Acupuncture is commonly defined as the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to cause a desired healing effect and/or to control pain. This technique has been used in veterinary practice in China for ~ 3000 years to treat various ailments. Although acupuncture was originally rooted in China, it is currently in use all over the world as an independent therapy or in conjunction with Western medicine.
Acupuncture can be used alone or in combination with conventional medical and surgical treatments to remedy a variety of conditions including (but not limited to):
- Musculoskeletal problems: arthritis or vertebral disc disease
- Gastrointestinal problems: poor appetite, chronic vomiting or diarrhea
- Respiratory problems: chronic cough
- Skin problems
- Cancer and other debilitating conditions (to support immune function and appetite)
Safety of Acupuncture Treatment
Acupuncture is an incredibly safe form of medical treatment for animals when it is administered by a properly trained veterinarian. For the majority of animals the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. Most animals become extremely relaxed and may even become sleepy during the treatment. Side effects are rare, but do exist in some animals. They include:
- The animal’s condition seeming worse for up to 48 hours after treatment.
- Sleepy or lethargic behaviour for up to 24 hours after treatment.
These potential side effects are generally an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal’s condition. If you are concerned with the changes in your pet after treatment, please feel free to contact the hospital to see if they are normal reactions to acupuncture.
Potential Treatment Regimes
Patients often start with 1-3 acupuncture treatments per week for the initial 4-6 weeks. A positive response is usually seen by the third treatment if not sooner. Once a maximum positive response is achieved (generally 4-8 treatments), the treatments are tapered off so that the greatest amount of symptom-free time elapses between them. Many animals with chronic conditions can taper off to 2-4 treatments per year.
Acupuncture can involve simple needle insertion or take the form of Aquapuncture which is the injection of homeopathic substances or Vit B12 into specific acupuncture points. Electro-acupuncture is also commonly used. This involves passing an electrical current through the acupuncture needles and often provides a greater response in patients with pain or limb weakness and paralysis. Occasionally a form of heat is passed through the needle by burning an herbal stick called moxa and holding it close to the acupuncture needle – this is called Moxibustion.