A “New” Old Medical Treatment

Do you remember hearing about those creatures called Leeches? Well, they’re making a comeback in the world of medicine. And they’ve been proven more effective and safer than some modern therapies for vascular problems, wound care, arthritis and inflammation.

Medicinal leeching was used in ancient times and even up to the 19th century to treat many ailments. By the 20th century, so many new therapies appeared and leeching was looked upon as something out of the dark ages and its use seemed to disappear.

Presently, in Germany and the United States, leeching has cropped up again and is an emerging treatment in human and veterinary medicine.

An Israeli veterinarian, Dr. Sagiv Ben-Yakir, when at the Wingate Academic College in Israel, has extensive clinical experience with leeching.

Dr. Ben-Yakir noted that in treating animal illnesses, the success rate in many instances was poor. In their research, Dr. Ben-Yakir and his group found that many diseases were blood related. Since leeches were used for centuries in blood conditions, it was decided to try leeching.

Clinical trials on equine laminitis and feline thromboembolism, both blood-borne diseases, proved to work as successful treatment rates rose to nearly double.

While there are over 700 known species of leeches, the one commonly used for medical purposes is 8 inches long, brownish/greenish in color with red body stripes and named Hirudo Medicinalis.


Leeches have suckers on one end of their bodies with which to attach themselves to things. The small sucker on the tri-part jaw is used for feeding and leaves a star or y-shaped mark.

There is an anesthetic in the saliva of leeches so pain is minimal. The leeches’ saliva also releases an anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic into the area. In addition, blood circulation is stimulated along with analgesic and vasodilator affects. Leeches suck mainly venous blood. Scientists believe that there are other beneficial substances in a leeche’s saliva which they haven’t been able to duplicate.

Leech therapy is currently used to treat arthritis, wounds, inflammation, also hip dysplasia, invertabral disc disease, lick granulomas and many vascular and blood-borne problems.

Side effects can be an allergic reaction, cardiovascular symptoms, infection, scarring.

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Leeches should be left to fall off by themselves. One or two teaspoons of blood will continue to drain after a leech falls off. Animals can move around under supervision during treatment, but should not lie down on the area being treated. After treatment, a LOOSE bandage may be applied to avoid dripping blood.

If you have a pet that has not responded to other therapies for listed ailments, you might want to consider leech therapy. If you choose leeching, make sure the veterinarian is a trained professional in its use.

On a personal note: One of the vets whose services my daughter and I use is trained in leech therapy. If the occasion ever arises, I would not hesitate to use leeching.

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