Kirby the Golden Retriever at Four Paws Rehabilitation waiting in the underwater treadmill

Complementary and Integrative Therapies

Complementary and Integrative Therapies

At the Cancer Center, we believe in providing multiple options for the treatment of your pet. We use a combination of Eastern and Western medical approaches to treat your pet and enhance their overall wellbeing. This includes the use of medications, procedures, herbs, and acupuncture. At our other location, we also have a rehabilitation center.

In the following pages, you will find information about some of the complementary therapies we offer at Olympia Veterinary Specialists. Feel free to talk to your doctor or the staff if you have questions about any of these options or if you have questions about options that are not listed here.

Acupuncture in our Companion Animals

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the insertion of very small, sterile needles into specific points on the body to achieve a desired effect. This technique was originally developed by the Chinese over 3,000 years ago, and has since been used to treat and prevent illnesses in humans and animals alike. In animals, it is performed by veterinarians who have gone through additional training to become certified in veterinary acupuncture.  Sessions may include dry needles, aquapuncture, and/or electrical stimulation of the needles based on the animal’s specific need.

What is acupuncture used for?

Acupuncture can help with a wide array of issues. It can help relieve pain and inflammation, improve nerve conduction, enhance the immune system, and help with reproduction issues. It will not help with surgical issues or infections, but can be used as supplemental therapy to these and many other conditions. It is NOT used immediately over a tumor, because it could increase blood flow and cause the mass to grow. It can be used, however, during therapy for cancer to help support the rest of the animal.

Some common uses for acupuncture in small animals include:

  • Musculoskeletal issues, such as:
    • Arthritis
    • muscle knots from over exertion
  • Skin problems, such as:
    • lick granulomas
    • allergies
  • Respiratory problems, such as:
    • chronic rhinitis
    • asthma
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as the prevention or treating of:
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • ileus (slowing of intestinal transit time)
  • Nervous system issues, such as:
    • seizure disorders
    • decreased nerve conduction (scuffing hind legs/degenerative nerve conditions)
  • Enhancement of the immune system

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture points are called channels or meridians and are often found in areas that contain blood vessels or nerves; therefore insertion of a needle at one point can cause a local as well as a distant effect along the channel. The local effect occurs when the needle disrupts surrounding mast cells causing them to release substances which send signals to the brain. The brain, in turn, sends a return signal that causes the release of additional hormones and endorphins. These new chemicals can induce relaxation, stimulate the blood vessels, and increase immune system mediators. When combined, these can cause local relaxation of the muscle fibers, stimulation of nerves, increased blood circulation, and localized pain relief. In ancient times, this was seen as releasing the “stuck” energy or Qi.

What happens during an acupuncture session?

During an acupuncture session, sterile needles are inserted into specific points along an animal’s body. These points are tailored based on the exam findings and individual issues/needs. The great thing about acupuncture is that it can be combined with other therapies and treat multiple issues during the same session. Once the needles are inserted, the animal sits with a staff member or the owner for 10-30 minutes. Most animals do not mind the needle insertion. It generally does not hurt the pet, but may cause a tingling sensation. Some animals even fall asleep during or right after the session!

How often are acupuncture treatments given?

The length and frequency of the sessions are based on the individual animal’s needs. Acute injuries/problems are often responsive to one or two sessions, while a chronic problem such as arthritis may need lifelong therapy. For acute issues or preventative sessions (such as to prevent nausea during chemotherapy administration), a single 5-10 minute session may be all that is required. For chronic issues, we generally recommend three to four 30 minute sessions done once a week or every other week. We then try to space out the therapy according to the animal’s needs. Oftentimes, once chronic issues are maintained, treatment every 4-8 weeks is recommended.

Fear Free

Trips to the vet can be stressful for your pet. Here at the Cancer Center, we want both you and your pet to have a great experience. Thus, we are integrating Fear Free into how we operate to make this as positive of an experience as we can.

So what is Fear Free? Developed by Dr. Marty Becker, “Fear Free” veterinary hospitals are those which promote a considerate approach and gentle control techniques used in calming environments. Once practice certification is available, we intend to pursue this accreditation. Until then, we are still planning on employing the recommendations of the Fear Free program.

Below are some of the recommendations and changes we have already made :

  • Don’t have your pet eat after 10pm the night before their visit. A calm stomach helps your pet have a calm mind. Bring food, we can feed them here!
  • Our exam rooms are meant to feel comfortable for both you and your pet. Comfortable beds for our patients can be found on the floor of each exam room.
  • “Fear Free” hospital  certification requires that at least 25% of our staff be individually certified, so you can trust that our technicians and assistants know how to create a stress-free environment.
  • For our extra nervous furry friends, we have a few options to help reduce their stress:
    • Calming pheromones (Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats): we use the diffusers so that the pheromones are always around to help calm our patients.
    • Thunder shirts: the gentle pressure placed on the thorax helps to calm some pets down.
    • Mild anti-anxiety medications (not sedatives) to help your pet relax and stay calm.
  • Cats and dogs have separate housing areas to rest in during their stay. Pets that are nervous around other animals or people are also welcome to stay in our exam rooms during drop-off times until they can be brought to the back of our hospital.
  • We encourage the “just because” visit for pets who are uncomfortable at the vet. They can just stop by for a short hello, get a few treats, and leave. This will help reduce the ‘negative’ associations with the office/staff and help to create a calmer pet when they do have to stay.

We hope that these changes help make your pet’s stay with us as low stress and fear free as possible. If you would like more information about the Fear Free program, you can check out their website at or talk to one of our staff members.

Four Paws Rehabilitation

Whether your pet is a high-octane athlete or a seasoned couch potato, Four Paws Rehab offers a variety of services to help with your pet’s wellbeing. They can assist with rehabilitation as well as improving the overall condition of your pet. They employ a variety of techniques and tailor each session to your pet’s specific needs and abilities. What services are available to your pet will be dependent on both the conditions being treated and what will work best for your pet. Below you will find a list of some of the services they can provide to your pet, and the benefits of rehab work and body conditioning.

Available services include:

  • Hydrotherapy with an underwater treadmill
  • Pain management
  • Cold laser, therapeutic ultrasound, and neuromuscular stimulation
  • Massage and body work
  • Nutritional and supplement recommendations
  • Education about neurological and/or orthopedic conditions
  • Custom home exercise programs

Benefits of rehab and conditioning work:

  • Reduced muscle atrophy and recovery time after surgery
  • Increased mobility, coordination, balance, and flexibility
  • Weight loss in overweight pets and muscle gain in under conditioned pets
  • Reduction of pain from chronic conditions like arthritis
  • Build confidence, abilities, and focus

If you think your pet may benefit from some rehab work or conditioning, feel free to talk to your doctor about it or simply schedule a consultation with the team over at Four Paws Rehabilitation.

Contact Information

902 Union Ave SE
Olympia, WA 98501

(360) 753-7297

(360) 810-2274 fax

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