Atlas Rehabilitation for Canines

Atlas Rehabilitation for Canines is Santa Barbara's only free standing, full service animal rehabilitation facility led by certified professionals. In June of 2017, Karen Atlas, MPT, PT, CCRT, teamed up with Dr. Bill Otto, DVM, to open ARC and offer physical rehabilitation services to pets. ARC is fully equipped with the latest underwater treadmill, cold laser therapy (class 3b), therapeutic ultrasound, Alpha-Stimulation (CES and MET), pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF), electrical stimulation (NMES and TENS), as well as innovative land based exercise equipment.

Acupuncture with Dr. Hillary Conant


What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture can be defined as the insertion of tiny needles into the skin at specific points in order to facilitate healing, pain relief, and improve general health and well-being. It can be used alone or in conjunction with conventional therapy (known as integrative medicine) and it can significantly improve the outcomes following illness or injury. It is also commonly used for behavioral conditions and to boost the immune system in order to maintain good health.


Conditions that can benefit from acupuncture:

  • Pain due to arthritis, intervertebral disc disease, tendonitis and traumatic nerve injury

  • Immune-mediated problems including asthma, skin allergies and inflammatory bowel disease

  • Behavioral problems such as anxiety and sleep disorders

  • Nausea and lack of appetite due to medications or due to chronic diseases such as kidney failure or cancer

  • Urinary incontinence or inappropriate urination

  • Seizures


Acupuncture Services:

  • Dry needling: The insertion of very thin needles into specific points on the body. This is what most people think of as “acupuncture”.

  • Aquapuncture: The injection of small amounts of Vitamin B12 into specific acupuncture points. This technique is helpful when an animal will not tolerate an acupuncture needle in place for 15 minutes. The injection of fluid creates sustained pressure around the point and can result in a similar effect of dry needling. Vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin) has its own potential benefits as it is a substance used for metabolism by every cell in the body, especially within the nervous system and production of blood. Vitamin B12 is very safe with no known drug interactions.

  • Electroacupuncture: The process of attaching a low level electrical current to needles placed at acupuncture points. This technique is employed to increase stimulation of the points to have a stronger effect for more chronic or severe conditions or for a longer lasting effect. Electroacupuncture may not be appropriate in some pets if they have a history of cardiac arrhythmias or seizures.

  • Laser acupuncture: For animals that do not tolerate needles, a specialized cold laser can instead be used to stimulate the acupuncture points.


Is acupuncture painful?

Most of the time, animals barely seem to notice the tiny needles being inserted. They often relax and appear to enjoy the treatment sessions. Once in a while, we may find a sensitive point, and if the animal seems to be in any discomfort for more than a few seconds, the needle will be removed. Sometimes we find that dogs or cats just don’t want their paws touched, so the acupuncture points in these areas may or may not be an option to treat. The goal is for the treatment to be a pleasant experience for your pet and for your pet to be relaxed and calm enough for the needs to have the maximum effect.


Is acupuncture safe?

When acupuncture is performed by a trained veterinarian, there are very few side effects or possible complications. Due to the practice of using sterile, single-use needles, risk of infection is very low. There can be minor bruising or bleeding and rarely, acupuncture can make the condition worse before it becomes better. These are often the cases that eventually have the most dramatic improvement. One exception is cancer. Since acupuncture can increase local blood flow, there is the potential that a tumor could be stimulated to grow. That being said, many animals have concurrent conditions, along with a known tumor, such as arthritis pain or gastrointestinal issues, and these can often still be treated successfully. Additionally, many animals undergoing chemotherapy or radiation for cancer can benefit from acupuncture due to anti-nausea and pain-relieving effects. It is important to discuss any concerns and weigh the risk versus the benefit when using acupuncture in patients with cancer.


What is included in the initial consultation?

The initial consultation will take approximately one hour and will include a review of any pertinent prior medical records, a detailed discussion of your pets’ history, current concerns, and treatment goals as well as a physical assessment (from both a typical Western and TCM perspective) and the first acupuncture treatment.


What can I expect after the first treatment?

Animals, just like people, can have varying responses to acupuncture. Some will seem sleepy for the remainder of the day, while some will appear energized. Some will have an immediate improvement after just one treatment and some will require multiple treatments. There is a small percentage of animals that will show no improvement at all.

Follow-up treatments will take approximately 30 minutes. Depending on your pet’s response to the initial treatment, the same points and techniques may be used or we may try something different. It is recommended that you commit to 4 treatments in order to determine if further treatment will be beneficial.


What are Dr. Conant’s qualifications for treating my pet with acupuncture?

Dr. Conant received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Purdue University in 2007. She completed a year-long internship in advanced small animal medicine and surgery at the Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group (VMSG) in Ventura, CA. She has over ten years of experience as a veterinarian, practicing medicine and surgery in a high-quality AAHA-accredited veterinary hospital (Santa Barbara Veterinary Group). She has continued to pursue educational opportunities in all aspects of conventional small animal medicine and surgery. She began her training and practice of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2017 with the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS). IVAS has set the standard in veterinary acupuncture since 1974 and is the only organization to teach the material from both a TCM and Western scientific perspective. Dr. Conant completed her formal training in February 2018, successfully passed all written and practical exams and submission of case logs. She is currently awaiting final approval of her case report in order to attain full certification.