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Why More Veterinarians Are Practicing Acupuncture

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Why More Veterinarians Are Using Acupuncture To Treat Sick Animals

More and more veterinarians are completing studies in the art of veterinary acupuncture, and are integrating animal acupuncture treatments into their everyday practice.

TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) can be successfully integrated into conventional treatments, as there are aspects of both that can work together synergistically for the overall benefit of the animals. TCVM practices include acupressure, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and food energy therapy. Integrating the two styles of practice results in a more holistic approach that may be of greater benefit to the animal than either approach practiced alone.

Acupuncture works by inserting needles into specific body points that are known to produce a desired reaction (such as pain relief) or a healing response. Every acupuncture point affects a certain part of the body when stimulated with the needle. This treatment has been used in Chinese veterinary practice for centuries, and is in recent times becoming more accepted and practiced in the veterinary community around the rest of the world.

There is a body of clinical research evidence that demonstrates positive results in using acupuncture for the treatment of animals. While no-one really claims that acupuncture is effective in treating all diseases and conditions, it does show great promise where indicated.

One question that often comes up – is the insertion of the needles painful for the animals? When working with small animals, the procedure is pretty much painless. With larger animals (often with thicker skin) that require a larger needle, there may be some pain, however in all cases once the needles are in place the pain should cease. Interestingly, many animals experience greater relaxation while being treated with acupuncture.

Overall, acupuncture is a safe method for treatment of animals when administered by a veterinarian properly trained in the art. As with any treatment procedure on animals, acupuncture should be administered only after a proper diagnosis and ongoing tracking and assessment of the animal’s progress by a licensed veterinarian. This is important because acupuncture treatment may relieve or mask pain and other signs that are indicative of the animal’s progress with the treatment.

In this excerpt below, Karen Gellman, a veterinarian and licensed acupuncturist, talks about her experiences and how she approaches using acupuncture with her animal patients. Please share if you enjoy this article.

Karen Gellman, DVM and licensed acupuncturist, offers a holistic veterinary practice that complements mainstream veterinary care.

As acupuncture becomes more widely accepted, people are bringing their pets into it. Pain management and help with chronic conditions, allergies, and terminal diseases are the principal reasons, but Gellman and other local veterinarians who treat their patients with acupuncture say they work with, not against and not instead of, Western medicine. Cornell Veterinary College, which annually hosts a Holistic Veterinary Medicine conference, recently certified its first faculty member in acupuncture, Joe Wakshlagh. “The training available for vets is so much more sophisticated than when I started,” said Gellman. “They’re getting trained in multiple modalities, now.”

From the animals’ point of view, though, how do they feel about getting stuck with a bunch of needles? “Ninety percent of them go to sleep,” said veterinarian Nicole Kayser. After eighteen years of regular veterinary practice, Kayser followed her heart to go study at the Chi Institute in Florida, and on receiving her license in acupuncture, opened her alternative practice in Cortland. (In NYS, only licensed veterinarians can practice acupuncture on animals.)

“It’s very important for them to feel relaxed,” said Kayser. Her office is an old Victorian house that, she hopes, smells like a house and not a clinic to the animals who come there. There are couches and rugs to lie on, and the humans that accompany the pets stay with them through their treatment. She also has a laser she can use, instead of needles, and she uses herbs and dietary changes to help patients.

Kayser schedules about an hour for each treatment, and there’s no hurry to get from one patient to another. The initial consult takes about an hour and a half; pet owners fill out a sheaf of forms describing not only their pet’s physical condition, but personality and general attitude as well. She may prescribe lifestyle changes, or changes in diet, since she is not only interested in what the animal has, but how it got there. “It’s a complete medical system.”

“Most often, I treat what are called deficiency conditions,” said Gellman. “Such as arthritis, kidney failure; a lot of the things I can do stimulate the immune system.” Older animals are affected more often by low energy and insufficiency: “Old cats, for instance, get very skinny and often will have renal failure. If you can combine herbs and acupuncture, in old animals it can be very effective.”

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