While acupuncture is a practice normally reserved for humans, a veterinarian with University Animal Hospital is now providing the service for Norman pets.
Prior to joining Dr. John Otto at UAH, Dr. Dani Martin graduated from the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2018. After graduation, she briefly practiced mixed animal medicine in Red Oak, Oklahoma before bringing her expertise to Norman.
Martin said acupuncture, a practice in traditional Chinese medicine that includes inserting very thin needles through a patient’s skin at specific points, is new to UAH, but thinks it's great to be able to use this old method of medicine and sees its relevance today.
“My favorite thing about it is we don’t have the side effects that we get with some of our modern drugs,” Martin said. “We can use acupuncture safely whether [pets] are on other medications or whether they are just not really tolerant of medications, so I think it makes a really good modality of therapy to manage conditions without additional side effects, which can be a rare thing in medicine.”
Pain related conditions are the ailments most often treated with acupuncture, Martin said. She said it’s really great for osteoarthritis in senior pets, and it can also help treat acute pain from injuries and help pets recover from surgeries.
“There are a whole host of things that can be treated with acupuncture, [including] neurologic conditions like seizures or disc disease, which we see in dogs with long backs and short legs like dachshunds or basset hounds,” Martin said. “Any neurologic conditions respond really well to acupuncture, and even some skin conditions with inflammation can really be lessened by acupuncture.”
Martin said the eastern medicine technique, while often helpful, is not a substitute for conventional treatment.
“Something I encourage people to remember is I am not an advocate for using acupuncture only and abandoning modern medicine. I think it should be an integrative approach where we combine it with modern medicine to really get the best for our pets,” Martin said.
Martin said there are misconceptions surrounding the technique, including the amount of pain patients may feel. Some of the needles used for acupuncture are no wider than a hair, which provides for flexibility, according to Martin, and she said most pets will feel a sensation when a needle is inserted, but it should be painless.
“Acupuncture for people is not always a painless procedure, but definitely with our pets I can’t explain to them verbally, ‘oh this is going to help your chronic pain,’ and my goal is to make our pets comfortable,” Martin said.
Martin said she was around five years old when she decided that she wanted to be a veterinary doctor. She said she always loved animals as well as science and thought veterinary medicine would be the perfect marriage of those two interests.
She became interested in acupuncture when her 16-year-old beagle developed a tumor in her brain. She elected to provide palliative care to keep her comfortable for as long as possible, and acupuncture was suggested to her by one of the teaching clinicians at OSU as a therapeutic means.
Martin said because there are no classes teaching acupuncture at OSU, she learned how to perform the skill on the side through a separate class.
“I was lucky enough as I was growing up to have veterinarians that were very welcoming to me both in my teenage years and even before that. [They] would let me be in the clinics with them, watch procedures and really understand what the day-to-day truly is like for a veterinarian,” Martin said. “I just loved it more and more as time went on, so I kept working so that I could make it into this career field.”
Martin said since the moment she arrived, she has been impressed with the UAH team, and the level of care from the doctors to the kennel staff towards clients' pets.
“I have also been impressed and pleased with the clients here in Norman,” Martin said. “Everyone has been so kind and welcoming to me that I have met so far, but I am impressed with how far people are ready and willing to go to take the best care possible for their pets.”
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