The concept of “integrative/alternative medicine” has gained a lot of popularity and medical merit in human medicine over the past few decades; however, many are unaware that it is also a possibility for our canine and feline counterparts. The comprehensive approach of using medical practices of both Eastern and Western veterinary medicine in harmony with one another allows for the most optimal and inclusive treatment plan for our veterinary patients.
SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS ACUPUNCTURE?
The simple answer is that acupuncture is the process of inserting multiple small needles into various pre-determined “points” on the body. The practice of acupuncture has been used for humans and large farm animals (cows, pigs, and horses) for well over 2,000 years. Within the last 60 years, veterinarians have had immense success providing acupuncture treatments to household pets, and as a result, the treatment has exploded in popularity.
In general, the Chinese theory of acupuncture is based around the presence of energy flow patterns all throughout the body. Disruptions of this flow of energy can cause health imbalances and diseases. Acupuncture involves the strategic selection of points along the body which are stimulated by fine needle penetration of the skin and/ or by electrical stimulation or fluid injection. Insertion of a needle into an acupuncture point stimulates the nearby vessels, nerves, and/or lymphatics for a pre-determined time to generate its effects.
The body is made up of a complex network of interconnecting nerve fibers, so placing an acupuncture needle into any particular location not only treats that specific location but also allows the effects to stretch beyond the point of insertion and throughout the body system as a whole. Biologically, the activation of these acupuncture sites also releases endorphins, anti-inflammatory mediators, and hormones- all of which can assist with recovery and healing.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM AN ACUPUNCTURE VISIT?
The actual acupuncture treatments can range from 10-20 minutes; however, the exact amount of time is both unique to the patient and depends on the condition being treated. The number of treatments required depends entirely on the condition we are treating your pet for, as well as your pet’s response to the treatment itself. For acute diseases, one or two sessions may be necessary; For chronic diseases, patients may require lifelong treatment once a week- once a month. For chronic conditions, we usually recommend 3-5 treatments a week apart to start, with treatment further spaced apart as your pet improves.
IS ACUPUNCTURE A GOOD OPTION FOR MY PET?
Acupuncture can be used for a variety of reasons. However, we use it most commonly to treat arthritis, intervertebral disc disease, and seizures, to assist recovery from surgeries, and to treat many chronic/ refractory conditions. We can do acupuncture on cats, dogs, and even exotic species such as bunnies. Most pets tolerate acupuncture needles very well- some find it so relaxing they even fall asleep during their treatments. If you think your pet may benefit from acupuncture treatments, give us a call. Written by: Dr. Kimberly Couch