What is veterinary acupuncture?
Veterinary acupuncture encourages healing. With roots in ancient China, its techniques have been developed and refined over thousands of years. Acupuncture enhances blood circulation, nervous system stimulation, and the release of anti-inflammatory and pain relieving hormones.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into body tissue where nerve bundles and blood vessels come together. The needles are inserted into specific points called acupoints, which connect the entire body.
Variations in acupuncture treatment
Besides the use of metal needles on acupoints, there are some variations in veterinary acupuncture treatment that the veterinarian may prescribe including:
- Aquapuncture: This involves injecting the acupoints with a solution of vitamin B12 and saline. The solution puts pressure on and thus stimulates the point for a longer period of time.
- Electroacupuncture: This involves connecting electrodes to the needles in different acupoints. A very gentle current is passed through the points.
- Laser Acupuncture: This involves the use of lasers rather than needles on acupoints.
- Moxibustion: This involves heating the acupuncture needles with a dried herbal incense. It stimulates blood flow and can be an excellent treatment for older arthritic dogs with sore and stiff joints and tight muscles.
How can it benefit my pet?
Acupuncture can be used to treat a variety of health conditions in pets. Depending on your pet’s health condition, acupuncture can be used in the following ways: as a primary therapy, in combination with other therapies, or as an alternative or back up therapy if others have not been effective.
You may want to consider veterinary acupuncture if your pet is suffering from any of the following problems:
- Inflammation and Pain: Veterinary acupuncture can be used to treat a variety of conditions, particularly those that involve inflammation and pain such as arthritis, degenerative joint disease, intervertebral disc disease, tendonitis, sprains and muscle spasms, and trauma recovery.
- Cancer: Cancer can promote tissue swelling or enlargement of organ systems leading to pain, nausea, decreased appetite, and lethargy, acupuncture can help alleviate these symptoms. More and more veterinarians are now incorporating acupuncture for dogs as a part of canine cancer treatment protocol, either to lessen the side effects of chemotherapy, boost the immune system and improve quality of life, or to actually inhibit the growth of the cancerous tumor itself.
- Metabolic Disease: There are a variety of metabolic diseases that acupuncture can help treat such as; kidney and liver failure, pancreatitis, feline hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, hypothyroidism, and diabetes mellitus.
- Neurological Problems: Acupuncture is effective in treating neurological problems as a result of epilepsy, stroke, deafness, coma, or paralysis from disc disease.
- Urinary Disorders: Incontinence, cystitis, urine retention.
- Gastrointestinal Problems: Colitis, chronic idiopathic diarrhea or vomiting, gastroenteritis, rectal prolapse.
- Respiratory Disorders: Sinusitis, rhinitis, asthma, chronic coughing, pneumonia.
- Systemic Inflammatory Conditions: Chronic skin inflammation, allergies, lick granulomas.
*Acupuncture is NOT appropriate for major acute diseases or emergencies (e.g. broken bones, overwhelming viral or bacterial infections).
What does veterinary acupuncture involve?
First Step – Physical Examination, Assessment and Treatment Plan
The first step before acupuncture treatment is a complete physical examination and evaluation with the treating veterinarian. This is an important step because each acupuncture treatment session, including the acupoints selected, the number and types of needles and the length of treatment are individualized for the patient and their needs.
What if my pet is taking medication or receiving other medical treatment?
In many cases acupuncture is prescribed in addition to other treatments or procedures. However, there are some medications that can reduce the effectiveness of acupuncture. Make sure to review with your veterinary acupuncturist all of the medications your pet is taking as a part of the initial examination and assessment.
How will my pet react to the actual procedure?
Most patients have a very pleasant experience with acupuncture treatment. They tend to become relaxed and comfortable and some actually fall asleep during treatment.
How long does it take?
The length of time for a treatment varies depending on the condition of the pet. Typically treatments can last between 10 and 30 minutes.
How often will my pet need treatment?
The amount of treatments required will vary with each patient depending on their condition and their response to treatment. Typically, patients receive treatment one to three times during the first week and then treatments are tapered off to a less frequent interval for maintenance. The goal is to achieve the greatest duration of time where a pet’s condition appears improved or has resolved.
Average therapy is typically 4 to 8 treatments over a period of 14 to 30 days. The veterinarian administering the acupuncture treatment will evaluate the pet to see how they are responding and may make adjustments to the prescribed number of treatments going forward based on the patient’s response.
What type of results can we expect?
Occasionally a positive response may be seen after only one treatment. Sometimes it can take up to eight treatments before results can be seen. Depending on the condition, acupuncture may not be able to reverse a patient’s condition; however it may be able to help arrest the disease process.
Sometimes recovery and visible improvement are not in concert. This means that the patient’s body is benefitting from the treatment but that it will still take some time to change the clinical signs. The effects of veterinary acupuncture treatment are cumulative, so consistent treatment is more beneficial than intermittent treatments.
What to Expect After Treatment
Depending on the treatment intensity, some pets can seem fatigued for a couple of days afterwards. Therefore, pets should be allowed to rest. Avoid heavy exercise or exciting stimulus such as bathing, or going out to new places.
Reaction to treatment
Patients can react to the treatment in a variety of ways. You may see some subtle or very obvious changes in your pet and these changes may occur for a varied period of time:
- Increased or decreased activity level for approximately 48 hours after treatment
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Changes in bowel or urinary habits
- More eager and willing to be active or social
- Changes in appearance
Very rarely a worsening of symptoms can be noticed. This usually lasts approximately 72 hours and then the patient shows improvement and often the improvement is marked.
These types of changes are not necessarily a concern and are likely a product of the healing process. However, it is critically important to stay in touch with your pet’s doctor regarding this as a part of managing your pet’s acupuncture treatment and medical care.
Veterinary Acupuncture at PVAH
With the addition of Dr. Lilin Chen at Point Vicente Animal Hospital we are excited that we are now able to offer Veterinary Acupuncture treatments for our patients. Dr. Chen was certified in Veterinary Acupuncture in 2013. She has a special interest in preventive medicine and integrating eastern medicine with western medicine. Please call our hospital for more information or to set up an appointment to meet with Dr. Chen to discuss how acupuncture can help your pet.