Integrative veterinary medicine is a discipline that combines modern treatment regimens with traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (such as acupuncture, Tui-Na [a hands-on body treatment that uses Chinese Taoist and martial art principles to bring the body to balance], and nutritional or herbal supplements), chiropractic, and other holistic techniques. Integrative medicine is not intended to replace standard veterinary medical and surgical practices, but rather to integrate complementary methodologies into current treatment strategies to improve the lives of animals. Integrative techniques can be excellent preventive and supportive tools. Acupuncture, for example, often brings dramatic pain relief to animals with chronic degenerative diseases, and herbal supplements administered throughout an animal’s life may help prevent the development of such diseases.
The LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital is now offering acupuncture to help our large animal patients with pain management, muscle reeducation, and colic, especially colic involving dysfunction in gastrointestinal motility. It can also help with anhidrosis (non-sweating), reproduction, arthritis, back pain and nerve paralysis, in addition to many other medical disorders.
“Acupuncture is an accepted, integrative treatment that is paired with more traditional medicine to treat patients,” said Rebecca McConnico (LSU SVM 1987), DVM, PHD, DACVIM, associate professor of veterinary medicine. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’d noticed that clients are requesting it more frequently. I’ve seen it work, and there are clinical studies that support its efficacy.”
Dr. McConnico took a six-month course consisting of 125 contact hours in lab or class, not including additional study time. In order to be certified, a licensed veterinarian must complete the necessary contact hours at a recognized facility (there are four in the U.S.), complete a 30-hour internship with a certified veterinary acupuncturist, and write a case report that is accepted by the certification program. Dr. McConnico took her contact hours at the Chi Institute in Reddick, Fla. The other recognized facilities are the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society in Colorado, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and Colorado State College of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. McConnico’s training was made possible by a generous gift from Donald and Sue Crow, of Shreveport, La. The Crows have long recognized the need for more tools to complement existing treatment options and they have chosen to make the LSU SVM the beneficiary of their vision. The Crows’ gift will enable clinical faculty and technicians to receive training in integrative techniques, which will benefit both students and the patients in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Since the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital began accepting acupuncture cases in July 2011, Dr. McConnico has provided acupuncture for 10 animals, including horses with anhidrosis, back pain, muscle atrophy, spinal ataxia, and a goat amputee with pain in a weight bearing leg.
In 2011, a three- year-old Thoroughbred race horse from the Fairgrounds Race Course presented to the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The horse had been rolling and pawing due to pain from a sudden onset of abdominal pain (colic). Treatment onsite by the local track veterinarian did not resolve the colic situation in this young equine athlete. “The trainer/owner team brought the horse to LSU on the recommendation of their veterinarian since we are able to provide more intensive medical treatment and possibly surgical intervention if indicated,” said Dr. McConnico. Upon presentation, the horse was visibly uncomfortable and a detailed evaluation to assess the situation (including a rectal examination) determined that the colt had a very large and firm impaction in the small colon (the part of the gastrointestinal tract just before it empties into the rectum).
For 24 hours, the horse was treated by traditional western medicine modalities for dehydration and abdominal pain. Traditional western medicine includes intravenous fluid therapy, laxative agents administered through a naso-gastric tube, and pain medications. The impaction was not resolving, and the decision to take the horse to surgery for abdominal exploratory was getting closer and closer. Dr. McConnico made the decision to integrate traditional Chinese acupuncture treatment focusing on the acupoints on the horse’s body that are used to improve and promote colonic motility. Nine dry needles were carefully placed along the horse’s back. Within 20 minutes, the horse began to pass manure and within six hours, the impaction had resolved completely. The horse was able to be weaned off of the intravenous fluid therapy and was gradually re-fed. He was discharged after two additional days to make sure his GI tract was functioning as he was returned to a normal diet. He was able to return to the Fairgrounds Race Course and for a week of rest and to begin his regular exercise and training regime.
The Crows’ gift is also being used to educate other faculty, staff, and students. Mark Acierno, DVM, MBA, DACVIM, associate professor of companion animal medicine, is scheduled to attend the Chi Institute to receive training in acupuncture. Two DVM students participated in acupuncture rotation at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and two small animal technicians attended the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association’s annual conference in Covington, Ky.
If your veterinarian recommends acupuncture as an integrative treatment, please call 225-578-9500. The initial examination to determine if acupuncture is an option is $40, and the acupuncture treatment itself is $100 per treatment.