Using Heat and Photography to Localize Pain
Updated: Jun 30
Beth Innis, DVM
Our practice is alternative in many ways. At Sleepy Dog, we practice alternative medicine for small animals. We use acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic, herbal medicine, massage, physical rehabilitation, Reiki, and traditional Chinese veterinary medical nutrition to treat our patients. The majority of our patients come to us with a chronic challenge, something such as arthritis, cancer, kidney disease, allergies, gastrointestinal complaints and more. We use conventional diagnostics like blood work and radiographs to determine the root causes of our patients’ woes. We then use a combination of conventional and alternative medicine to reduce pain, inflammation and improve the body’s function and quality of life. Our patients are often in their golden years and have more than one challenge that they are facing, so we need to prioritize which area to start with and create a stepwise plan.
We became interested in thermography when one of our patients had it performed to evaluate a biceps tendon injury at one of their other providers of care. It was fascinating to see how much it could reveal, without sedation, without much time taken. This patient was a highly active Border Collie whose mental acuity was beginning to surpass her body’s ability to recover quickly. The thermography proved a great diagnostic tool, helping to pin point which soft tissue group was inflamed, which led to more targeted physical rehabilitation, cold laser and on our side, acupuncture and chiropractic treatment. When used as follow up, it was able to show improvement from treatment over the course of time.
Incorporating it into our practice, it has been useful in surprising ways. As our patients often have multiple areas of concern (multiple spinal lesions, multiple arthritic joints) we see them compensate, over time, in a multitude of ways. A patient with a chronic right knee problem may show us in their thermography a great amount of inflammation in their left lumbar spine, as they try to off load that joint. This information may lead us to treat the lumbar spine with just as much intention as the stifle, and circle back on its healing to ensure its coming along as we’d like. A patient with a forelimb lameness, which leads us to question if the cause is rooted in their neck, their forelimb soft tissue or their forelimb bone and joints. Thermography can lead us in a more efficient search with radiographs, saving the patient time under sedation and potentially multiple trips to the clinic. It is also incredibly helpful in painting a picture for our clients of WHY that pet is reluctant to use that leg, or comes up lame on it. There is pain in that area. We can use to it help show the area of inflammation and pain, get a more exact diagnosis and fine tune our treatment to ensure better results.
Example of thermographic image. The coolest areas are black, the warmest are white and the spectrum shows all between. In this picture, I am evaluating Andrew's spine for inflammation, and in this case things are looking pretty healthy!