Owner: Denis Beary, MVB, from Straffan, Co Kildare
Animal: Victor, a three-year-old Greyhound
Background: Denis is treating Victor with acupuncture
Denis established the Canine Sports Medicine Clinic in Straffan in 2004. He treats all types of dogs, but since his focus is sports-related injuries, most of his patients are greyhounds.
For some selected cases, Denis has found an unusual answer: the ancient Chinese therapy of acupuncture.
Greyhounds are like thoroughbred racehorses. When they race, their muscles, tendons and joints are put under a level of stress most pet dogs never experience. If they suffer an injury, they need finely tuned treatment.
Denis treats most cases with standard conventional veterinary medicine and surgery, but there are some cases where he's found that acupuncture provides the treatment that's needed.
He studied acupuncture on a post-graduate course in the UK.
Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine. There are elaborate theories about how acupuncture can adjust energy flows in the body.
Denis has learned this theory and the modern scientific understanding of how acupuncture works; the fine needles stimulate nerve endings, creating feedback to the central nervous system which influences the way that the body deals with the injury.
Acupuncture is now a widely accepted means of treating animals.
Before using acupuncture, Denis always carries out a detailed examination of the animal, taking X-rays if needed. It's important to find out what's causing the lameness. Is it a bruise, a sprain or something else? Which muscle or tendon, precisely, is affected?
After making a diagnosis, Denis then discusses the various treatment options.
With acupuncture, a selection of needles -- between six and 16 -- are pushed through the skin at carefully chosen locations. The needles are left in place for around 15 minutes before being removed. The treatment needs to be repeated. The precise timing of sessions depends on the individual animal.
Perhaps surprisingly, most animals don't mind the needles being inserted. The needles are so sharp and fine that there is minimal pain sensation.
Greyhound Victor was a typical case: he had a minor sprain of his knee joint: after acupuncture, he was back to normal within two weeks. Denis treats a wide range of ailments with acupuncture. He finds that it can be especially useful for arthritis.
It may seem strange to stick needles into something to make it better, but as the Chinese have been telling us for thousands of years, it can work surprisingly well.