Adding Cold Laser and Acupuncture Therapies In General Veterinary Practice

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Cold laser therapy holds a place in human and animal pain management and wound healing as non-invasive, effective therapy. Veterinary patients benefit from its ability to promote healing and relieve pain in surgical incisions, stomatitis, extractions, degenerative joint disease, intervertebral disc disease, acral lick granulomas, anal sac tumors, and rhinitis. The benefit to patients includes the decreased need for anti-inflammatory agents and analgesics. As veterinarians compete with on-line pharmacies, this face-to-face modality increases patient comfort and healing, client trust and reliance, and veterinary success and satisfaction.

Furthermore, cold laser therapy empowers veterinary technicians in a modality that they can administer and gives them the opportunity to earn praise from clients. Veterinarians and technicians can learn the principles and techniques in a few training sessions. Veterinarians diagnose the animal’s conditions and prescribe the therapy for technicians to administer. Laser sessions average 15 minutes or less, and occur frequently in the first few weeks and either heal the wound or abscess or continue at a regular interval for chronic pain management.

Veterinarians certified in acupuncture can implement laser acupuncture for patients who are needle phobic or too restless for traditional needle therapy. Hospitals that offer both modalities have a tremendous advantage in pain management for patients, therefore inspiring great trust from clients.

Cold laser therapy and acupuncture maximize options for analgesia and healing in general practice. The initial investment in acupuncture training is in time and education for the veterinarian. The initial investment in laser is in the equipment. The beauty of cold laser is that every medical person in the hospital can learn it quickly and easily. The general public is perhaps more readily accepting of the non-invasive nature of cold laser and aware of its use in human physical therapy. Veterinary hospital open houses to introduce cold laser treatments offer good business opportunities for the veterinary staff to demonstrate the comfort of the modality and to socialize with clients.

Even as veterinarians find ways to streamline inventory and pricing to compete with on-line pharmacies, hospitals that offer hands-on treatments with acupuncture and/or laser keep clients and patients walking in the door.

This blog is part 3 in a three-part series on acupuncture and laser in general practice.

Emily L. Elliot, VMD


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


Should Your Veterinary Hospital Offer Acupuncture Services?

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

Acupuncture is a growing part of veterinary practices today and many pet owners are turning to this method of treatment for their pets. There are several reasons to consider adding acupuncture to your list of services at your veterinary hospital.

Veterinary acupuncture offers management for pain, seizures, immune support, and gastrointestinal therapy that can be used in addition to medical and surgical treatment and sometimes even instead of it.  Animals respond well to acupuncture and there is no placebo effect for them, though it is important to guide their owners through objective evaluation of response to therapy.  Veterinary acupuncture cannot be bought on the Internet and it increases client visits to the hospital.  The overhead in acupuncture supplies is minimal after the initial investments of time and education.

Education in acupuncture takes place usually in four sessions of four days each over about a year and can be found in a variety of locations and institutions around the country.   Beyond the basic education, certification by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, IVAS, provides credibility via requirements for education, examination, mentorship, a case log, and a peer-reviewed case report.  A veterinarian learning acupuncture makes a significant commitment in time and study of this centuries old medicine.

Once a veterinarian is qualified to offer acupuncture in practice, the support of staff and colleagues comes easily since the animals’ response to treatment gives visual results.  Internal referrals of existing cases in the hospital build the use of acupuncture quickly.  Animals with chronic conditions such as degenerative joint disease, intervertebral disc disease, and epilepsy do well with treatment and generally need long-term maintenance.  Acute cases needing short-term treatment include animals undergoing dental procedures, hospitalized patients with refractory vomiting or diarrhea, and post-op surgical patients.  All have better pain management and faster healing with acupuncture as part of their care.

In the next two installments in this series, I will compare acupuncture with laser therapy and discuss implementing acupuncture in general practice.