What is Animal Acupuncture?

Animal acupuncture is an ancient form of medicine using small filiform needles placed at predetermined points on the body.

The goal of acupuncture is to move Qi—the force that makes us alive.

Western medicine has no equivocal term to describe Qi.

Qi flows throughout the body along meridians, or paths that interconnect the external surface of the body with the internal organs.

When needles are placed in points, Qi moves freely. As Qi moves freely, the body maintains its balance, or homeostasis.

We prefer Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine-based acupuncture over scientific based animal acupuncture.

By using TCVM, we not only choose acupuncture points based on a true TCVM diagnosis but we are also able to prescribe Eastern herbals for a specific TCVM diagnosis.

Acupuncture in conjunction with Eastern herbal therapy is more beneficial than acupuncture alone.

For which conditions is acupuncture indicated?

Acupuncture is indicated mainly for functional problems such as those that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain. For small animals, the following are some of the general conditions which may be treated with acupuncture:

•      Musculoskeletal problems (such as arthritis or vertebral disc pathology)
•      Skin problems (such as lick granuloma)
•      Respiratory problems (such as feline asthma)
•      Gastrointestinal problems (such as diarrhea)
•      Select reproductive problems
In horses, acupuncture is commonly used for functional problems. General conditions where it might be applied include the following:
•      Musculoskeletal problems
•      Nervous system problems (such as facial nerve paralysis)
•      Skin problems
•      Respiratory problems (such as heaves and “Bleeders”)
•      Gastrointestinal problems
•      Selected reproductive disorders

In addition, regular animal acupuncture treatment can treat minor sports injuries and help keep muscles and tendons resistant to injury.

World-class professional and amateur athletes often use acupuncture as a routine part of their training.

If your animals are involved in any athletic endeavor, such as racing, jumping or showing, acupuncture can help keep them in top physical condition.

How does animal acupuncture work?

According to ancient Chinese medical philosophy, disease is the result of an imbalance of energy in the body.
Acupuncture balances this energy and assists the body in healing disease.
In Western terms, acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain physiological changes.
For example, acupuncture can:
  • Stimulate nerves
  • Increase blood circulation
  • Relieve muscle spasms
  • Cause the release of hormones such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid).
Although many of acupuncture’s physiological effects have been studied, many more are still unknown. Further research must be done to discover all the effects and  proper uses of veterinary acupuncture.

Is acupuncture painful?

For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless.

The larger needles necessary for large animals may cause some pain as the needle passes through the skin.

In all animals, once the needles are in place, there should be no pain.

Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy.

Is acupuncture safe for animals?

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 treatment.

Other animals may become sleepy or lethargic for 24 hours after acupuncture.

These effects are an indication that physiological changes are occurring.

How many treatments?

The length and frequency of acupuncture treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the method of stimulation that is used by the veterinary acupuncturist.

Stimulation of an individual acupuncture point may take as little as 10 seconds or as much as 30 minutes. A simple acute problem, such as a sprain, may require only one treatment; whereas, more severe or chronic ailments may need several treatments.

When multiple treatments are necessary, they usually begin intensively and are tapered to maximum efficiency. Patients often start with 1-3 treatments per week for 4-6 weeks.
A positive response is usually seen after the first to third treatment. Once a maximum positive response is achieved (usually after 4-8 treatments), treatments are tapered.
Many animals with chronic conditions can taper down to 2-4 treatments per year.
Animals undergoing athletic training can benefit from acupuncture as often as twice a week to once a month. The frequency depends on the intensity of the training and the condition of the athlete.

How should I choose an acupuncturist?

There are two important criteria you should look for in a veterinary acupuncturist:

1. Your veterinary acupuncturist must be a licensed veterinarian.
2. Your veterinary acupuncturist should have formal training in the practice of acupuncture for animals. (For example, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society offers a certification program for veterinary acupuncturists.)

 In most countries, states, and provinces, veterinary acupuncture is considered a surgical procedure that only licensed veterinarians may legally administer to animals.
A veterinarian is the best resource to diagnose an animal’s health problem and then determine whether an animal is likely to benefit from an acupuncture treatment.
In the USA, the American Veterinary Medical Association considers veterinary acupuncture a valid modality within the practice of veterinary medicine and surgery.
However, extensive educational programs should be undertaken before a veterinarian is considered competent to practice acupuncture.
Ask your veterinarian about their training.
The more your veterinarian knows about the traditional Chinese philosophies and Western scientific basis for acupuncture, the more assurance you will have that your animals will be treated properly.