Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles into specific skin points on the body and it has the ability to alter various physiological body functions. Along with herbal medicine, it is probably one of the oldest forms of human and veterinary medicine in the world. Although pets have only recently been treated with acupuncture in the West, in China, horses, cows and pigs have been treated for well over 3000 years.
The effects of acupuncture is not limited to pain relief. Traditional Chinese Medicine aims to rebalance the whole body and promote healing and a sense of wellbeing throughout. It can relieve muscle tension, improve blood and lymphatic circulation, stimulate nerve regeneration, the immune systems and endocrine functions. Scientific studies have shown increases in endorphins, red and white cell counts and cortisol levels in the blood stream after acupuncture. It stimulates many pathways in the body, always bringing the body back to a state of balance and homeostasis.
In the west, acupuncture is used primarily when medications are not effective or contraindicated due to side effects or when surgery is not feasible. Approximately 80% of veterinary acupuncture treatments are used to treat musculoskeletal conditions e.g. hip dysplasia, arthritis, intervertebral disc disease and chronic lameness.
Many other conditions also respond to acupuncture, e.g. diseases of the skin, urinary tract, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, reproductive tract, cardiovascular system, nervous system, eyes, ears, immune system and behavioural problems.
Is acupuncture painful?
For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. Once the needles are in place, there should be no pain. Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy. Nevertheless, acupuncture treatment may cause some sensation, presumed to be those such as tingles, cramps, or numbness which can occur in humans and which may be uncomfortable to some animals.
Is acupuncture safe for animals?
Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animal. 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 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.
How can my pet benefit from acupuncture?
The success of the treatment will vary according to the condition being treated and the number and frequency of acupuncture treatments. The length and frequency of the treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the method of stimulation (dry needle, electroacupuncture, aquapuncture, etc.) that is used by the veterinary acupuncturist. A simple acute problem, such as a sprain, may require only one treatment, whereas more severe or chronic ailments may need several treatments.