Posted on October 4, 2012 by naomi
Jennifer Yamamoto, DVM, is the second subject in our series of interviews with rehabilitation and veterinary specialists using the Assisi loop. Dr. Yamamoto completed her bachelor’s degree in biology at UCLA and her veterinary degree at UC Davis. She has been practicing small animal medicine in Contra Costa County, California since 2002. In 2006, she earned her veterinary acupuncture certification through Colorado State University, and offers this complementary therapy to her patients at Muller Veterinary Hospital and the Canine Rehabilitation Center in Walnut Creek.
NG: Thank you so much for joining our veterinarian interview series. To start out with, if you could describe yourself, what you do, and how you first heard of the Assisi device and started using it.
JY: I’m a small animal veterinarian and I’ve been in practice for about ten years. I do mainly general practice and I’ve been practicing animal acupuncture for the last 5 or 6 years. We have have a rehabilitation center in our hospital, so I get to see a lot of referrals from other hospitals for arthritis, neurological problems, post-operative back surgeries, rehab for orthopedic surgeries, etc..
We started using the Assisi loop a few years ago and have been getting good results. We use the bulk of the loops for conditions like degenerative joint disease and post-operative healing. We’ve also used some on a couple of chronic skin non-healing issues, and I’ve prescribed it a lot for back pain.
I used one on my own cat who has lumbosacral disease. That experience is really what convinced me that it could be a helpful adjunct to the treatments we have available. She did not respond to any of the medications I tried or acupuncture, but she did improve with the assisi loop.
NG: So how can you sense improvement? How can you tell the animal is doing better?
JY: We rely on feedback from owners. In the case where I was watching my own pet, I measured her mobility and vocalization. Prior to the loop, her sacral disease made her scream constantly, so it was easy to see that she was in horrible acute pain. After using the loop she was able to jump without screaming and I could tell that she was feeling better. She would also hold her tail up, whereas she wouldn’t do that before being treated.
NG: So these are things that the owner who is around the animal and knows its behavior can sense?
JY: Exactly. It’s mainly noticing behavior changes and an increased ability to move. Pain or difficulty moving often manifests when the animal is transitioning from a sitting position or laying down position to a standing position. When the loop is helping, owners notice the pet is doing that more easily or is more willing to move around. Or the dog is able to go for a walk longer than it used to be able to. Other people seem to notice–especially when I’m treating back disease–that the dog is initially really hunched or kyphotic (hunchbacked) and that treating the back seems to relax and straighten out the muscles around that kyphotic area.
NG: And what about those cases with the skin disease that you mentioned?
JY: One was a mast cell tumor surgery where we had to remove really wide margins of the skin and the site wasn’t healing for a really long time post-operatively. So we decided to try the loop. I think that helped–it took a while, but eventually the skin did heal up and close over and we were able to close that defect.
That’s the only example I can think of off the top of my head. I would love to try some on lick granulomas [sores caused by compulsive self-licking] or hygromas [swelling on or near a dogs elbow] that just never heal. I haven’t had anyone take me up on that yet but I think it’s a promising area.
NG: When do you tend to use the Assisi loop instead of animal acupuncture or other alternative therapies?
JY: I find a lot of animals either, number one, don’t tolerate needles very well, or, two, the owner has a hard time getting them in for a treatment as frequently as a I need them to. The Assisi loop is a good alternative for a lot of those patients.
Some animals just don’t handle the stress of acupuncture treatments. I’ve found in general that if the pet gets nice and relaxed and accepts the treatment, it tends to be more effective. But if they’re stressed and panting and struggling and associating the treatment with something painful or unpleasant, it’s not as effective. The stress response overrides the body’s positive response to the needles. So for those pets I offer a loop–of course, only if the owner is willing to do the treatments everyday for the amount of time that they need to.
And then we also have clients coming from a fair distance. They’re driving an hour or more to get here for rehab. For animal acupuncture to work best you need to come at least once a week and for some of them that’s really difficult. Oftentimes the loop is the best option in this situation. I’ve had good luck with that.
NG: When you see animals for acupuncture what are you usually treating them for?
JY: Because we have the rehab center here I see a lot of referrals–back surgeries, animals that are in pain or paraplegic, paraparetic or ataxic. In other words, patients who are just not bouncing back after surgery. They’re not walking, they’re uncomfortable, they’re incontinent. For most of those dogs acupuncture works great; but again, there are those few who just hate the needles or hate being here, and we have to try something else.
Through general practice I’ve used the loop on a lot of soft tissue pain. Many active dogs tend to strain their psoas (a deep set muscle used for running and jumping) or their hip flexors. I feel that oftentimes animal acupuncture falls short at dealing with generalized muscle strain discomfort. But probably 60-70% of the dogs I’ve used the loop on for that improve pretty significantly. And I’ve had a lot better luck treating elbow arthritis with the loop than acupuncture. That’s one case where I usually tell people, let’s try the loop first.
NG: When you talk to your clients about using pulsed electromagnetic therapy (PEMF), how do people respond? Do they ask if it’s magnetic therapy?
I get a variety of questions. Some clients just say, “OK, that sounds really weird.” My response is, “You know what, take a look at some literature and look it up online.” There’s quite a bit of information out there. I usually tell them people use the technology too, which can increase their confidence.
But I have had people ask, “Yeah, is it the same thing as wearing those magnets or having the magnet beds?” And then I’ve had some people say be really excited about trying it. So its a really wide range depending on the clientele’s experience, background and how they tend to approach these problems.
NG: Do you recommend Assisi to other vets?
Yes! It’s nice that it’s non invasive and it doesn’t hurt the animals at all. People can administer it at home, they don’t have to drive their pet here for it. And, actually, over the course of months is ends up being fairly inexpensive. It’s a lot less expensive than animal acupuncture as well if you plan on continuing with it long-term (laughs).