I was trained in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. While this is my background and training I embrace the fact that modern practitioners are seeking western scientific explanations for acupuncture’s use and effectiveness. I think we will all benefit (especially the animals) from more research and evidence into the why and how of animal acupuncture treatment.
What is Animal Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific areas – acupuncture points – on the body with very fine needles. There are at least 360 classical acupoints, and additional ones have been defined over the years. When acupuncture points are stimulated, the body reacts with a complex cellular and nervous system response that involves the brain, the spinal cord, and blood vessels. This initiates the release of neurotransmitters-endorphins, serotonin, and other chemicals– that are beneficial to the body’s normal function. Pain control, inflammation, and more delicate biochemical processes, can be affected depending upon which acupuncture points are stimulated and which neurotransmitters are released. Acupuncture is recognized by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) as an accepted and scientifically valid treatment modality. All species may benefit from acupuncture.
What conditions can be treated with acupuncture?
Acupuncture may be used to address immunological disorders, neurological complaints, (such as seizures or paralysis), as well as gastro-intestinal, dermatological, and emotional conditions…to name just a few. Many owners now choose to use acupuncture proactively in their pets, to optimize good health, and try to minimize problems associated with aging.
- Arthritis/joint problems
- Back pain
- Bladder/Kidney problems
- Disc disease
- Health maintenance
- Immune system deficiency
- Knee pain/neck pain/stiffness
- Pain relief
- Shoulder pain
- Side effects to chemotherapy
- Skin problems
- Sprains and strains
- Weight control
- Well-being in cancer patients
How does acupuncture work?
According to ancient Chinese medical philosophy, disease is the result of an imbalance of energy in the body. Acupuncture is believed to balance this energy and, thereby, assist the body to heal disease. In Western 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 to discover all of acupuncture’s effects and its proper uses in veterinary medicine.
Is acupuncture painful?
It is usually not painful to have acupuncture needles inserted in the skin, but a mild sensation may be felt. Animals tolerate treatments very well, and many fall asleep during 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. Acupuncture needles are very thin, sterile and of high quality. Side effects are rare but may include initial soreness, soft stool, runny nose or runny eyes.
How will my animal behave after an acupuncture treatment?
Most animals are tired after receiving acupuncture. They should be allowed to rest for 48 hours following an acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture stimulates many processes within your animal, so they will occasionally be more painful before they begin to improve. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are occurring, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal’s condition by the 3rd day after treatment.
How long is an acupuncture session?
Our first session will usually last approximately 1-1/1/2 hours. The medical history of your animal, and goals for treatment will be discussed. A complete physical and TCM exam will be performed. Acupuncture points will also be palpated along their meridians. The first acupuncture treatment will be given. Follow up treatments last approximately 20-30 minutes.
How many acupuncture treatments will my animal need?
A typical patient is treated weekly for 3-6 weeks and then placed on a less frequent maintenance program. Patients with severe disease may be treated more frequently initially. Overall, the frequency of acupuncture treatments depends on the animal, the disease being treated, and the response to treatment.
Price and Methods
The first home visit will include a thorough history of your pet, physical exam and evaluation from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective. We ask that you please provide us with your animal’s medical history (including x-rays, if applicable) prior to the first session, if possible. We will talk about your concern and expectations, and together we will develop a treatment plan based on your animal and your desires. Treatment is included in the first visit and may consist of acupuncture, aquapuncture, electro-acupuncture and/or low energy photon therapy. Initial visits usually take around 60-90 minutes. Cost $75.00
For follow-up visits I will repeat the exam and perform acupuncture as needed. Follow up visits take anywhere from 20-45 minutes. Cost $50.00
In addition to traditional acupuncture practiced solely with needles I use several other methods alone or in combination with acupuncture.
Aquapuncture is a form of acupuncture in which liquid (vitamin B 12) is injected into the acupuncture points. In addition to providing prolonged mechanical stimulus in the acupuncture point itself, aquapuncture with Vitamin B 12 delivers B vitamins that help the body deal with stress, can stimulate appetite, increase energy level and help nerve function. Aquapuncture also has the typical effects seen with acupuncture, such as reducing muscle spasms, increasing blood flow to a sore or stagnant area of the body, and provide relaxation and natural pain relief. It can be especially helpful in animals who may not be able to sit still with needles for a prolonged period of time.
Electro-acupuncture is similar to traditional acupuncture except that the needles are attached to a device that generates electricity – an electrical stimulation (E-stim) unit. The electrical stimulation enhances the effect of the acupuncture by providing increased stimulation to particular points. The passing of electrical energy through acupuncture points can produce a higher and more continuous level of stimulation than can be produced manually.
Light therapies are employed to treat a variety of ailments, from chronic wounds and scar tissue to pain reduction and various musculoskeletal and neural conditions. The light sources available today can, when applied at the right parameters, change biochemical reactions in the body. There are a huge variety of types of light and laser therapies. Low Energy Photon Therapy (LEPT) is one type of light therapy that uses LEDs (light emitting diodes) to accelerate healing through collagen synthesis, reduction of inflammation and improved blood flow. The circulatory and lymphatic systems are also stimulated into action. Use of light therapy provides a noninvasive alternative to needle acupuncture and is very useful for frightened or fractious animals and for some of the more difficult points, such as those around the eye.