CAM blogs

CAM Meets: Shona Fernyhough

Shona Fernyhough BVM&S MRCVS MSc graduated as a veterinary surgeon from the Royal School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh in 2001. She worked in general mixed practice for 6 years during which time she developed a particular interest in pain management and wound healing in large and small animals.

In 2006 Shona undertook postgraduate training in veterinary acupuncture with the ABVA (Association of British Veterinary Acupuncturists).

In 2007 Shona left general practice to focus her time and clinical skills towards supporting patients, owners and veterinary colleagues in chronic pain management. She set up her own practice – Dovetree Veterinary Care – working with clinical pain assessment, acupuncture, home environment assessment visits, nutrition, stress and exercise management.

Shona values working alongside other professionals such as ACPAT(A) physiotherapists, animal massage therapists, behaviourists and enjoys working with geriatric patients and patients recovering from injury. She has a particular interest in the effects of acupuncture on the fascial system as well as assessing and monitoring chronic pain in dogs and cats. Shona offers a comprehensive, multi modal approach to pain and wound management and regularly makes visits to patients in the comfort of their own home.

Shona kindly took some time to answer some questions from us on managing canine arthritis.


What are your feelings on how we currently manage this common debilitating condition in dogs?

Pain is a very individual experience, both for our patients and their owners, and chronic pain is a disease process in itself. I feel that effective chronic pain management requires time, a multi-modal (and multi-practitioner) approach and as early detection and intervention as possible. Whilst improvements have been made over the past 10 years in terms of drug therapy options and acceptance of the benefits of treatments such as acupuncture and physiotherapy, I feel we still have much work to do around raising awareness, and exploring possibilities, that will lead to earlier and broader interventions tailored to individual patient and owner needs.


As a veterinarian what do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?

Owner empowerment is key. It is often a time of great adjustment when we realise that our animal companions have arthritis, are in pain and can no longer be as mobile as they once were. I can give many acupuncture treatments and make a number of recommendations (for example regarding nutrition, weight and exercise management and home environment adjustments), however their effectiveness is dependent on how empowered owners feel to fully participate in the management, and monitoring, of their dog’s condition. The importance of spending time talking with owners about their concerns and hopes, giving them knowledge, getting to know their individual circumstances, taking them seriously and helping them to adjust and focus on what can be done to help cannot be underestimated.


How do you see treatment options for arthritis progressing over the next ten years?

I am hopeful that as well as developing advanced treatment modalities we will also develop improved tools for the detection, scoring and monitoring of chronic pain in animals. This will help with early detection and intervention and also monitoring of the effectiveness of different treatment modalities. I also hope that we increasingly ‘get the basics right’ through recognising and implementing simple steps (such as body weight control and the provision of non-slip flooring at home) and working together as a network of professionals who can treat and advise within a common approach to canine arthritis management in order to afford the maximum benefit in terms of maintaining quality of life for dogs and their owners.


If you could had the opportunity to give one piece of advice to an owner with a dog suffering from arthritis what would it be?

Persevere. It often takes time to develop a chronic pain management plan that will fit your individual pet, particularly if the pain has been longstanding. It may seem in the beginning that your time and money are being invested with little progress being made. Take time to seek out a network of professionals who will work together to support you and your pet. Don’t try too many things at once.

There will be good days and bad days, and over time your dedication will be rewarded.


Shona Fernyhough BVM&S MRCVS Msc
Dovetree Veterinary Care