "No drugs, no diarrhea," she says.
Dr. Maniet says her interest in holistic medicine began in the 1980s, when an acupuncturist helped her get rid of chronic insomnia. During her first session, "I fell asleep on the table for two to three hours," she says with a laugh. "Finally, they came in and told me they needed the room for other patients."
At the time, she was practicing as a conventional veterinarian, "but I was becoming disenchanted because the animals were never getting cured," she says.
She thought acupuncture held a lot of promise, so she tried it with hopes of better helping her four-legged patients. Winning over her clients was not so easy.
"It was initially hard to convince them about acupuncture, or not to vaccinate," she says, acknowledging that most clients are still wary about not vaccinating their pets. Slowly and steadily, however, she has gathered a loyal following. "I have been called a quack," she says, "but today, even specialists refer me to their patients."
Since 1996, she has been running the Veterinary Holistic Care clinic in downtown Bethesda, where she and specialists in nutrition and homeopathy and a chiropractor offer holistic healing to animals. She says she has helped hundreds of pets with her treatments and believes this way works best.
Even a change in diet, from pet food available in stores to raw or home-cooked food, makes a world of difference, she says, because dog food often has grains as the primary ingredient, while dogs are meant to eat raw meat and bones.
"Once you switch, you can see a change very quickly," she says.
Client Patricia Skinner has been bringing her pets to see Dr. Maniet for 10 years and trusts her so much that she drives 50 miles from Warrenton, Va., to Bethesda every time any of her pets two dogs and two cats needs a vet.
She says she became a follower after hearing on the radio about holistic care for pets and became a firm believer after she took her husband's Labrador to see Dr. Maniet. At age 7, the dog was suffering from hip dysplasia and arthritis.
"Most large dogs are lucky if they live to be 10, but thanks to Dr. Maniet's care, we changed her diet, added supplements, and she lived to be 14 years old," Mrs. Skinner says.
Now her two dogs and two cats receive holistic care. One of her cats died last year at 18, and another one is 19, she says. "I have longevity as proof that we're doing something right."


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