Over the last years I’ve been extremely proud to be part of twhe teaching family at the Chi institutes in Fl and Costa Rica. I have been able to influence hundreds of students through my instruction of basic and advanced acupuncture as well as my lectures. I recently was asked to be a test instructor and I realized I was heavily invested in the outcome of my students tests. It felt as if with each one of them that passed the practical test it validated the time and effort I dedicated in the teaching of those points. I got to say that although being a teacher was not something I thought I could do, I discovered that it’s something I really enjoy doing!
This is a discussion on alternative pain control modalities and treatments.
Pain is a critical factor in deciding whether your pet has a quality of life or not. However, pain might be a difficult thing for the owners to realize. The top signs of pain include panting, reluctance to exercise, changes in behavior, hiding, crying. I want to focus on how can we control pain without any pharmacological agents? There are multiple new modalities that can be used to control both acute and chronic pain. The importance of this is that painkilling drugs act very well for acute inflammation but when it comes to chronic pain, the side effects of these drugs often times could result in organ damage. How can we then access your pet’s body pharmacy of endogenous neurochemicals involved in healing, and pain control?
The first and most common modality in veterinary medicine is Cold laser therapy. Cold Laser can have pain relieving and also enhanced healing effects. Some of those effects include painkiller, anti-inflammation, anti-swelling, improved circulation, faster wound healing, and enhanced repairing of damaged tendons and ligaments. There is mounting scientific evidence in a myriad of published studies regarding the efficacy and safety of laser therapy. It is due to that evidence that a large number of veterinarians are adding the laser to their pain treatments post surgery and after traumatic injuries.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation aka Tens units are also being used in animals. They operate on the principle of electrical stimulation of the sensory nerves. This results in pain relief and muscle strengthening.
There are small pads that are placed either above and below the injury or around the joint treated. In long-haired dogs, the spots might need to be shaved for better contact. There is ample research that proves the efficacy of TENS in humans and plenty
of evidence of its mechanism of action. Low-frequency TENS activates µ-opioid receptors in the spinal cord and the brainstem, whereas high-frequency TENS activates d-opioid receptors in the spinal cord and the brainstem making it a great modality for chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy is a fairly new modality in the veterinary world. The invention of the
Assisi loop device and the incursion of the German-engineered PEMF device called the BEMER have brought a lot of hope to many veterinarians and pet owners alike. In our practice, we have seen the effects of the Bemer and just added the Assisi loop treatments to our tough acupuncture cases. The premise of this technology is that the electromagnetic waves stimulate microcirculation, the benefits of better blood circulations are plentiful and necessary for optimal health.
In a canine osteoarthritis study comparing a once a day PEMF treatment for 20 days to 5 mg/kg of firocoxib ( a common NSAID) once daily, both groups had significant improvement in pain and functionality during the study. The differences were observed after the treatment ended:. Clinical signs returned for the dogs in the firocoxib group shortly after the therapy ended whereas the beneficial effects of PEMF in both pain relief and functional activity capacity were sustained through the 12-month study!
In my book, Alt-Vet: the revolutionary pet care and longevity solution, I explain that there are three main scientifically proven ways that can explain the physiological effects of acupuncture. First, these acupoints have been found to be conductors of electromagnetic signals. When the acupoint is stimulated with a needle, the signals increase along the pathway and they stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) to release the flow of pain-killing endorphins and immune system cells that aid in healing. These electromagnetic signals can be measured and thus points could be found using modern devices that detect those signals.The second method of action is by activating the Opioid system which tells the brain to release chemicals that ease pain into the CNS. Third, the acupuncture stimulation directly alters the brain chemistry by releasing neurotransmitters and neurohormones that control the body’s blood pressure, blood flow, body temperature and promote sensations of wellbeing.
Acupuncture can be used in most dogs and cats with no ill effects. It can be delivered in multiple ways; needles, electric stimulation, pressure or injecting aqueous substances. The importance is to select the right acupoints that would stimulate the affected areas and send all the chemicals needed for pain control, repair and healing. There are over 20,00 published articles on acupuncture and its efficacy and the evidence continues to accumulate in veterinary medicine related cases.
Massage therapy is an accepted adjunctive treatment for post-surgical and chronic pain cases in humans. In dogs and cats, there are multiple techniques but they are all striving to bring blood supply to the affected muscles. Massage therapy is not petting, there is a therapeutic intent thus knowing pet anatomy is necessary. Pain causes the surrounding tissues and muscles to contract, this contraction, in turn, causes cramps and more pain, which becomes a repetitive cycle. So, an important part of pain control should involve manipulation of those tissues( muscles, tendons, and ligaments) surrounding the affected joints. Certified Canine Massage therapists provide care for post-surgical pain and rehab cases resulting in a faster return to function and speedy healing. Veterinarians trained in Tui Na offer deep medical massages that are similar, yet less aggressive, than veterinary “chiropractors”.
Spinal manipulation is similar to human chiropractic care, the aim is to align the skeleton and muscles in the anatomically correct position which in turn will alleviate pain. Similar to chiropractic modalities it has in common that they all reduce the vertebral subluxation complex by providing motion or force to the fixated or subluxated joint. Basically, veterinarians can palpate the spine and joints and determine if the misalignment is causing nerves to be pinched and cause pain. There are extensive training and experience needed to be an effective pet Spine manipulator and there is credentialed process and organization overseeing these specialists.
Regardless of the modality or device you choose to try for your pet, these are all effective and valid treatments that can be used to manage pain alone or in conjunction with pharmaceuticals and/or surgery.
I recently became certified in Fear Free level 2 training and I did it because I want every patient to feel welcomed at my practice. What is this Fear Free certification about?
A visit to the veterinarian should not be a stressful time for your pet. Stress can decrease the immune response, cause unnecessary traumas and affect future behavior of dogs and cats. There is a new initiative of many veterinarians to create a stress free environment at their hospitals. This is a voluntary animal behavior education and training culminating in a Fear Free Certification.
The advantage of having Fear free certified doctors and technicians is that the pets are able to have a pleasant experience while they get treated. It is safer to treat a happy, calmed animal than it is to treat an anxious, stressed and petrified one. The scared pets are in a defensive frame of mind that can result in injury to them, their owners and the veterinary personnel. We all want pets to have good associations with the vet’s office and we might use some classical behavioral training techniques like desensitization, classic conditioning and counter conditioning.
The main principles of a Fear free visit include a considerate approach, gentle technique and a touch gradient. That means nobody should ever jump on your dog, put a muzzle and then use a harsh restraint. The pet should have a chance to acclimate to the office, the scents and the people they meet. The doctors should use an array of tools to make the visit a pleasant one. Starting with the environment, the office should be clean, not noisy, and soothing scents like lavender or species specific pheromones should be employed. Using treats is essential to asses the level of anxiety, to distract from less pleasant procedures and to offer a positive association for your pet. Sometimes, the Fear free certified doctor will either postpone a treatment or utilize sedation to perform it. The decision of using sedation is for the benefit of your pet because the level of stress and anxiety is too high, or the expected procedure might be too scary or painful in an already petrified animal.
What are the signs of Fear,Anxiety and Stress (FAS)?
In cats obvious behaviors that indicated FAS include hissing and growling but less obvious sigs include dilated pupils, ears to the back,tail flicking, hiding and crouching. Sometimes the cats will “freeze” and the owners think the cats is calmed but in reality he is so scared that he has enter a state of helplessness. In dogs the obvious sigs of FAS are barking, backing away, growling and snarling but less obvious signs may include yawning, panting, fidgeting and refusing treats.
How can you help decrease the FAS before you take your pet to the vet?
Sometimes giving an over the counter calming treat or nutraceutical can help. walking/exercising your dog prior to the appointment can also help. For cats something as simple as spraying the carrier with a calming pheromone and putting a towel over it to decrease the sensory input can make a big difference. There are other ways that owners can work with their Fear free certified veterinarians in order to make the visit a pleasurable or at lest non intimidating experience, just ask them.
Check my latest pet care newspaper column on the symptoms of pet pain! This is actually an excerpt of my book Alt-Vet:)
This is your last chance to save your precious baby. You have tried everything else to save her, but every veterinarian has told you the same thing, “There is nothing we can do. Try to make her comfortable, and when that no longer works you can bring her in.” This last statement is like a dagger to the heart, because you know what “bring her in” means.
Your precious dog has been with you through a marriage, two births and a divorce; how could this be the end. Sure, she is not a puppy anymore, but you did not expect her to go so soon, and not like this. You look down at her in the wagon you rolled in to the waiting room. She cannot walk anymore, she barely eats, and there is a profound sadness in her eyes- you can hardly bear it.
Someone told you about an alternative medicine veterinarian who uses Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) to help pets with amazing results. It sounds like new age mumbo jumbo, but at this point, you are desperate. As they call the name of your dog, you wheel her into the back and say a silent pray, “Please let this work.”
Fast forward three months, and again you find yourself in the lobby of the same veterinary clinic. You look down at your sweet girl, and she wags her tail and pants happily. She is on a leash now, rather than the wagon, and even though she is slow, and a little wobbly, she is walking. After the past few months, the Vet has done numerous acupuncture treatments and has given you directions for a special diet. It is as if life has been infused back into
your pet, and your prayers have been answered.
My name is Mitsie Vargas, and I am a practicing veterinarian, as well as being
Certified in Animal Acupuncture, Tui Na (Chinese Manipulative Therapy) and Food therapy. The story I just shared with you is one I hear daily in my clinic in Winter Haven, Florida. I came up with the mantra of “No animal dies without trying Acupuncture,” because I discovered that many of the pets with virtual death sentences responded positively to TCVM remedies.
Alt-Vet- The Revolutionary Pet Care and Longevity Solution. explores the alternative therapies that are available to your pet through a network of alternative veterinary medicine practitioners throughout the country, but offers some simple and safe therapies you can do at home with your pet that will them maintain a high level of health and happiness. TCVM is not some new concept- it has been practiced for thousands of years, yet surprisingly, many Americans have not heard of it or tried it with their pet.
Alt-Vet contains real life stories of animals that have been brought to my clinic by pet owners that were looking for some hope of saving their animal, reducing their pain, and increasing their quality of life. Many of those pet owners come in skeptics and leave believers. Alt-Vetoffers chapters on pet massage, healing diets and emergency response care. The techniques offered are low cost and simple to implement.
Please stay put for upcoming information on this book pre-sale offers and publishing information!