WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is a medical art developed over 2,000 years ago. The acupuncturist places needles at specific sites on the body called acupuncture points, and may also incorporate hands-on techniques to facilitate the healing process.
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body over its surface. These channels (or meridians) course like blood vessels and lymph vessels, flowing through the body, irrigating tissues with nourishing life force. Any obstruction in the flow of these channels acts like a dam that backs-up flow in one part of the body and depletes it in others. The modern scientific explanation of acupuncture is that by placing needles in precise points on the body, one can influence the nervous system to release neurotransmitters and hormones that will help the body regain optimal function. These improvements, produced with the help of acupuncture, stimulate self-healing and promote harmony in the body and mind. See more info about how acupuncture can be beneficial for your dog.
WHAT CAN ACUPUNCTURE TREAT?
The World Health Organization recognizes that acupuncture is helpful in a broad range of medical conditions in humans; similar successes have been found with animals. Examples of health problems treatable with acupuncture include digestive disorders, respiratory ailments, musculoskeletal conditions, neurologic problems, immune systems disorders, and many others. The same applies when doing acupuncture for dogs.
HOW MANY ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENTS WILL MY DOG NEED?
How often we need to do acupuncture on your dog, and how long we need to continue with treatments, is entirely dependent on the condition itself. Acute conditions, like a muscle strain or upset stomach, may only required 1 to 3 treatments. Chronic conditions often require weekly or biweekly acupuncture treatments on your dog for several months. Chronic, more permanent conditions like arthritis require ongoing care.
Once Weekly For 4 Weeks: Most clients seek acupuncture for their dogs for chronic conditions, so I ask clients to plan on at least 4 weekly treatments and then we will reassess our progress. It is not uncommon to see little to no change in the first 2 or even 3 treatments. If we are not seeing change in 4 weeks, then we decide together if another modality is more appropriate for your pet. Not every person responds to acupuncture and the same is true for pets.
Reduce to Best Interval: My goal is always to “put myself out of business.” As soon as I can, I reduce the frequency of treatment and then try to continue to decrease to the longest span between treatments that keeps the pet comfortable or continues the healing process. Most arthritis patients get to every 3-4 weeks between treatments and most chronic metabolic animals (liver, kidneys) need every 4-6 weeks once they are controlled. Every dog is different and often there is more than one problem to address.
End Point: In specific conditions with specific goals, our stopping point is usually clear. For example a dog who has acupuncture after knee surgery usually only needs treatment for the first 2-4 months after surgery. Once he is moving comfortably again, then acupuncture is likely no longer needed. In more chronic conditions, treatment is ongoing at the interval that keeps the pet comfortable and helps the reduce side effects of medications.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF DOG ACUPUNCTURE?
There are rarely adverse effects to dog acupuncture treatments. Occasionally, symptoms may worsen for a day or two, as the energy in the body is being redirected and internal healing begins. You may notice a small bruise at needle locations, although with animals, you are unlikely to see anything. Although there are no reports in contemporary veterinary literature of injury or infection in animals resulting from acupuncture, in rare instances it’s possible that puncture of an organ or vessel could take place.
WILL MY ANIMAL FEEL PAIN?
Veterinary patients seem to feel the needles being stimulated when initially placed, but few mind the needles once they are in place. Acupuncture needles are disposable, thin, and designed to penetrate the skin quickly and easily. Most animals appear relaxed and at ease during treatment and after acupuncture.
A TYPICAL DOG ACUPUNCTURE VISIT
Appointments last 30 minutes:
- You and your dog get comfortable in the room. Dr. Mandi designed and build large benches for her exam rooms so that you and your dog can sit comfortably together during treatment. Some dogs prefer the floor and that’s OK too! Some pets like our big mat on the floor and still others want the big blanket on the bench. Many times Dr. Mandi will treat small dogs and cats on your lap. We make notes of your pet’s preferences so their comfort zone is repeated on each visit.
- Dr. Mandi will review your pet’s history. If it is your first visit, we will complete a full physical exam before treatment. If we are following up from previous treatments, we will discuss your pet’s response to treatment and if there are new issues to address.
- Needles are placed. Acupuncture needles are much smaller than a needle used for injection. Many times dogs don’t even notice their application. If there is a sensitive point, generally there is an initial pinch and then it dissipates. Dr. Mandi removes any needle that is uncomfortable (which doesn’t happen often).
- You and your pet relax together for about 10 minutes. Your dog will not lay on needles in a dangerous way, they know to stay comfortable. Depending on your pet’s condition the needles may be treated with a warming herb, or we may apply electrical stimulation. Most dogs relax very deeply with acupuncture, getting heavy eyelids, giving us big comfy sighs and even going to sleep.
- Dr. Mandi removes the needles and discusses further treatment with you. Additional therapeutic modalities can be added also such as laser, physiotherapy and/or underwater treadmill therapy.
Conditions Treated with Acupuncture for Pets
When most people think of acupuncture for dogs & cats, they think of pain control — and for most dog patients that is what we do. However, acupuncture can be used to address other neuromuscular disorders such as paralysis, immunological disorders, neurological disorders (such as seizures), as well as gastro-intestinal and metabolic conditions, just to name just a few. Acupuncture is a wonderful complement to Western therapies for dogs & cats, and a viable alternative when conventional medicine has not worked or has caused undesirable side effects. Many pet owners choose to use acupuncture proactively in their pets to optimize good health, and to help minimize problems associated with aging.
Conditions Commonly Treated with Acupuncture for Pets
- Arthritis/joint problems
- Back pain
- Bladder/Kidney problems
- Disc disease
- Health maintenance
- Hormone deficiencies (Cushings, Addisons)
- Immune system deficiency
- Knee pain/neck pain/stiffness
- Pain relief
- Shoulder pain
- Side effects to chemotherapy
- Skin problems
- Sprains and strains
- Surgery rehabilitation
- Weight control
- Well-being in cancer patients
Author: Mandi Blackwelder, DVM, CCRP