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The Expanding Field of Integrative Medicine

Thank you to Tiffany Murphy from Ross University for sharing with us her experience working with a rehabilitaion clinic.

The Expanding Field of Integrative Medicine

Primum non nocere can be translated to, “first, do no harm”. While this phrase is short, it is what I believe to be the most important phrase in veterinary medicine. Our primary goal is to cure disease and prevent or alleviate suffering. While traditional medicine solves most problems, sometimes the normal routes are not an option and clients wish to seek other modalities. At Georgia Veterinary Rehabilitation, Fitness & Pain Management (GVR) veterinarians are able to provide acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, chiropractic, laser therapy, and rehabilitation to help promote healing after surgery, weight loss for a better quality of life, and pain management for temporary or non-curative diagnosis. The facility also provided the ability to get casts and carts fitted to animals in need.

Upon initial examination, the veterinarians were able to do an orthopedic examination on each animal to determine range of motion, crepitus, pain, and swelling of each joint. They also examined the vertebrae to determine pain and misalignment as well as the limbs for conscious proprioception. Depending on the responses of the patient, the veterinarian may determine to refer the patient for radiographs, ultrasound, or bloodwork. If the patient did not need a referral, the client could elect to begin some of the modalities offered.

Laser therapy was the most commonly used modality as it is a method of alleviating pain that nearly all patients had upon visiting the clinic. Laser therapy utilizes specific wavelengths of light to penetrate the skin and promote healing by vasodilation of the blood and lymphatic vessels.

Acupuncture was another commonly used therapy because it was helpful in stimulating nerve pathways in animals with weakness or loss of function in limbs. I was able to view three different types of acupuncture: traditional acupuncture, aquapuncture, and electroacupuncture. Aquapuncture was performed using B12 injections. Traditional and electroacupuncture were set up in the same manner except for the addition of electrodes placed on needles with electroacupuncture. Both types typically consisted of 20 needles in variable locations based on specific points used to heal different parts of the body.


Finally, the most common reason people were referred to GVR or sought out the facility was in search of rehabilitation. The rehabilitation sessions were monitored to the patient’s abilities and needs. Hind limb lameness often started with the underwater treadmill where a rehabilitation therapist was able to monitor the pet’s gait and level of tiring. Once the animal became stronger, they were able to do land sessions. Land sessions consisted of weave polls, wobble boards, and other equipment that would help strengthen specific muscle groups. Forelimb lameness or weight loss animals were often placed in the pool. They would wear a float coat and a therapist would be standing with them the entire time. With both the treadmill and the pool, the patient’s time moving increased as well as their speed depending on how the animal was doing currently and how the treatment effected the pet previously if done before. Following rehabilitation sessions, the animal would be stretched to help promote a range of motion.


My experience with GVR was beneficial in giving me the opportunity to visualize modalities that are not strongly incorporated into the veterinary curriculum. The therapies I was able to observe do not work in every patient, but have minimal negative side effects. Some therapies were used alongside traditional therapies or used when traditional therapies failed. This experience also allowed me to communicate with veterinarians about cases as well as view records of patients which allowed me to incorporate western and eastern medicine. I would encourage all students to get an experience that promoted further learning in the field because it has many studies proving its effectiveness, has limited adverse effects, and many clients are seeking alternate therapies because of the risks associated with some traditional methods.


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