Acupuncture and massage therapy aren’t just for humans anymore. Dr. Krisi Skelton Erwin ’00 is among a small but growing number of veterinarians whose treatments include nonconventional approaches.
Her practice, Wholistic Paws Veterinary Services, offers traditional Chinese and Western herbal medicine—longtime interests of hers—as well as acupuncture, pet rehabilitation, massage therapy, pain management, hospice and palliative care, and in-home euthanasia.
“We blend a conventional and a whole-animal approach, combining Western medicine with additional ways to support the body,” said Erwin, a lifelong resident of Loudoun County who was a veterinarian at Leesburg Veterinary Hospital for seven years before starting her practice. “We try to get at the root of the problem as opposed to simply treating the symptoms.”
Erwin’s practice, which she launched in 2010, focuses on recovering from surgery/injury, managing chronic illnesses and in-home euthanasia. She doesn’t do general medicine such as vaccines or surgeries.
“With things like hospice care and chronic pain, I give clients a plan instead of saying 'Oh well, take these pills, and come back here if they don’t work,’” she said. “As I tell them, other therapies are becoming available, not just what they’ve been exposed to in the past.”
Wholistic Paws was exclusively a mobile practice until this June, when Erwin opened an office in Ashburn, called the Companioning Center, enabling her to offer more services. About 60 percent of her time is spent on house calls, mostly in Loudoun. Her office, set up like a living room, provides “more of a home setting than a clinical setting.”
“In house calls or at the office, a lot of what I do is emotional support. When you’re going through a scary time, it’s helpful to have someone who will take the time to listen— a little bit of hand-holding. You don’t want people to feel alone or isolated.”
Most of her patients are dogs and cats, along with “an occasional rabbit or guinea pig.” Her most unusual patient was an iguana, about 25 years old, whose arthritis she treated with laser therapy and acupuncture.
Erwin, a graduate of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, is involved in four community service projects annually, including a popular Pet Remembrance Candle Lighting Ceremony every March. This September she set up a pet loss support group.
“I do community service projects because of the citizen leadership I learned at Longwood,” said Erwin, who lives in Hamilton with her husband, Jeremy, and their two dogs and four cats. Jeremy is an equal owner and handles practice management for Wholistic Paws.