Implementing Veterinary Acupuncture in General Practice

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Written By: Emily L. Elliot VMD. Chippens Hill Veterinary Hospital

While a veterinarian is learning veterinary acupuncture, offering treatments to pets belonging to staff members gives both the veterinarian and the staff member confidence in the treatment and the results.  Once certified, the clinician offers treatment to clients’ pets, and it is easy for the staff members and colleagues to endorse the modality they have seen achieve results.  In the typical case load of general practice, there is ample opportunity to treat epileptics and geriatric pets with degenerative joint disease, for example, in conjunction with medication and nutritional supplements.  Acupuncture is particularly beneficial for animals who have impaired hepatic and renal function for metabolizing medication, since acupuncture gives them pain relief that allows the owner to give fewer drugs.

Typically, animals come to the clinic weekly for initial treatments, which are later scheduled less often once the animal is stable.  Typical chronic conditions need a monthly maintenance treatment, which allows practical monitoring of the animal’s weight, body condition, and blood work.  The other benefit of acupuncture in general practice is the opportunity to communicate with the client.  While the animal’s acupuncture needles are in place for 10-20 minutes, the veterinarian and the technician have time to educate the client in disease management, and give the client tremendous confidence in the care and concern the office has for customizing the care of the individual animal.

Acupuncture further maximizes the veterinarian’s time, since once the clinician gets a progress report, evaluates the patient, and places the needles with the technician holding the animal and talking with the owner, the veterinarian can move on to another exam room to see another patient, returning to the acupuncture patient in 10-20 minutes to remove the needles and schedule the next visit.  Record keeping for acupuncture is straightforward, and fees can vary with demographics but should reflect the investment in time and training required to learn the skill, and the time of the technician assisting with the treatment.  Once skilled, veterinarians can reach out to individual colleagues or present talks at local veterinary associations to explain the benefits of acupuncture for referral cases.  Establish a consultation fee for referred clients at their first visit in addition to the fee for acupuncture.  Of course, respect for the referral relationship gives colleagues trust so that they continue to send cases for acupuncture treatment.

In the third installment in this series, I will compare acupuncture and laser therapy.

Emily L. Elliot, VMD

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