Horsey Puncture

Dr. Rebecca McConnico practices equine acupuncture at the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. (Source: LSU Vet School)
Dr. Rebecca McConnico practices equine acupuncture at the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. (Source: LSU Vet School)

By Sydni Dunn | LSU Student

The LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, part of the veterinary school, has broadened its services to include acupuncture, massage therapy and herbal treatments for animals – the large one for now and dogs and cats soon.

Rebecca McConnico, associate professor of veterinary medicine, said the combination of traditional medicine and newly-adopted treatments are referred to as "integrative medicine." She studied equine acupuncture at the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine in Reddick, Fla., last year before earning her large animal certification.

"For me and my understanding and experience, [LSU] integrates with – not instead of," she said, stressing the use of integrative therapies as a complement to traditional Western medicine.

McConnico works mainly with horses, currently the most common animal to receive this type of treatment. She said horses can benefit from the Eastern-inspired practices, particularly acupuncture.

Animal acupuncture works as it does in humans: a series of fine needles are inserted into linked pressure points throughout the body. The roughly 2,000-year-old Eastern art is said to pinpoint and stimulate these specific areas to prevent ailments and support health.

"We use it in cases where horses have gastrointestinal or neurological disease, chronic pain or non-healing wounds," McConnico points out. "It takes 15 to 20 minutes, and most commonly is performed every four to six weeks for chronic pain."

If the horse is afraid of needles, the vet staff uses a form of acupuncture called acupressure, wherein pressure is applied to the various points.

McConnico said she has worked with about two dozen animals since her recent certification, including horses, goats and cattle. She said clients are starting to learn about and seek this unique service for their animals.

"It seems to be well-received. Some clients just ask for it and sometimes it's offered to them. Most are willing to try it."

McConnico says she is pleased with the program's progress and attributes its start to a hefty donation from Sue and Donald Crow family of Shreveport. Though she said she could not disclose the amount of the donation, she called the family the "catalyst" for the new services.

Previously, the school would direct clients who requested integrative therapy to veterinarians Larry McCaskill, for small animals, and Ed Boldt, for large animals. The two would commute to regional teaching hospital to perform the treatment periodically.

McConnico is now able to work with large animals, and another veterinary professor, Mark Acierno, currently is receiving certification in small animal integrative therapies.

"It's important to remember that the veterinarians who do acupuncture have to be licensed in Louisiana," she said, noting there is just a handful in the state. "LSU Vet has someone now certified in massage therapy too."

McConnico said three LSU faculty members will complete training this year.

The contribution has helped establish elective courses for students interested in introductory integrative medicine, as well as an Integrative Medicine Committee, a panel formed in December in support of the use of integrative methods.

If a veterinarian recommends acupuncture as part of the animal's therapy, appointments can be scheduled through the school. The initial examination to explore if acupuncture is the correct treatment option is $40. The acupuncture itself is $100 per session, according to Veterinary School spokesperson Ginger Guttner.