Why Choose Natural Healing for your Exotic Pets
When one thinks of holistic or complementary medicine, one rarely considers animals, much less EXOTIC animals. The first question I hear is always…”What? Acupuncture for ANIMALS?” The next is, “How do you get them to stay still while you are putting in the needles”?
As the athletes of the domesticated animals’ world, horses, were the first to reap the benefits of cutting-edge sports medicine treatments, because their athletic performance often has a tangible result, i.e; a monetary value associated with it, owners are willing to invest in finding out how modalities such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage will affect a horse’s performance.
Luckily, now all of our smaller furry friends are benefiting from this. For example, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronate were once the domain of the equine athlete, and now rabbits, reptiles, and birds are able to access these outstanding treatments and supplements, as well as all of their associated benefits.
The following is an in-depth look at what acupuncture, chiropractic, and laser therapy can do for your pet’s health and longevity.
Chiropractic Care- Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation
Are there those of you with rabbits that have back or hind leg problems? Dogs are not alone in suffering from disc disease, spinal nerve degeneration, and back pain. In fact, almost all active rabbits develop some form of a back problem during their lifetime. If you note how a rabbit’s back is shaped and how powerful their hind legs are, you can imagine the stress and strain placed on them throughout their life.
In the spine, small “subluxations” of joints are actually partial dislocations. Ouch! You can imagine the body’s reaction to that. Your pet’s back muscles and ligaments spasm and they walk stiffly, favor one side, or develop lameness or a splayed leg. Your rabbit will not make a sound, they just adjust and adjust until they cannot do so anymore. In this case, chiropractic treatment may be the ideal choice.
Even severe arthritis in an older pet’s back may do well with gentle forms of chiropractic manipulation. This is because it is not bony arthritis itself causing the pain, but the soft tissue around the arthritic areas, and that can be moved. At From The Heart Mobile Vet, we use a spring-loaded “activator” to gently tap the vertebrae back into place with minimal distress to your pet.
Chronic or arthritic pain, of course, is different than an accident or acute trauma to the spine and cord. Chiropractic care may be unsuitable in some situations.
Low-Level Cold Laser Therapy
Sometimes, our patients are simply too small or too wiggly for acupuncture. We have options for these patients and they can still get all the benefits! Small mammals such as guinea pigs, rats, and non-mammals including birds and reptiles need an effective alternative to needling.
And yet, there are multiple ways to move Qi and blood in the body, providing excellent results without needles. Modern research has provided new opportunities for acupuncture treatments that did not previously exist, including microcurrent, magnetic treatments, and cold light laser therapy.
History of Laser Treatment
Scientists began lab experimentation with lasers in the 1950s, with availability outside the lab in the 1960s. Once the quest for laser knowledge began, it was unstoppable. Researchers wanted to know how this new kind of light could change the world of healthcare. Early laser experiments resulted in the realization that laser therapy minimized skin scarring, helped wounds heal faster and affected cellular metabolism.
Benefits of Using Low-Level Lasers on the Body
Most lasers used in therapy are known as low-level lasers or “cold lasers,” (because they don’t produce heat.). These are not the same as lasers used for laser surgery, in which “hot lasers” are used as a scalpel to burn or cut the skin. Studies show that low-level lasers can help regenerate cells, decrease pain, reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and stimulate hair growth, to name a few examples.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of laser acupuncture is that it’s completely painless. Most patients feel nothing at all during laser therapy. This makes it ideal for smaller mammals and for birds. One effect is immediate calming of the nervous system. This is a great way to treat the smaller mammals, birds, and reptiles.
Laser therapy is most often used and very effective for injuries, infections of the skin, bumblefoot, and sore hocks, healing from surgery, and any place in the body where improving blood flow will aid healing. The only area we may not direct laser light is towards a growing tumor.
Reduction of pain, swelling and redness are advantages of low-level laser therapy as well. If your pet is a candidate for acupuncture, they are often responsive to laser or a combination of the two. However, some cases achieve the best results with acupuncture. Rabbits are generally very amenable to it and quickly relax into the treatment.
Acupuncture on Exotic Pets
Used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine, acupuncture is now beginning to be integrated into Western health care. In the last ten years, many studies have identified nerve centers and clusters of blood vessels at the ancient mapped acupuncture points. When needles are inserted into these points, signals are sent to the brain to produce anti-inflammatory, anti-pain and healing chemicals to those areas that need it.
There are two primary types of acupuncture taught to vets. One is the most traditional form that encompasses energy flow and blockages and incorporates a very systemic approach. The other is more structural and correlates to the parts of the anatomy that are being treated, such as a painful back or neck.
Prior to a first acupuncture consult, it is important to have a thorough physical exam on your pet and any bloodwork or x-rays indicated to help define the problem. Your integrative veterinarian will offer the most appropriate treatments, including acupuncture, herbs or laser therapy where indicated.
How do you know if your pet needs/will respond to acupuncture or laser therapy? Again, choose a qualified veterinary acupuncturist and address the appropriate diagnostic testing to help direct the course of treatment. Acupuncture appears to be very effective with exotic pets when disc disease, soft tissue or ligament pain, or arthritis is present.
In addition, chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer or a seizure disorder may respond well to acupuncture in combination with Chinese herbs. Your veterinary acupuncturist will review the diagnosis and examine your pet to complete the assessment. In most cases, even a nervous pet will readily accept needle placement. The needles are tiny and inserted swiftly and gently.
Once the needles are in place, you and your furry child can relax and sit together for 20 to 30 minutes, an experience most animals aren’t used to at an animal hospital. They appreciate the nap, and when you come for the next visit, they are often much less nervous about the experience. The effects of the treatment will be evident from immediately to 48 hours after your visit.
Potential Affects of Acupuncture
One note: If your pet has never received an acupuncture treatment, they may release a lot of pent-up acids and toxins during the first or second treatment. While not dangerous, this may create some transient soreness during the first 48 hours after the experience. This is termed a “healing crisis”. Just be patient and follow your veterinarian’s instructions, and by the third day, the positive results are often visible.
Try to make fresh water and gentle movement available to your pet during the days immediately following chiropractic and acupuncture treatments.
So how many sessions will be needed? What results can you expect? How long does the treatment last? It depends upon the condition. The acuter, or recent, the problem, the fewer treatments are needed to bring blood flow, repair cells and banish pain. My border collie mix, Spirit, only needed three sessions for her mid-back muscle spasms. I could always tell when she had a “bad day,” as she was reticent to jump and play, and her ears were down instead of happy and “up”.
Rabbits will decrease activity or stop doing “binkies”. Reptiles may only decrease general activity or stop producing stools. These simple signs are examples of what you should look for in your own pet.
Chronic conditions, including degenerative arthritis, spinal degeneration, type 2 disc disease and the like, typically respond to a longer treatment program. After a number of weekly sessions, most animals do well with less frequent visits or with herbs and supplements to continue the effects of the therapy.
Massage and Physical Therapy at Home
So what about massage? Does it have a real place in pet medicine? Indeed, it does. Massage by a certified pet massage therapist or taught to you by a rehabilitation vet uses acupressure principles to help your pet. Veterinary physical therapists can teach you how to stretch and strengthen your pet at home.
When you think of where you’d rather go, the chiropractor, acupuncturist or massage therapist, many of you pick the massage, simply because it feels so good. This is not an accident. Many studies show that the reason it FEELS so good is that massage and therapy releases endorphins (pain blockers), increases circulation to areas that need it, and improves lymphatic flow, the key to your immune system.
Ultimately, the key to choosing treatments that will work for your exotic pet is finding the right exotic specialist who also has knowledge of natural treatments. You may be advised to begin with X-rays, bloodwork, and other recommended procedures. Following that will be a discussion of the treatment options for your pet’s problem, and a tailored, integrative approach that very often will include some traditional western and some complementary (natural) modalities– working together to maximize healing!
Interested in Natural Healing for your Pet?
Contact us and we’ll do a thorough examination of your pet to determine what type of natural healing mechanism your pet needs.