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 animal acupuncture is to move Qi—the force or energy that makes us alive. Normally, Qi flows throughout the body along meridians or paths that interconnect the external surface of the body with the internal organs.
After placing needles in points, Qi moves freely. As Qi moves freely, the body maintains its balance or homeostasis. When Qi fails to move freely, disease results.
In our practice, we prefer acupuncture according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine as opposed to acupuncture based on science.
By using TCVM, we not only choose acupuncture points based on a true TCVM diagnosis but are also able to prescribe Eastern herbals for a specific TCVM diagnosis.
Acupuncture in conjunction with Eastern herbal therapy provides more benefits than acupuncture alone.
What Acupuncture Helps?
Acupuncture is indicated mainly for functional problems such as those that involve musculoskeletal problems like arthritis, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain.
For small animals, the following are some of the general conditions 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)
- Selected reproductive problems
In horses, acupuncture is commonly used for functional problems as well. 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.
What you might not know is that many world-class professional and amateur athletes use acupuncture as a routine part of their training.
So, if your animals participate in any athletic endeavor, such as racing, jumping, or showing, acupuncture helps these athletes stay in top physical condition.
How Acupuncture Works!
According to ancient Chinese medical philosophy, the disease is the result of an imbalance of energy in the body. Acupuncture balances this energy and assists the body in healing itself.
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 and endorphins
Although many of acupuncture’s physiological effects have been studied, many more remain unknown.
Further research must be done to discover all the effects and proper uses of veterinary acupuncture.
1. Is Acupuncture Safe?
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. For instance, an animal’s condition may seem worse for up to 48 hours after treatment.
And some animals become sleepy and lethargic for 24 hours after acupuncture.
But these effects are good and indicate physiological changes are occurring.
2. Is Acupuncture Painful?
For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless.
The larger needles necessary for large animals may cause a slight degree of pain as the needle passes through the skin.
However, in all animals, once the needles pass through the skin, there should be no pain.
During treatment, most animals become quite relaxed and sleepy.
3. How Many Treatments?
The length and frequency of acupuncture treatments depend on the condition of the patient and the method of stimulation used by the veterinary acupuncturist.
Stimulation of an individual acupuncture point may take as little as 10 seconds or as long as 30 minutes. A simple acute problem, such as a sprain, may require only one treatment; whereas, more severe or chronic ailments need several treatments.
When multiple treatments are necessary, these treatments, at least initially, are frequent and up to three times per week. Then, the treatments taper to whatever the animal needs. A general rule of thumb is 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 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.
4. How to Choose an Acupuncturist?
There are two important criteria you should look for in a veterinary acupuncturist:
Your veterinary acupuncturist possesses a veterinary license.
Your veterinary acupuncturist acquires 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 constitutes a surgical procedure that only licensed veterinarians may legally administer.
Remember, a veterinarian is the best resource to diagnose an animal’s health problem and then determine whether an animal is likely to benefit from 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, only extensive educational programs render a veterinarian competent to practice acupuncture.
So, ask your veterinarian about their training.
The more your veterinarian knows about Eastern Medicine and acupuncture and the Western scientific basis for acupuncture, the more assurance you will have that your animals will be treated properly.