Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Alternative Therapies for Horses

This is the first of a multi-part series discussing management plans for your horse

Acupuncture, chiropractic, and equine massage therapy can be valuable parts of your horse's management plan when used appropriately and performed by a qualified practitioner.  The key is knowing when to use these modalities, and who to call for help.
Part I of this series outline key steps that'll help you make the most of alternative therapies in your horse's care plan. Future installments will include basic information on acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage; what they are, when to use them, and how to choose a qualified practitioner.
  • Diagnosis
More often than not, if your horse has a musculoskeletal problem, you should begin with your veterinarian, who can do a lameness work-up to determine a specific diagnosis.
Why? Because many injuries are best identified and managed using conventional medical treatments. Should alternative therapy be avoided in these cases? The simple answer is no; ATs can be extremely helpful not only in pain management but in the healing process.  Just be sure to begin with an accurate diagnosis.
  • Do the Research
Choose your practitioner carefully. A properly trained acupuncturist, chiropractor, or body worker should always refer you to your veterinarian when  appropriate, and never perform services until an underlying problem is diagnosed and treated. Opt for a certified practitioner.
Ask the chosen therapist about his or her education and training.  Be especially cautious of someone who suggests prescription meds without first consulting your vet.  This can often be a red flag that the therapist is unclear about (1) the boundaries between him/her and the vet, (2) the exact nature of the injury, and (3) involvement in the horse's ongoing care.
  • Connect Your Vet
Your veterinarian should remain an important part of your horse's management plan in addition to alternative therapies that are outside his or her direct expertise. Bonus:  Your vet can probably direct you to the most competent and likely candidates to help your horse.
Identical to human care management, working as a team is likely to produce the best results.
  • Medical History
With the correct therapy and practitioner selected, it's important that you be prepared for your appointment.   The therapist is likely to request a medical history that includes any chronic ailments or recent injuries, any currently prescribed meds, as well as unlimited contact with your vet.  Plan for an extensive exam and to decide on a treatment plan appropriate to the horse's condition.
  • Be Honest and Open
If your acupuncturist, chiropractor, or massage therapist asks you about the type of work your horse does, or about any known medical problems, it's important to be accurate with your answers. Not only will it help your therapist devise the best treatment plan, it'll also let him or her know whether current treatments are being effective.
  • Be Realistic

If you're looking for a miracle cure, you'll need to look elsewhere. Medications can't completely cure every disease, and alternative therapy can't fix every problem.
But if you follow all the steps outlined above, are open-minded and have realistic expectations, alternative therapies can make a valuable contribution to your horse's general well-being.
Next Month:  Acupuncture


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