If this is my first visit to your home, I will first want to take some time to get to know you and your pet and so I set the expection of 45 minutes to an hour. I will always have sought permission from your regular vet to treat your animal and so will have information about their medical history. However it is important to me to understand why you have sought out acupuncture, answer any concerns you may have, find out what your pet is like with strangers and how I can make you both feel at ease during treatment sessions. This is before I even place a hand on your animal!
I may also ask you to fill in an owner questionnaire about the effects your animal's pain has on their lifestyle (a chronic pain-scoring tool known as the Helsinki Chronic Pain Index (for dogs) or the Feline Musculoskeletal Pain Index (for cats). These are well-validated questionnaires which can help us focus on what your pet is struggling with the most and can give us a useful baseline to compare back to at the end of a course of treatment.
After spending some time asking these questions I will then spend time trying to gain your pet's trust - if you have some favourite treats handy for me to offer this will help :). Depending on the condition and your pet's temperament I will perform a basic physical examination such as your vet might do for a booster vaccination, along with a more thorough examination of the musculoskeletal or nervous system if appropriate.
Lastly, maybe only for the last ten minutes of the session, I will try to place a few needles in points on your pet that are unlikely to cause any pain or reaction, so that we can all assess how they tolerate it. I have rarely seen a pet bat an eyelid during this initial needling session!
How long will sessions last and how many does my pet need?
As outlined above I expect the introductory session to take up to an hour, but following sessions should be 20-30 minutes depending on your pet's temperament and condition we are treating.
It should be clear that I am only offering a home acupuncture service at the moment and so advice and treatment for other conditions should be sought from your regular vet - after all they will know your pet better than me!
We know that individual response rates to acupuncture vary and perhaps 20% of animals may not receive any benefit from it. However although some animals can seem to show an immediate improvement, we often need 3-4 sessions to know whether your animal is benefiting, particularly with a condition where the symptoms have been present for many months or even years. This is the reason why I encourage all clients to sign up for the discounted course of 4 weekly sessions before deciding whether to continue or not.
Following these 4 sessions we will chat together about whether your pet is making any improvements, and although I will offer my opinion the decision about whether to continue treatment for further sessions lies entirely with you. These can be booked flexibly and we may decide that fortnightly or even monthly sessions would be appropriate. Occasionally, especially with acute (short-lived) injuries for which a full recovery is seen, further treatment may not be deemed necessary at all.