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How to incorporate integrative care modalities into your veterinary practice

Tips for adding treatments such as acupuncture and laser therapy for your veterinary patients.

How to incorporate integrative care modalities into your veterinary practice

Dog owners in the Detroit area often come to Michael Petty, DVM, owner of Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital and Animal Pain Center (arborpointe.com) in Canton, Michigan, after visiting multiple veterinarians without finding any relief for their dog’s pain.

After one acupuncture session, these clients often call the clinic to report that the dog jumped on the couch for the first time in years. To anyone who tells him medical acupuncture doesn’t work, Dr. Petty responds: “Well, no one told the dog that.”

Here are Dr. Petty’s tips for other veterinarians who are looking to add acupuncture, laser, rehabilitation and other integrative care modalities to their own practices.

Look at your facility with new eyes. You don’t need to build a new hospital to do integrative care in your practice, Dr. Petty says. Instead, find an unused corner in the clinic where you can set up some balance balls and Cavaletti poles. Or dim the lights, add a soft bed and play soothing music in an existing exam room for acupuncture treatments.

Target millennials. Younger pet owners — who make up the largest pet-owning population segment in the U.S. — are often looking for alternatives to traditional pharmaceuticals and surgery, Dr. Petty says. Millennial dog owners spend $1,285 per year on their pet, while young cat owners spend $915 per year individually, according to a recent report. As a group, millennials spend a whopping $100 billion a year on their pets for health care, products and services.¹ If you don’t provide integrative services yourself, at least develop a referral relationship with a practice that does — or risk getting left behind by your clientele.

Get help from your vendor. Dr. Petty is regularly asked by his laser unit manufacturer to provide training via webinars and speaking engagements for the company’s other customers who may need help learning to use their equipment effectively. If you own a laser, chances are your vendor has similar training resources available. Ask them what they can provide.

Leverage your veterinary nurses. Utilize the skill set of the veterinary nurses on your team for laser therapy appointments. “I never put a laser on a dog,” Dr. Petty says. “My veterinary nurses do all the work.” As the doctor, he identifies the area to be treated and prescribes the dosage (wavelength, intensity and duration), and they take it from there. He also finds it worthwhile to have his credentialed technicians become certified in rehabilitation and conduct rehab appointments. With a fee of $100 to $150 per hour-long rehab visit, “that more than pays her salary,” he says. “And they love doing this stuff. Our certified technicians went to school to do medical stuff, not to be glorified restraint personnel.”

Veterinary medicine is increasingly competitive and pet-owning clients are increasingly demanding — integrative medicine tools and modalities may be a way to set your practice apart.

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1. Lintz C. How Millennials Spend on Their Pets. petbusiness.com/How-Millennials-Spend-on-Their-Pets. Accessed June 15, 2020.