by Kate Rew BVSc(Hons)MRCVS CertVetAc(IVAS) CRP
Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of
Chinese medicine, and has been used for
over 4000 years. I have been using
acupuncture to treat animals and birds for
over 15 years, and it is a very useful
treatment tool to have in my veterinary
medicine box. Despite initial scepticism,
the use of acupuncture has grown in
popularity within both the medical and
veterinary professions, and is now widely
accepted as commonplace. This is
because it is very effective in treating
chronic pain and diseases, either where
conventional medicine has failed, or as an
adjunct to other treatments. It is helpful
alongside physiotherapy, for example, in
the treatment of musculoskeletal disease
or where medical drugs may not be
tolerated by the patient, such as treatment
of the chronic pain associated with arthritis,
where anti-inflammatories cause digestive
Vet Kate has practised acupuncture since 1997, and has run her own specialist
referral Veterinary Rehabilitation Centre in South Devon, working alongside an
orthopaedic surgeon and veterinary physiotherapists. Kate has a keen interest in
poultry medicine and is an associate vet with The Chicken Vet; she works part time
in small animal practice in South Devon and runs a consultancy practice offering
acupuncture. We asked Kate to tell us about her work:
Even I was a bit of an acupuncture cynic
until I saw it work in my own horse. I had a
lovely young Thoroughbred, who
unfortunately had managed to badly cast
himself in his stable, and injure his back. It
was heartbreaking to see him in so much
pain and I could not even put a saddle on
his back, let alone ride him. After a lot of
diagnostic work, we discovered he had
slipped 2 discs in his lower back.
Conventional pain relief did not help, and I
was not keen on risky surgery with no
guarantee of success. So when my vet
friend suggested acupuncture, there was
nothing to lose. Remus had two treatments
a week apart, and the effect was amazing.
He was in considerably less pain
immediately after the first needling session;
some physiotherapy and 6 acupuncture
sessions later and I was able to ride him
again. With regular maintenance sessions,
he remained pain free, happy and ride-able
until he died at 19 years old.
I was so inspired by the results of Remus’
acupuncture treatment that I decided I had
to learn to do it! At that stage, there was no
veterinary acupuncture course available in
the UK, but there was a weekend course run
by a doctor so I booked myself in and learnt
about basic Western “cookbook
acupuncture” in 1997! I was then able to
test my knowledge to treat common
problems like back and hip pain in dogs and
cats. The results, even in my inexperienced
hands, were great, and I wanted to learn
more about the Traditional Chinese Medical
TCM) approach to veterinary acupuncture.