Integrated Therapies for Horses
Integrated therapies for horses are used by our team of veterinarians to support your horse's health and development, improve performance and aid their natural healing processes.
While conventional equine veterinary care is effective at addressing health issues, we will often support our medications, surgeries and therapies with acupuncture or Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy (VSMT) to improve outcomes.
The equine veterinary team at Badger Veterinary Hospital & Equine Services understands that when your horse is in pain, it can cause issues throughout its entire body and because of this, we use our integrated therapies to treat them.
Acupuncture for Horses
Acupuncture has been used to treat a number of conditions in both humans and animals for more than 3000 years. Because of their practical importance, horses were one of the first animals to be treated with acupuncture.
Today, equine acupuncture is commonly incorporated in the treatment of several conditions, especially musculoskeletal disorders and back pain.
At Badger Veterinary Hospital & Equine Services our vets want to ensure your horses are feeling their best so they can live long, healthy lives and perform their best.
- What Is Equine Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the insertion of sterile, thin, flexible needles in specific points to stimulate the body to heal itself. Each acupuncture point has a high density of free nerve endings, arterioles, lymphatic vessels, and mast cells.
In equine patients, it can be used to treat musculoskeletal conditions causing pain and lameness, as well as neurological disorders, gastrointestinal issues, reproductive problems, and other chronic conditions (such as heaves, laminitis, or dermatitis).
- Who Can Provide Equine Acupuncture Therapy?
In order to provide acupuncture to equine patients, extra training and certifications above and beyond the standard veterinary degree are required.
Dr. Marie Sikora is certified in veterinary acupuncture. Acupuncture is a component of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), which also includes herbal medicine, food therapy, exercise, and Tui-na (a type of massage).
- What Conditions Can Benefit From Acupuncture?
Acupuncture for horses provides relief for conditions like:
- Sore backs and necks
- Navicular issues leading to foot pain
- Laminitis (acute and chronic)
- Tendon/ligament injuries
- Extending the period between joint injections
- Muscle atrophy/loss
- Gastric ulcers
- Heaves/allergic lung conditions
- Anhidrosis or non-sweating
- Reproductive issues such as inability to conceive or maintain pregnancy
- When Will I Notice Results of Equine Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is not a magical cure. It will not instantly mend a broken bone or turn a lumbering draft horse into a Five Start Eventer.
However, by using thin needles to stimulate various places on the horse’s body, this treatment can influence physiological effects.
This may be due to the release of hormones, activation of nerve responses, or triggering of immune system function.
Results from veterinary acupuncture treatments are typically noticeable after 1 – 3 treatments performed weekly.
Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy (VSMT)
The veterinary equivalent to human chiropractic care, VSMT, can be useful for horses suffering from performance issues, reluctance to work, sensitivity along with the spine or back and management of pain or lameness.
A skilled assessment is performed to detect hypomobilities (or areas of reduced range of motion) in the body, and specific adjustments are used to restore optimal motion with the goal of relieving associated pain and inflammation of the surrounding soft tissue and nervous system.
VSMT can help to relieve pain throughout the body and allow it to heal itself naturally.
- What Happens At a VSMT Appointment?
Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy is most commonly administered as an additional treatment option for animals experiencing spinal problems or biomechanical-related musculoskeletal disorders. Most adjustments in horses take 15-30 minutes.
During the exam, the vet will carefully palpate your horse’s joints and check their range of motion, which is commonly referred to as “motion palpation”. When a restricted joint is identified, it is corrected through an adjustment.
After the adjustment, the joint is palpated again to be certain that it is moving more freely. The adjustments usually look like quick little pushes on the animal. Most horses are relaxed during their appointment.
Sedation is not required and is not recommended since it will interfere with the ability of the nervous system to respond to the treatment.
- When Does My Horse Need VSMT?
Spinal issues and musculoskeletal disorders can cause your horse's health to quickly deteriorate because they overcompensate in other areas of their body when they are in pain.
Here are some indicators that your horse could benefit from an evaluation:
- Poor performance or discomfort when saddled
- Lameness, stiffness, back, neck, or tail pain
- Abnormal Posture/ Changes in posture or topline
- Difficulty bending to one side or a "hollow topline"
- Reluctance to pick up or maintain a lead
- Difficulty engaging the hind end or traveling long & low
- Head tilt, difficulty chewing
- Uneven muscle development or atrophy
- Difficulty flexing at the poll, pulling on one rein
- Difficulty getting up & down
- Changes in behavior or attitude
- Who Can Provide VSMT?
For the safety of your animals and best results, VSMT should be performed by a Veterinarian certified in spinal manipulation therapies or a Doctor of Chiropractic with special certification to work on animals.
Dr. Marie Sikora received her training at The Healing Oasis Wellness Center, which focuses on functional neuroanatomy, and provided hands-on training in motion palpation and adjustments. Dr. Sikora focuses primarily on equines; however, most species can benefit from VSMT.