Willowrun Veterinary Hospital is proud to offer Integrative Medicine services including acupuncture, herbal medicine and laser therapy for companion animals, horses and livestock. By blending Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, with progressive, modern medicine, we’re able to offer our patients individualized care that merges the best of both worlds. If you’re interested in learning more about Integrative Medicine services at Willowrun Veterinary Hospital, please call us today and we will be happy to discuss it with you.


What Is Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM)?

TCVM is a medical system dating back thousands of years that includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, food therapy and tui-na (or Chinese medical massage). TCVM is based on the ancient philosophy of Yin and Yang. These are opposite forces in nature, like hot and cold or night and day, that govern the environment and the body. TCVM focuses on treating the root causes of disease, more so than the symptoms, or “branches,” by identifying and correcting patterns of imbalance in the body to promote homeostasis and restore balance. As a result, it’s an excellent option for patients with chronic conditions that have limited conventional medical options or need to avoid medication-related side effects. In patients with severe conditions that come on suddenly, like an infection or trauma, conventional medicine’s modern tools, like blood work, antibiotics and surgery, shine in their ability to diagnose and treat. By integrating TCVM with modern medicine, we’re able to offer patients individualized care that includes the best of both systems.



What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine in which very fine, sterile needles are inserted into the skin to stimulate specific anatomic points where there is a dense collection of nerve cells, blood vessels, lymph ducts and immune cells. Acupuncture is a minimally-invasive way to help the body heal itself. Recent scientific publications have demonstrated its effects on the cardiovascular, immune, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, reproductive and nervous system.

The ancient Chinese developed acupuncture as a means of promoting healing through restoring a smooth flow of Qi (pronounced ch-ee) throughout the body. They believed Qi to be the fundamental energy that drives every action and function in the living body. In today’s terminology, we might consider Qi as a summary of every cellular and electrical function in the body. A constant, smooth flow of Qi along the body’s acupuncture channels is essential for optimal function and balance. If Qi flow becomes stagnant or blocked, the patient feels pain or discomfort. A helpful analogy is to think of a Qi stagnation like an accident on the highway. This blockage causes miles of traffic and angry drivers behind it, which leads to pain and discomfort. Acupuncture has been scientifically shown to have many health benefits and provide pain relief to both humans & animals. When performed by a certified veterinarian, it is one of the least invasive and safest treatments available for many conditions. Acupuncture is a wonderful complementary tool we’re able to use in veterinary medicine to improve pets’ wellness and quality of life.

What conditions respond well to TCVM?

Most of our patients look to TCVM because they have either run out of conventional medical options or are looking to avoid medication side-effects and surgical procedures. We frequently treat cats and dogs with the following conditions:

  • Adjunctive treatment for cancer to improve quality of life, support the immune system and control symptoms caused by the disease or chemotherapy including inappetence, nausea, pain.
  • Musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, soft tissue injuries (strain/sprain) and muscle soreness. Acupuncture and laser therapy are also used routinely for sporting dogs (agility, dock jumping, flyball, field trials etc) to keep them in peak physical condition.
  • Neurological conditions such as intervertebral disk disease, back/neck pain, or traumatic nerve injuries.
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as inflammatory bowel disease and chronic constipation.
  • Respiratory conditions such as asthma.
  • Urogenital and reproductive problems including infertility and feline lower urinary tract disease.
  • Geriatric conditions such as arthritis, heart conditions, chronic kidney disease, and cancer.

For horses, cattle and ruminants, acupuncture is most effective for:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions such as lameness, hoof issues, mild sports injuries and downer cows. It is also used routinely for performance to keep sport horses in peak physical condition.
  • Geriatric conditions such as arthritis and cancer.
  • Neurological problems such as facial paralysis, laryngeal paralysis and shoulder sweeney.
  • Respiratory conditions such as heaves (recurrent airway obstruction/COPD).
  • Sub-fertility.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture helps the body heal itself by affecting neurochemical pathways to provide potent and prolonged pain relief, stimulate nerve regeneration, release muscle spasms, increase blood supply and strengthen the immune system. There are hundreds of acupuncture points throughout the body. Acupuncture points are areas with a dense collection of nerve cells, blood vessels, lymph ducts and immune cells that have increased electrical conductivity. When stimulated with acupuncture needles or gentle acupressure, they are able to communicate with the body to exert their effects with little to no side effects.

Is acupuncture painful? Do pets like it?

Most pets tolerate acupuncture very well. The needles are extremely small and once they're in place, there shouldn’t be any discomfort. People often describe the sensation as a tingle. Most animals don’t even notice when they’re placed and often fall asleep during treatment sessions. Our goal is to make your pet feel more comfortable and improve their overall wellness. Often pets are a little nervous during the first visit, so we start very gently with the least-sensitive points and offer pets lots of yummy treats to make the visit pleasant. After a few visits, they come to learn the routine and enjoy the pain relief and relaxation provided by acupuncture. Most patients walk right in the acupuncture room, lay down on the comfortable bedding and don’t even bother getting up when Dr. Madeline enters the room!

What are some of the ways we stimulate acupuncture points?

We stimulate acupuncture points most commonly with sterile, stainless steel or copper acupuncture needles that are left in for 10-20 minutes. Sometimes we perform aquapucture, in which we inject acupuncture points with a small volume of vitamin B12. This helps prolong the effects and is often more tolerable for our “wiggly” patients who can’t sit still for 15 minutes. Additionally, pets get the added energy boost and GI benefits of vitamin B12. In patients with severe arthritis and back or neck pain (intervertebral disk disease), we often perform electroacupuncture. Electroacupuncture utilizes very gentle, low-levels of electrical stimulation applied directly to needles inserted in acupoints. It is not painful and most patients find it extremely relaxing.

How should I choose an acupuncturist for my pet?

Your pet’s acupuncturist should be a licensed veterinarian who has undergone considerable formal training in acupuncture after veterinary school. Dr. Madeline Hammond is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist for small animals, horses and ruminants. She trained over the course of 6 months at the Chi Institute in Reddick, Florida. Since finishing the course, she’s taken numerous continued education courses and spent time interning with veterinary acupuncturists, chiropractors, food therapists and herbalists to offer Willowrun Veterinary Hospital patients the best possible integrative services.

How long do acupuncture appointments take?

Your first visit, the initial consultation appointment, will take about 40-60 minutes. Follow-up acupuncture appointments take about 30-40 minutes. If laser therapy is also part of your pet’s treatment session, plan on an additional 15 minutes.

Why do I need an initial consultation appointment prior to starting acupuncture therapy?

Your initial consultation will take about 40-60 minutes. During this visit, acupuncture is not typically performed. We collect a thorough medical history, perform a physical examination, make diet and potentially supplement recommendations. We will also discuss your goals for your cat or dog and together, create a treatment plan that fits your pet and your family. Our goal is to partner with you in improving your pet’s overall health and wellness.

How often does my pet need acupuncture therapy?

Treatment frequency depends on every pet, their medical conditions and response to therapy. Animals respond better and faster to acupuncture if we start with more frequent visits initially, then gradually back down to as-needed, maintenance treatments. For pet’s with chronic conditions, like arthritis, we recommend acupuncture every 1-2 weeks for 3 visits, then gradually start spacing them out to every few weeks to months based on the pet’s response to therapy. Some pets with mild, sudden conditions like diarrhea or vomiting, may only needed 1-2 treatments. Other pets with sudden, severe conditions, such as pain and immobility from a slipped disc or pinched nerve in their back or neck, may need 2-3 treatments a week for 1-2 weeks, then are gradually weaned down in frequency. Horses, cattle and small ruminants often respond faster than cats and dogs, often requiring only a few treatments. Long-term conditions like osteoarthritis may require treatment every 4-12 weeks depending on the patient. How often your pet will need acupuncture will depend on their condition, age and response to therapy, which will be discussed during your initial consultation appointment.

What is laser therapy?

Laser therapy, or photobiomodulation, is a treatment that uses specific wavelengths of light to help improve tissue healing, decrease pain and reduce inflammation on contact. At Willowrun Veterinary Hospital, we use it everyday on our surgical patients as well as for wounds, sports injuries, arthritis, swelling, back and neck pain. It takes about 10-15 minutes per session. It has minimal to no side-effects if used properly, though you and your pet are required to wear protective eye wear during the laser therapy session.

Where is acupuncture performed?

We perform small animal acupuncture in our comfort room. It’s equipped with a comfortable couch, dim lights, and plenty of space, mats and bedding to help your pet relax during their treatment session. Large animals are either seen in our spacious haul-in treatment room or on the farm.

What is herbal medicine?

One of the four branches of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine is herbal medicine. The ancient Chinese have used blends of herbs to treat various conditions for thousands of years. Over the past 50 years, many of these herbs’ effects have been studied in numerous publications. Just because herbs are natural, does not mean they are safe and beneficial for every patient. For example, garlic in small doses can have medicinal effects in people; however, in pets, large quantities of garlic can be toxic! The Federal Food and Drug Administration does not regulate herbs and other dietary supplements in the same way it regulates food and pharmaceutical drugs. The law does not require the manufacturer to prove that their product claims are accurate before they appear on the product label. It’s vital that we choose dietary supplements for our families and our pets from trusted sources that undergo rigorous quality control to ensure they are safe and effective. This is why it’s important to trust herbal selection for your pet to a qualified veterinarian.

I really like our regular veterinarian, am I able to keep seeing them if I come for Integrative Medicine Services?

Yes, we welcome referral cases! We’re happy to see you just for your pet’s integrative medicine needs and will communicate closely with your general practitioner to be sure everyone’s on the same page.

Are there any discounts available?

Yes! We offer discounted packages of 3, 5 and 8 visits. You may also pay per visit, though most owners choose to pre-pay for a package to save time and money. We also offer a discounted laser therapy service for patients already receiving acupuncture therapy.

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