Gizmo, a 1-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, has suffered for most of his life with recurring symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, collections of eye and ear matter, and now, insomnia. Despite being nurtured by a well-informed and empathetic mom, Taryn Lynch, he reacts to assorted foods — from protein-based to grain-infused.
Even his beloved bully chew sticks are being withheld.
“I’ve been at my wit’s end,” said Lynch, of Macomb Township. “So far, it’s cost more than $1,000 for testing him, but that’s nothing compared to his suffering. He’s such a good dog, but we’ve not been able to shake this — even his vet is stymied.”
Enter Sheppard Alternative Animal Care, and co-owner Melissa Sheppard. She sees this situation repeatedly, ever since she and her husband, Dr. Gregg Sheppard, launched their special practice last year. As word spreads
of their successes, the Sheppards are sure they’re on the right track.
The low-key clinic, located upstairs in Shelby’s Bark-A-Bout building, treats pets like Gizmo, who arrive shaking with fear in anticipation. But, they leave calm and happy, visibly relieved. So do their owners.
After 20 years’ experience at providing traditional veterinary care, Gregg Sheppard admits it was frustrating treating the more mysterious ailments. Patients often returned numerous times for answers — and even then, an accurate diagnosis could be elusive. Blood and urine tests, along with X-rays, can only go so far with multi-symptom illness of no apparent cause.
“Traditional vet care — surgeries for injuries, critical care overall, and procedures like spaying — has a definitive and proven place,” he said. “But, this has a different approach, based on treating the underlying cause, not just the symptoms. There has to be something else besides prescribing
drugs. And, once diagnosed and treated, we can successfully help the body heal itself.”
Alternative care encompasses a proactive and non-invasive approach,
nutrition-response testing, reflex information and harnessing natural energy for maximum results. The Sheppards tap into natural and biological animal patterns, weighing factors like foods undomesticated breeds eat in the wild, and how that evolved into what domestic breeds seek and need.
“Many commercial foods are filled with grains as cheap supplemental
ingredients,” said Melissa Sheppard. “But animals can be allergic to them. In the wild, carnivorous animals are meat-eaters; any grain they receive is secondary digested grain in organ contents of their prey. Simulating those natural patterns helps to find and heal health problems, like Gizmo’s.”
Their patient relaxed as testing revealed an abundance of gut yeast and skin problems, as well as pancreatic and small intestinal weaknesses.
Allergies to beef, turkey, chicken and eggs and most grains were also detected.
Being proactive, says the doctor, is key, and it helps when pets are young, like Gizmo.
“The younger the pet, the less entrenched the problems, and the easier to find and fix,” he said. “Two major organs being compromised is much better than what we typically find in older and sicker dogs. That can entail 10 to 12 affected organs.”
The Sheppards met while employed at Patterson Veterinary Hospital in Clinton Township. Melissa was a vet tech and Gregg a well-entrenched
veterinarian and son of a pediatrician. They were first introduced to
alternative health care when their daughter, Payton — then four and plagued with chronic and myriad health issues since birth — was found to have a failing immune system. The couple took her to every doctor feasible in a search for answers.
Finally, an exhausted Melissa Sheppard says she grabbed the Yellow Pages and looked up alternative health care.
That brought Grosse Pointe Wood’s renowned chiropractor Dr. David Jantz into their lives. They attended a group seminar about his techniques and what to expect. As a gradual healing occurred in Payton, who is now nine, Dr. Jantz encouraged the Sheppards to incorporate his hands-on approach with their animal patients.
They studied intensely for four years, bridging human muscle and organ testing — with means similar to acupuncture without needles — so it could be applied to cats and dogs.
Once diagnosed, animals are detoxed, then given over-the-counter human supplements to ease symptoms and heal underlying causes from the inside
out. Initially allergic foods are removed, but can be gradually re-introduced as part of a balanced diet.
“Dogs understand this process and actually make better patients than people,” Melissa Sheppard said. “They aren’t apt to sneak candy bars, or cheat in other ways that slow progress, like people do. Then, once healed, taking a
proactive approach continues better health overall.”
A typical case can take three to four months to cure, with follow-up visits after that one to two times a year. Following the initial diagnosis, Dr. Sheppard mails owners a card to reiterate his findings.
“Often pet owners are so overwrought, they don’t remember all of what we tell them,” Melissa Sheppard said. “Their thorough knowledge and comprehension of the condition is important, however. Then Gregg does a follow-up call.”
The Sheppards’ Facebook page posts story after story from pet owners of successful canine treatment, some feedback from people who traveled from
across the state. As word of mouth spreads, they receive referrals regularly.
“There is a huge need for this,” said Melissa Sheppard. “There are vets around the country using variations of it, although the techniques can vary. But, alternative care works.”