“It does not matter whether medicine be old or new, so long as it brings about a cure.
It matters not whether theories be eastern or western, so long as they prove to be true”
(Jen Hsou Lin, DVM, PhD)
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to manipulate energy forces (Qi - pronouced "chee") within the body. This technique has been used in veterinary practice in China for thousands of years to treat numerous ailments. Acupuncture can be used to treat specific symptoms while also working on the root of the disease.
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. Clinical research has shown positive results in the treatment of both animals and humans, and the use of acupuncture is increasing. Acupuncture will not cure every condition, but it can work very well when it is indicated.
What can acupuncture treat?
Acupuncture is indicated for a variety of veterinary conditions and issues, such as: musculoskeletal problems (including pain), neurological issues, gastrointestinal disorders, skin problems, behavioral issues, heart and lung conditions, kidney and liver disease, immune function and more.
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.
In Eastern or Traditional Chinese Medicine terms, acupuncture uses needles to manipulate energy forces (also known as Qi - pronounced "chee") within the body. In ancient Chinese medicine, it was believed that disease was the result of insufficient, unbalanced or obstructed Qi. The Chinese discovered that Qi travels through the body via channels (or meridians), and acupuncture points are specific locations where these channels are easily accessible near the skin.
Acupuncture was introduced to the Western world in the 1970s. In modern or Western medical terms, stimulation of acupuncture 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-associated brainstem regions. 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).
Is acupuncture painful?
Acupuncture needles are much thinner than traditional hypodermic needles. Some animals may feel a slight sensation as the sterile needle goes through the skin. Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy during treatment. Acupuncture may cause some sensation (such as tingles, cramps, or numbness which can occur in humans) which may be uncomfortable to some animals, especially during the first treatment.
In some cases, aquapuncture (injection of a small amount of sterile saline or vitamins into the acupuncture point) or laser acupuncture (direction of low-level laser beam energy on to the point) can be used instead of or in addition to traditional needles. Some of these therapies are better tolerated by different species, or when treating specific conditions.
How can my pet benefit from acupuncture?
Each animal will have an individual response to acupuncture, however in general, a simple acute problem (such as a sprain) will require less treatments than severe or chronic issues, which may need several treatments. Most animals are treated once a week for 3-5 weeks, but frequency may be changed depending on the condition.
Acupuncture needles stay in place for as little as a few seconds, or up to 20-30 minutes - depending on the animal's response and the condition being treated. Needles can also be stimulated with heat (moxabustion) or electrical stimulation (electrical acupuncture).
How safe is acupuncture for animals?
Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals when it is administered by a properly trained veterinarian. Acupuncture should never be administered without a proper veterinary medical diagnosis and an ongoing assessment of the patient’s condition by a licensed veterinarian.
Because it uses the body's natural healing mechanisms, acupuncture can be used alone or in combination with other therapies (such as medications, herbal formulas, or dietary changes). In order to properly assess an animal, the veterinary acupuncturist will ask for a thorough and in-depth history, including information about diet, medications, previous medical history, activity levels, behavioral patterns and more.