Most people have heard of acupuncture for humans – but did you know that it can also be used to treat your pet?  Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is growing in popularity as pets live longer and pet owners are seeking a more holistic approach to their medical care.  

Why would I take my pet to a veterinarian for acupuncture?

Acupuncture in Pets
What if Western medical treatment for your pet is not providing the desired results?  Or your pet has other medical conditions that prevent using standard medications? Or you would prefer to start with a more holistic approach for your pet?   These are among the many reasons that acupuncture can be an integral part of your pet’s veterinary care.
Acupuncture may be used alone or as an adjunct to Western medicine and can address a wide range of medical and behavioral problems.  The most common use of acupuncture in pets is for musculoskeletal problems and to improve neurological function.  Acupuncture can also be helpful with respiratory problems, skin problems, anxiety, nausea, diarrhea, organ dysfunction, and to offset some side effects of Western medical treatments.

What is acupuncture and how does it work?

Acupuncture has been practiced in China for thousands of years to treat illness and as preventative medicine.  Even though acupuncture was developed long before Western medicine, clinical research trials have shown positive results in both animals and humans.  
Acupuncture is the insertion of thin needles into specific points in the body to bring forth a healing response.   The TCVM perspective is that Qi, or life force, is activated and moved through acupuncture meridians to create more balance in the body.  Medical research has shown that acupuncture points have an increased density of nerve bundles and inflammatory mediators than other parts of the body.  Acupuncture points can even be seen on an infrared camera!
As a result, acupuncture can bring about physiological changes to help the body heal by altering the body’s energy and blood flow into a healthier pattern.   There are hundreds of possible acupuncture points in the body and different combinations are used depending on the condition being treated.

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture in pets is very safe when done by a properly trained veterinarian.  The American Veterinary Medical Association considers acupuncture an accepted practice in veterinary medicine and strongly recommend that only a veterinarian with advanced training perform acupuncture in pets.   Certified Veterinary Acupuncturists have received the training necessary to design and administer the best acupuncture protocol for your pet.   

Is acupuncture painful?

The insertion of acupuncture needles is usually painless.  But, if you have personally had acupuncture, you know that that some needles may cause a prickling or numbing sensation.  There should be no pain after the needles are in place. Many animals (including cats) will relax and may even become sleepy.  If an animal is sensitive at certain acupuncture points, laser therapy with an acupuncture tip can be used in those areas instead of a needle.

What can I expect at an acupuncture appointment?

The first step will be to get a more detailed history on your pet from both a TCVM and Western perspective.  If available, previous records and tests will be reviewed. Your pet will then be examined to develop a complete diagnosis and treatment plan.  
The exam room is quiet with peaceful background music and your pet will be put in a comfortable place.  Needles will be gently inserted into specific points and then you and your pet can relax for 10 to 20 minutes.  
Some acupuncture points may receive an injection of a sterile substance, such as Vitamin B12, to keep the point activated long after the acupuncture session.   This is called aquapuncture, and can be used to further stimulate the healing process

How will my pet feel after an acupuncture treatment?

Since acupuncture helps bring the body into balance to heal itself, the immediate effect of a treatment can be variable.  Your pet may feel more comfortable and relaxed or they may become more playful. There may be improvement in your pet’s symptoms right away or it can take a day or two to see a difference.  More than one treatment is usually needed to achieve the results that we are looking for.
Acupuncture in pets is a safe and proven modality to address a number of medical conditions, is often combined with Western medicine for a more integrative approach – and can be a pleasant experience for both you and your pet.  At Wise and Wonderful Integrative Veterinary Center, we offer single acupuncture appointments as well as packages to help your pet on the path towards optimal health. Contact us for more information.