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Some Clients Opt for Acupuncture
by Jonas Siegel

When a patient isn’t responding to conventional Western treatments, veterinarians have another option. Acupuncture, when integrated with Western medicine, can have a positive impact on a patient’s disease treatment and quality of life.

“Many veterinarians don’t understand the clinical applications of acupuncture,” says Dr. Elaine Caplan, visiting clinical assistant professor and the only veterinarian at the College’s Small Animal Clinic who performs acupuncture. “But the client interest is there.

[Dr. Caplan with patient]A collie with an acupuncture needle in its scalp seems content to let Dr. Caplan continue the treatment.

“People like it because a lot of times animals’ conditions are not surgically treatable or their medications cause side-effects. And sometimes clients just prefer a natural approach. Often owners have tried other methods of treatment and this is the last option to treat their animal,” says Dr. Caplan. 

Even if acupuncture doesn’t contribute to healing, it can often help reduce symptoms. Every animal ailment is not curable, and so improving the patient’s quality of life is often the goal. Dr. Caplan has used acupuncture to reduce the frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy and to lessen the amount of insulin necessary to control diabetes in a patient. 

“Most of the patients that I see in the clinic are big geriatric dogs with arthritic problems,” says Dr. Caplan. “The acupuncture is particularly effective in helping to reduce pain and increase function in these pets.” 

Dogs that have come to Dr. Caplan with difficulty getting up have returned to running around and playing after acupuncture treatments.

“Here in the West acupuncture is used primarily for pain management,” says Dr. Caplan, whose 10 regular patients include dogs, cats, and a llama.

She says it may take several acupuncture treatments before the desired effects appear in her patients and emphasizes that only veterinarians with advanced training in acupuncture should treat patients. Dr. Caplan is certified in veterinary acupuncture by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and has been practicing acupuncture for 10 years.

She receives referrals from veterinarians in many disciplines throughout the clinic and from practitioners throughout the state. 
Acupuncture has been used for a quarter of the world’s population for over 3000 years. It usually has a positive effect. “The worst that happens is that nothing happens,” she says.
 

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