“My first passion in life was horses. I started working as a technician at Union Pet Hospital and soon developed my next passion in life – veterinary medicine.”
This month, we are putting the spotlight on Leah Miller. She works at Union Pet Hospital, which is located in Union and Erlanger, Kentucky. It is a seven-doctor AAHA certified small animal and exotics hospital. “We are a highly progressive practice and pride ourselves on providing the most modern, quality medicine available,” said Miller.
That’s why she decided to attend the Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians (MAV) course offered by CuraCore.
“In all honesty, I was a bit skeptical of acupuncture at first,” she said. “I thought it probably worked for a select few, but wasn’t sure how effective it would be on a daily basis. (There’s) a desire for a more holistic and natural approach to life, and medicine is undeniable. Our clients are seeking healthy alternatives in many aspects of life, including the care of their pets.
“I chose to take the course because I wanted to offer the highest quality and most modern choices possible to our clients. After taking the MAV course and incorporating acupuncture into my daily practice, I am blown away by how much acupuncture can really do.”
The course was time consuming, but completely worth the effort. “I would encourage those taking the course to start seeing clients as soon as possible,” said Miller. “I started practicing acupuncture before the course was completed. I offered the service at an incredibly reduced rate just to cover costs. This enabled me to start doing what I was learning and to help solidify the learning process.”
Now, almost every case she sees each day would benefit from acupuncture. I have a special interest in surgery, and perform a vast array of surgeries ranging from delicate ophthalmic surgeries to orthopedics. Regardless of their decision about whether or not to perform surgery, acupuncture is offered for every cruciate case she sees.
“Even if they decide to proceed with surgery, acupuncture and laser can help before and after surgery,” said Miller. “We have had a Companion laser for a few years now and have recommended adding laser packages to all orthopedics. However, the laser packages were just over one specific region (ie, if there is a cruciate injury, we would laser the knee). Now that we have more tools to offer, acupuncture and laser provide a more comprehensive and individualized approach to pre- and post-operative pain. We can thoroughly treat specific areas of pain and compensatory myofascial strain patterns (areas not localized to the knee) with our new integrative approach.”
Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) management is another specific example of how her practice has changed. “I now recommend acupuncture to every case with suspect neck or back pain,” said Miller. “The last two IVDD cases I treated did remarkably well after medical management and acupuncture.”
Also, acupuncture has changed her practice with regards to geriatric patients with arthritis who can’t tolerate medications well, such as a cat with renal disease or large dog with liver enzyme elevation. Cat owners who are unable to medicate their cats seem to really enjoy the idea of acupuncture! “I have had several patients be able to decrease or even eliminate the need for pharmaceuticals with alternative approaches to pain control,” said Miller.
She has experienced a vast array of responses from her colleagues about acupuncture. “Some have welcomed acupuncture with open arms and excitement, others with open-minded skepticism, and still others with a more closed-minded approach,” said Miller. “Although they have not yet jumped on board with my new ideas, I’m hoping time and success stories will help them see the benefits.”
For her closed-minded colleagues, she has decided to stop talking and just show them the results. “They may still be closed minded even after seeing results, but I am not going to change that,” she said. “The open-minded skeptics are the ones that I get the most enjoyment from (and I was one of them at one point). These individuals are interested enough to send me cases and excited to see how our new tool can lead to financial growth. Staff pets have been a great place to start because my colleagues interact with these owners regularly, as well hear first-hand, unbiased testimonials!”
Miller’s practice is located 30 minutes south of Cincinnati and north of rural areas. “Our clientele is a good mixture of urbanized pets and farm-life companions. From a client’s perspective, I have had very few be completely closed minded. Most of the clients are excited to get started or at least ready to hear more about what acupuncture can do. As a result of offering acupuncture, I have brought in some new clients and am seeing increased loyalty from some existing clients.”
Staff education at her practice is something that is planned for in the near future. “I think this is vital to incorporating acupuncture into our practice,” said Miller. “We regularly have educational opportunities at our staff meetings, and I plan to talk about acupuncture soon. Our support staff has a lot of client interaction, and I believe they are vital to success of any new ideas we try to incorporate. This is another reason why I love to help our staff pets with acupuncture. They can also give first-hand testimonials to clients in how I have helped their own pets.”
Miller strongly encourages other practitioners to add acupuncture to their practice. “I would recommend doing it soon and doing it often!” said Miller. “Acupuncture can benefit our patients in so many ways. I almost feel guilty for not doing it sooner.
“Don’t let the skeptics deter you from this exciting field. If the skeptics are willing to pay attention, they will eventually see the benefits. The more cases you treat, the more successful outcomes you will see. More success stories will lead to more clients, and more clients to a growing, healthy practice. What do you have to lose?”
In the future, Miller plans to eventually transition from associate to owner and continue to make acupuncture a part of her integrative approach to practice. “As for acupuncture in our region, I hope to expand my clientele,” she said. “There are two veterinarians who practice TCM, one of whom will be retiring soon. Cincinnati offers acupuncture, but this service has been limited in Northern Kentucky. Even in Cincinnati, I do not know of any MAV grads.
“As we start to advertise this service and see more cases, I’m hoping our advertising and word of mouth will continue to grow this area of our practice. Furthermore, there is a registered technician in our practice interested in pursuing education in medical massage. A goal for the future would be to incorporate massage into our practice, as well.”
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