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Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used in animals for over 4,000 years, and on humans even longer. It is still a main treatment choice for people in many cultures today. It is now being used as a treatment method in veterinary medicine in conjunction with conventional Western medicine treatment methods. Acupuncture can be a helpful addition to your pets overall health and wellbeing.

Dog with acupuncture
Dog with acupuncture

What is Veterinary Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points on the body that have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiologic conditions to achieve the desired effect. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, health is defined as the balance in an individual’s body, as well as balance between the body and mind. In addition, the TCM definition of disease is an imbalance of energy (Qi) in the body. Acupuncture treatments are based on balancing this energy to correct the imbalances in Qi flow and healing the pet (basically acupuncture helps the body heal and balance itself).

How can veterinary acupuncture help my pet?

In Western medicine, acupuncture is often used to bridge gaps in conventional treatment methods; when patients are not responding to conventional treatments as desired, medications are contraindicated due to side effects or surgery is not feasible. In Eastern medicine, it is used as a primary treatment, even before more conventional treatment options are used.

In veterinary medicine acupuncture is most commonly used for: musculoskeletal problems (arthritis, back or joint pain, disc disease, performance problems), neurologic disease (disc disease, laryngeal paralysis, nerve paralysis and dysfunction), skin problems and allergies, reproductive disorders, respiratory problems, quality of life and hospice care, and internal medicine issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, heart, liver and kidney disease, etc.

Studies have proven acupuncture have a number of physiological effects including: pain relief and anti-inflammatory, promotion of tissue healing, regulation of gastrointestinal motility, immunoregulation, hormone and reproductive regulation, antifebrile effects.

Is it safe?

YES! Acupuncture is one of the safest treatment modalities available today.

If veterinary acupuncture is practiced by a veterinarian with extensive training in the theory and techniques of veterinary acupuncture it is very safe and side effects are rare.

How often and for how long will treatments be needed?

Length of individual treatments varies depending on the condition being treated and the specific techniques used during the session. Treatments generally last 20-45 minutes.

Treatments can be as frequent as 1 to 3 times a week depending on the specific condition being treated. Most commonly treatments are needed once weekly for 4 to 6 weeks initially.

After this initial treatment period, time between treatments are extended based on the individual patient’s response to treatment and is needed to maintain the patient’s condition. After the initial treatment period, most pets are maintained on treatments every 2 to 6 months, with some patient no longer needing treatment once their condition has resolved.

Specific acupuncture techniques that may be used include dry needling, electroacupuncture (electrical stimulation), aquapuncture (injecting a solution), hemoacupuncture (bleeding acupuncture points).

What are the possible side effects?

The main disadvantage of acupuncture (for animals or humans) is the misunderstanding of what to expect from its use: believing it can be used as a treatment option for all illnesses, it will miraculously cure any condition, it can replace all conventional/Western treatments, or that only one or two treatments are needed when several are usually necessary to achieve or maintain the desired results.

How does acupuncture cause beneficial effects?

Based on recent studies in human and veterinary medicine, acupuncture has a number of effects all major organ and physiological systems.

In acupuncture thin needles are used to stimulate points that have large number of nerve endings, capillaries, mast cells. Stimulation of these points causes many effects including: pain relief by release of endorphins, relieves muscle spasms, stimulation of nerves and the immune system, etc. Acupuncture also causes areas of micotrauma, with increases the flow of energy, blood, oxygen, and nutrients assisting in the healing process.

What should I expect at my pet's acupuncture appointment?

Similar to any appointment, a through examination is performed and previous bloodwork, x-rays, and treatments are reviewed. A treatment plan is constructed. The first appointment takes about an hour and includes the first treatment. From there we schedule treatment sessions (typically weekly, lasting about 30 minutes). The treatment involves placing fine needles into specific points which will help to achieve increased health and wellbeing or resolve the clinical signs of the disease. Chinese herbs may also be prescribed.