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What is Veterinary Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the treatment of conditions or symptoms by the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body to produce a response. The specific acupuncture points have been well charted for both humans and animals and were conceptualized by ancient Chinese scholars to be connected with each other and various internal organs via meridians or channels. This stimulation can help your pet feel better and return to their normal selves.

Modern medical practitioners have developed veterinary acupuncture as an adaptation of Chinese acupuncture to incorporate new methods that can assist in your pet’s healing. In this virtually painless process, sterile needles are inserted into body tissue where nerve bundles and blood vessels come together, improving blood circulation and releasing pain-relieving hormones.

What is the history of acupuncture in veterinary medicine?

Acupuncture has been used in human medicine for thousands of years, but it’s only recently become popular in veterinary medicine. The first animal-specific studies of acupuncture were conducted in 1972 on horses with colic pain and lameness. Since then, many studies have been done to determine its effectiveness in treating various conditions in dogs and cats. Veterinary acupuncture has been recognized as effective by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), who recognizes acupuncture as an “appropriate treatment” for many conditions.

Is my pet a good candidate for acupuncture?

Clinical research has been conducted showing positive results in the treatment of both animals and humans, and acupuncture is increasingly widespread. Many pets can benefit from acupuncture, as it can help treat a wide variety of disorders, including:

  • Neurologic and soft tissue pain
  • Arthritis
  • Allergies
  • Traumatic nerve injuries
  • Healing after surgery
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Musculoskeletal systemic problems
  • Skin conditions
  • Lick granulomas
  • Respiratory issues
  • General pain management
  • Intervertebral disk disease
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Epilepsy

Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals when administered by a properly trained veterinarian. Side effects of acupuncture are rare, but they do exist. An animal’s condition may seem worse for up to 48 hours after a treatment. Other animals may become lethargic or sleepy for 24 hours. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal’s condition.

Unlike many other treatment options, there is no risk of overdose or adverse reaction, and acupuncture can be used alongside most other traditional treatments. For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. Acupuncture should never be administered without a proper veterinary diagnosis, and an ongoing assessment of the patient’s condition and response to any prior treatment. This is critical as acupuncture is capable of masking pain or other clinical signs and may delay proper diagnosis once treatment has begun. Elimination of pain may lead to increased activity on the part of the animal, thus delaying healing or worsening the original condition.

In the hands of a knowledgeable veterinary acupuncturist, adverse reactions are rare but may occur. Such reactions may include:

  • Mild transient bruising or swelling at the needle insertion site.
  • A mild worsening of the condition for a short time (usually 24 to 48 hours).
  • Difficulty removing needles because of muscle spasms.
  • Injury to underlying tissue or organ.
  • Infection at the needle site.

Certified veterinary acupuncturists have the knowledge and skill to understand the interactions between different forms of treatment and to interpret the patient’s response to therapy. If your pet is receiving acupuncture treatment from a practitioner other than your regular veterinarian, it is imperative that both individuals are kept updated about the ongoing treatment to provide coordinated care. Treatment of animals with acupuncture by anyone other than a veterinarian trained or certified in its methods is not advisable. 

If you have any questions about veterinary acupuncture and your pet, don’t hesitate to call us at (651) 423-3565.