What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a medical therapy that utilizes needles to target specific points and meridians that are closely associated with nerves and vessels.  This form of medicine has been used for thousands of years and was one of the earliest forms of anesthesia.  Acupuncture has been scientifically proven to treat pain associated with arthritis and musculoskeletal injury.  In addition, Acupuncture is a helpful adjunct to many western therapies.  Acupuncture will not cure every condition, but it can work very well when it is indicated.

What does Acupuncture Treat?

Acupuncture is effective for a variety of conditions involving musculoskeletal injury, chronic pain, paralysis, inflammation, and allergies.  The following are examples of conditions where acupuncture may be indicated.

  • Neurodegenerative disease

  • Hip dysplasia

  • Feline Asthma.                                                                       

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Post-surgical pain management

  • Athletic Injuries

  • Anxiety

  • GI upset including anorexia, vomiting , or diarrhea

  • Urinary or fecal Incontinence

  • Chronic Kidney disease

Regular acupuncture treatments can help sustain the longevity of athletic pets.  If your Pet is involved in intense sport or agility competition, or even if you simply like to take your Pet with you on your hikes, hunts, or weekend warrior adventures acupuncture can help keep your Pet in top condition.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Although acupuncture has its roots in ancient times before modern scientific methods were available with which to study it, many important studies have been done to indicate how acupuncture works and what physiologic mechanisms are involved in its actions. Using functional MRI (fMRI), to examine 15 different points, the basic tenets of acupuncture have been proven. Those are that acupuncture is based upon the point selected, the method of stimulation, and the duration of stimulation. Stimulation of these points result in specific changes in the central nervous system. It was shown that acupuncture points that have pain relieving properties associated with them tend to activate specific pain-association brainstem regions. The National Institute of Health developed a consensus statement about acupuncture and its efficacy. NIH said that there was compelling evidence that acupuncture was useful in the management of osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal pain.

In western medical terms, acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain physiological changes. For example, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm, and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid). Although many of acupuncture’s physiological effects have been studied, many more are still unknown. Further research must be conducted to discover all of acupuncture’s effects and its proper uses in veterinary medicine.

Is Acupuncture Painful?

The insertion of small needles into the skin and muscles is typically not even noticed by small animals.  Occasionally insertion of the needle can cause a very short uncomfortable sensation, but once the needle is in place your Pet should no longer feel pain.  Most animals will become relaxed and even sleep during the treatment.  Areas of chronic pain are more likely to result in feelings of heat, tingling, cramping which are short lived and will likely feel much better after treatment.

Is Acupuncture Safe for Animals?

Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals when it is administered by a properly trained veterinarian. Side effects of acupuncture are rare, but they do exist. An animal’s condition may seem worse for up to 48 hours after a treatment. Other animals become lethargic or sleepy for 24 hours. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal’s condition.

How Long Will My Pet Need Acupuncture?

While most pets see significant improvement with treatment, it is dependent on the condition being treated, the number of treatments, and the frequency of treatments.  Most chronic conditions require weekly treatments for one to two months, then taper off to an as needed therapy.  Acute conditions may require multiple treatments a week for a short period of time, then may be discontinued all together.  In addition to acupuncture, electrical stimulation may be used, as well as medication and massage.  

Is Acupuncture Safe?

The American Veterinary Medical Association considers veterinary acupuncture a valid modality within the practice of veterinary medicine and surgery.  A licensed Veterinarian who is also formally trained in acupuncture will be able to assess all aspects of your Pets needs.  Many symptoms, including pain, can be alleviated by acupuncture so it is important that a comprehensive approach be taken which may include blood work and radiographs.  Reduced pain can lead to increased energy and quality of life, but it can also lead to a delayed diagnosis if not overseen by a trained professional. Acupuncture should never be administered without a proper veterinary medical diagnosis and an ongoing assessment of the patient’s condition by a licensed veterinarian.   A veterinarian is in the best position to properly diagnose an animal’s health problem and then to determine whether the animal is likely to benefit from an acupuncture treatment, or whether its problem requires chemical, surgical, or no intervention.