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Introducing the Recover Programme

Updated: May 13

After talking about it a lot last year I am pleased to say the Recover Programme is now live! In this blog post I will be explaining what it involves who it might be suitable for.

In a previous post ( I covered the many aspects of chronic pain that I had picked up on during my time doing home visits. For many animals, as in people, living with a chronic pain condition can impact their lives in myriad ways, and sometimes it is only by spending time week after week in people’s homes that they come to light. 

The Recover Programme tries to target those areas that often are impossible to deal with in a normal veterinary appointment, particularly the emotional and social aspects of living with a chronic painful disease.

Jigsaw diagram detailing all the components of the chronic pain jigsaw in an individual dog, cat, rabbit, human

The 'jigsaw' of chronic pain

Acupuncture will always be a mainstay of my treatment offering, as it offers so many ways to treat the sensory components of a condition - that is, what a patient feels - by causing the release of endorphins and endocannabinoids (the body’s own chemical painkillers), relieving tight and sore muscular spasms and restrictions, and altering pain signalling pathways in nerves and spinal cord.  

There’s also good evidence it alters the emotional response to pain, helping to lift the mood in those who feel anxious or depressed as a result of their condition, and in turn reducing the level of pain experienced.

However, alongside acupuncture the Recover programme offers additional aspects of support for a pet and their main carer(s):

Home environment assessment

How often have I seen an arthritic pet totter over a smooth floor with claws trying to grip on for dear life? Or an animal with spinal disease wobble around a corner as they run to greet me at the door? Such things often don’t appear obvious when you’ve been living in your home together for many years, but taking a look through your pet’s eyes and with a fresh perspective, sometimes simple adaptations can be made that make a big difference to how a pet feels about getting around, going outside to toilet or making their way from their bed to the water bowl.

“He chooses to step on the carpet runner and will take a detour if it’s not in the right place”

Medication review

Many pets who come to me for acupuncture treatment are already on pain relieving medications. This is absolutely appropriate if we recognise they are in pain. However, sometimes the prescription the animal was given at the onset of their disease is no longer serving them well. Sometimes side effects or new conditions develop which mean that we need to take a fresh look at what the animal is being given. Small adjustments in dose and frequency, and importantly, monitoring the effect these changes have then adjusting again, can make a big difference to a pet’s quality of life.

“It’s been a game-changer giving that extra dose at bedtime; we’re all getting a better night’s sleep”

Complementary therapy review

Sometimes, adding in therapies such as hydrotherapy, clinical massage or physiotherapy can make a big difference to a pet’s mobility, comfort levels and quality of life. However this is an area not well regulated and choosing incorrectly might be at best a waste of money, at worst cause a further deterioration in a pet’s condition.  I will be there to offer guidance on what might be beneficial and how to choose the right practitioner safely.

“Using clinical massage alongside acupuncture has made a massive difference”

Nutritional review

It seems obvious, but the quality of a pet’s diet can make a massive difference to their health. Not only do they need to be getting the right nutrients in the right quantities, but sometimes multiple health conditions need a very tailored approach. There is also increasing evidence of the importance of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome in supporting disease states such as chronic pain and other inflammatory conditions. 

It can be notoriously hard to help an inactive pet lose weight, but there might be other factors such as allergies or food sensitivities, and some owners have preferences for feeding, for example, raw or dried food. There is also a mind-boggling selection of supplements on the market, many with extravagant claims of health benefits that can’t always be verified. I can help a pet owner navigate their pet’s nutritional needs with the help of scientific evidence to ensure they are not wasting their money on things that won’t benefit their pet.

Quality of life assessment

Sometimes, pet caregivers can struggle on with the status quo without knowing whether it is the right thing to do: is my pet living a good life? Am I keeping them going against their best interests just because I can’t bear to make a difficult decision? 

It can be so difficult when their pet seems to have good and bad days, sometimes plodding along on a walk with little interest, another time surprising them by picking up a toy and staring at them with an expectant tail wag.

Using tools which have been validated (that is, independently assessed as useful in a variety of settings) I can help guide an owner; sometimes reassuring them that their pet still does have a good quality of life, sometimes helping them or their family members see what is lacking in their pet’s life in terms of wellbeing, rather than just survival.

We all have different ideas about when the “right time” is, to let our pets go, and so this decision is always going to be very personal and tuned to the pet and family circumstances, but as a vet my duty is to help guide the caregiver to the right decision for their pet’s wellbeing. 

"It's so good being able to talk about this stuff with you as my spouse isn't ready for the conversation"

Caregiver support

Caring for a pet with a long term painful condition can impact people in many ways - often, it takes over their life.  Arranging day trips around medication timings or toileting needs, cleaning up accidents, the physical strain of helping larger pets get up and around, the financial outlay for mobility support aids, special supplements and ongoing medical care, can all add up to a considerable burden. I use a questionnaire validated for use in human caregiver settings to highlight any areas that a pet owner may be struggling with and the fact that I have an hour for each appointment means I can have the time to listen and signpost where extra support may be beneficial.

“It’s been a rough night. I’ve slept on the sofa with him for four years now, since he could no longer get up the stairs. He often needs the toilet in the night and I have to help him up”

Who is the Recover Programme for?

This programme would be suitable for any pet who's pain condition is impacting their quality of life, any pet with multiple conditions, on multiple medications or for pet owners who wish to ensure that all aspects of a pet's pain management are being dealt with, with or without medications. I'd also highly recommend it for pet owners who are feeling overwhelmed by providing for their pet's needs, or who feel confused about making the best choices for their pet.

As this is a new programme and I am conscious it may need modifying with the help of client feedback and experience, I am offering it at a discounted rate for the first ten clients who choose to sign up. I am hoping to offer an all around support package that not only provides a better quality of life to my pet patients but also empowers their carers to feel positive about their contribution and make changes that will help everyone feel better about their current situation. And, when things deteriorate, as they usually do with a chronic disease, I will be there to help them with the next stage in their journey.

For more details on the Recover Programme, click on Chronic Pain Management Programme under the 'More Info' tab on my website.

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