Pain, Neurobiology, Beauty and Big Cats: A Surprising Conversation on Veterinary Acupuncture

With Guest: Bonnie Wright

Episode Qi099

I started this episode thinking we would be talking about lions, tigers and bears. But we ended up with glial cells, learning and neuroplasticity. Just like in clinic there are often surprising things that show up, and so too it is podcast conversations.

In this conversation we start with veterinarian acupuncture. But then take a hard right and go deep into neuroscience, the treatment of pain, nervous system regulation and how medicine is beautiful. I loved our discussion as it ranged from the clinical ‘how-to’s” of working with animals, to the deep science of neurobiology, and all woven together with a sense of inquiry and appreciation for the beauty of nature and the practice of medicine.
In this conversation we discuss:
  • It started with anesthesiology
  • Cats like acupuncture, reptiles not so much
  • Communicating with non-verbal patients
  • Working with animals is a lot like playing with animals
  • Opioids can both reduce pain, but also set up for increased pain later
  • Glial cells and the learning process
  • The role of NMDA receptors
  • The imprint of pain is in the nervous system for your entire life, the question is if the body is up or down regulating that incident
  • Acupuncture can affect neuroplasticity
  • It’s ok for medicine to be beautiful
  • Acupuncture and the Vagus nerve
  • Medicine as a nudge
“Everything I know I have learned from my patients (and they don't speak)”
Bonnie Wright
Forever a believer in working hard to follow the suggestions that the universe places in front of me, I have a remarkably varied career.

Starting as a veterinarian, but hesitant to choose between the array of species, I specialized in anesthesia and pain management.

Lacking satisfactory answers for the chronic pain this brought into my path, I added acupuncture, and then various other forms of physical medicine.

Needing language to explain the benefits I see from these therapies to a bunch of scientifically trained anesthesiologists, I delved into the research and started learning a complex conversation.
So now I travel around the country and the world talking about physiology, pharmacology, and the pharmacological effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions.

And I still wanted to work on that vast array of species- so I do. Between dogs and cats, horses and zoo animals, they keep me honest, and humble.
Links and Resources

Bonnie teaches a course through the canine rehabilitation institute (but it is just for Veterinarians due to practice law in the US): 

Visit her website at 

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I’ve heard it said that for something to be heard — it takes someone to speak and another to listen.

Michael Max

Acupuncturist, Podcast Host
About me
I've always been more drawn to questions than answers. And the practice of medicine seems to more lively when infused with a sense of curiosity and inquiry. It's been delight and honor to be able to discuss our medicine with so many thoughtful and skilled practitioners.

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