The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies Bicentenary

Acupuncture helps treat arthritis in South American mammal

Coatimundi responds well to pioneering treatment from Dick Vet team.

coatimundi with acupuncture needles on her spine

A veterinary team from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies Hospital for Small Animals have successfully used acupuncture to help alleviate arthritic pain in an elderly wild animal at Fife Zoo.

Ebony, a 12-year-old ring tailed coatimundi, has been receiving regular acupuncture sessions and her keepers have reported a significant improvement in her mobility, mood and appetite as a result.

Age-related arthritis

The Dick Vet veterinary team diagnosed Ebony with age related arthritis last year after keepers noticed that she was lame and reluctant to move.

The elderly South American mammal was also showing less interest in her food. The veterinary team prescribed medication to help treat her condition but also suggested that a series of acupuncture sessions might help with pain relief.

Ebony’s acupuncture sessions were delivered by Dick Vet exotics vet nurse Monika Nawrocka, who is qualified to perform acupuncture as a Section 3 procedure, under the RCVS guidelines.

Keepers reported a marked improvement in Ebony’s behaviour following the acupuncture sessions. Ebony’s mobility has increased and she is now moving freely, running and jumping and reaching up on her hind legs to look for food. 

Veterinary acupuncture

vet nurse siting next to coatimundi
Dick Vet Exotics Nurse Monika Nawrocka treated Ebony with acupuncture

Research has shown that acupuncture can be very effective at helping to alleviate pain in a variety of different animals. In Western veterinary acupuncture, the animal’s body is palpated to identify suitable ‘trigger’ points to place the needles. The application of the needles then stimulate the animal’s nervous system into releasing natural pain relieving chemicals.

Dick Vet clinician Maaike Boswinkel and exotics vet nurse Ms Nawrocka are both trained in veterinary acupuncture. They have performed this technique on a number of different patients of the Dick Vet General Practice and Hospital for Small Animals, including cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs, with positive results.

Exotic animal expertise

The Dick Vet Rabbit and Exotic Practice within the Dick Vet Hospital for Small Animals has been the designated veterinary care provider for Fife Zoo for several years. The team provides medical and surgical veterinary care for small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates and have particular expertise working with wild animals.

People think that exotic animals don’t experience pain because they are largely non-verbal and their behaviour can be unique. However, by studying their behaviour you can identify if they are in pain and discomfort and acupuncture has been shown to be beneficial to them also.

Monika NawrockaDick Vet Exotics Veterinary Nurse


We noticed Ebony beginning to slow down due to her arthritis last year. As part of her ongoing treatment the vet team suggested a course of acupuncture which she has responded incredibly to. We’ve worked closely with the Dick Vet’s exotics practice since 2016. They have provided ongoing health care support for all the species at the zoo from armadillos to zebras, including Preventive Medicine Plans, vaccinations, routine screening and animal import health checks. Members of the Practice also sit on our Ethics Committee and support inspections at the zoo.

Michael KnightDirector of Fife Zoo


About the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than 800 staff and almost 1400 students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos.

The School comprises:

The Roslin Institute

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

The Roslin Innovation Centre

The Hospital for Small Animals

Equine Veterinary Services

Farm Animal Services

Easter Bush Pathology

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education

We represent the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.