Recently I had the opportunity to spend time in a veterinary practice to which I had never been before. It was fairly exciting, as I had heard the gentleman had been in practice for many years, and was especially knowledgeable in eastern medicine as well as traditional veterinary medicine. I was eager to have the honor to get to spend some time with someone of his magnitude, and just knew I would be able to pick up a few tips to helps my patients, too.
That is exactly what happened! He was gracious enough to give me not only a tour of his clinic, but also shared with me his best tips for how to build my own vet clinic one day, pitfalls to avoid, and even down to the best kind of drainage system in the kennels.
The best part was yet to come when I saw the vast array of herbal remedies he had on the shelves of his pharmacy, it was amazing! The antibiotics and steroid type medicines took up only a very small amount of space on the shelf, the rest was all homeopathic remedies, herbals tinctures, and acupuncture needles. I was certainly inspired to acknowledge all my previous training in holistic medicine, and resigned myself to do a better job in 2016 of recommending more natural remedies to my clients and their pets.
He had a wonderful bedside manner, the staff all seemed on-task and good at their jobs, and it was interesting to observe how they managed multiple acupuncture patients at one time. I observed both dogs and cats getting acupuncture treatments, and noted the extra steps they took to keep the rooms quiet, and dark, during the treatments, for the animals comfort.
I love acupuncture. I do it on my patients, my kids, and myself. I believe in it so much I never travel without needles. They are such a useful tool, and I can treat such a variety of issues with only one or two tiny needles, it’s great! I have treated everything from allergies, to sunburn, to arthritis, and joint pain, with great success using only acupuncture.
This got me think about how I do to my own acupuncture treatments, in my house call practice. I find I only recommend it on select patients, and not because they couldn’t all benefit from it. I don’t recommend it more, because, the more I have learned over the past about the science of behavior and training, I have come to a profound realization. That is, nothing, other than life or death safety, should cause the animals to be afraid, uncomfortable, anxious, or hurt. They are our friends, and in many cases, family members.
As they say in kindergarten, never hurt someone on the outside, or the inside. When we force anything other than potentially life or death, painful procedures, on animals, we are holding down and hurting those we love, without thought to their opinion on the matter. I am very cognizant of each and every interaction I have with all my animal patients. I would rather leave the home visit on a good note, and come back to do a follow up a few days later, than hold the animals down to do something that only ‘might’ help. For many it is the first time in their lives they have a stress free, thorough physical exam with a veterinarian. This helps me do a better job, and we all have less stress and live longer.
With acupuncture sometimes it takes a little patience. You have to build the animals trust, first. So maybe the first time we just do a little massage and laser treatment, and do the acupuncture next time. Using only the smallest of needles on the fearful or highly anxious patients. Again, nothing is worth their discomfort (unless their life is on the line). And I have found that frightened animals with high endorphin release often do not respond well to acupuncture, anyway. While the calm, trusting patience who receive it with a deep breath, often get complete and total relief of many ailments and pain in just one treatment. One, well done, treatment.
Bringing the science of using primarily positive reinforcement in each interactions we have with animals, will soon be essential knowledge for each and every veterinarian, veterinary technician, and every other kind of animal professional (from dog trainers to zoo keepers) trained in the world today, and into the future. Understanding what positive reinforcement is, and is not, is of paramount importance for everyone who cares about the well being of any animal. The principles are all the same, and they work across species. In the world of those trained in the science of behavior it’s known as R+.
This is why I have in the past not recommend acupuncture more often to my patients. I was not sure I would be fully able to explain that mostly I just don’t want to hurt their animal or cause it anxiety towards me. I felt over the long term life of the pet with me as their vet, better they trust me and allow good exams all the time, than learn to fear me because sometimes I hurt them. My preference is to only do acupuncture treatments, well all examinations for that matter, on patients that will allow me to with little to no restraint, and while handling the animal as if their made of fine china. These tend to be the ones with the highest rate of success.
Yes of course sometimes I might have to hurt animals a tiny bit, such as to get a blood sample, but only to help make their lives much, much better. In that case, I do it with as much dignity and grace as possible, taking all the time it takes, to keep the procedure as stress free as humanly possible. And ask their forgiveness afterwards. I usually get luckily! If only people were as forgiving and accommodating as most animals!
So, should you keep your current vet? Bottom line, I am not sure, you have to decide. Does the doctor and all their staff, treat you, and your animal, like an individual? Do you feel like they really listen, understand you, and care? Can you talk to them about how you really feel, and use that to guide your pets care? Then you are likely at the right place!
I am DrQ, here to help you, and your pets live longer, healthier, and happier, together, than you ever thought possible! Thanks for reading! Share if you agree!