What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture has therapeutic effects on a wide variety of animal conditions. The following are some examples of conditions that may be treated with acupuncture:

  • Musculoskeletal/neurological: acute or chronic pain, osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc disease
  • Dermatological: lick granulomas, allergies, chronic skin disorders
  • Respiratory: asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, chronic cough
  • Gastrointestinal: inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, vomiting
  • Urinary: chronic renal failure, cystitis, incontinence
  • Auto-immune diseases, cancer, reproductive, behavioral, geriatric issues, etc.

Acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself. For example, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasms, and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (the body’s own pain modulator) and cortisol (a natural steroid).

For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. The needles used are very thin (hair-like thin). Once they are in place, there should be no pain (unless the animal moves around excessively). Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy. Nevertheless, acupuncture treatment may cause some temporary sensation such as tingles, cramps, or numbness which can occur in humans, and which may be uncomfortable to some animals. For particularly sensitive pets, a cold laser can be used instead of needles to stimulate acupuncture points.

Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment when it is administered by a trained (certified) veterinarian. Side effects of acupuncture are rare but are possible. 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 some physiological changes are happening, and they are most of the time, followed by an improvement in the pet’s condition.

The length and frequency of acupuncture treatments depend on the condition being treated and the method of stimulation used. 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 conditions may need multiple treatments. When this is the case, treatments usually begin intensively and are tapered to maximum efficiency. Patients often start with 1 treatment per week for 4-6 weeks. A positive response is usually seen after the 1st to 3rd treatments. Once an optimum response is achieved, treatments are tapered off based on symptoms. Some animals with chronic conditions can taper off to 2-4 treatments per year.

dog running