WHAT IS VETERINARY ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture, in its simplest sense, is the treatment of conditions or symptoms by the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body in order to produce a healing response. Each acupuncture point has specific actions when stimulated. This technique has been used in veterinary practices in China for thousands of years to treat many ailments a well as preventative medicine. Acupuncture is used all around the world, either alone or in conjunction with Western medicine, to treat a wide variety of conditions in every species of animal.
FOR WHICH CONDITIONS IS ACUPUNCTURE INDICATED?
Acupuncture is indicated for functional problems such as those that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain. For small animals, the following are some general conditions which may be treated with acupuncture:
⦁ Musculoskeletal/Neurologic problems such as arthritis, intervertebral disk disease, or nerve injuries
⦁ Respiratory problems such as feline asthma
⦁ Skin problems such as lick granulomas and allergic dermatitis.
⦁ Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, vomiting or IBD
⦁ Internal diseases such as kidney disease, liver disease and IMHA
In addition, regular acupuncture treatment can treat minor sports injuries as they occur and help to keep muscles and tendons resistant to injury. If your animals are involved in any athletic endeavor, such as racing, jumping, or showing, acupuncture can help them keep in top physical condition.
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 are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal’s 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), it has 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 that said there was compelling evidence that acupuncture was useful in the management of osteoarthritis and 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 ACUPUCTURE PAINFUL?
For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless and once the needles are in place, there should be no pain. Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy. Nevertheless, acupuncture treatments may cause some sensation, presumed to be those such as tingles, cramps, or numbness which can occur in humans and which may be uncomfortable to some animals.
HOW CAN MY PET BENEFIT FROM ACUPUNCTURE?
The success of the treatment will vary according to the condition being treated and the number and frequency of acupuncture treatments. The length and frequency of the treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the method of stimulation (dry needle, electroacupuncture, aquapuncture, etc.) that is used. A simple acute problem, such as a sprain, may require only one treatment, whereas more severe or chronic ailments may need several treatments.
In general, acupuncture can be effectively combined with most conventional and alternative therapies to help with your pet’s quality of life and longevity. Dr. Sara Thompson is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, through the Chi Institute and IVAS, and has had the comprehensive training, knowledge, and skill to treat your pet’ specific needs and responses to therapy. Please feel free to schedule your consultation with Dr. Thompson today so we can discuss your pet’s treatment options and address any further questions or concerns you may have.