How Acupuncture Can Help Your Pet

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient treatment that is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture involves placing tiny flexible metal needles into the skin in locations close to small nerve bundles and tiny blood vessels. Placing the needles in these very specific locations, called “Acupuncture points” helps increase the body’s natural healing ability (called Chi) and decrease pain.

Do animals mind acupuncture?

Most animals do not mind acupuncture at all – in fact, many love it! The needles are tiny and most animals don’t even seem to notice them. If anything, an acupuncture treatment tends to have a calming, relaxing effect on the animal

What can acupuncture help with?

Acupuncture can help with dozens of conditions but is most commonly used in veterinary medicine for pain, arthritis, and spinal disc disease.

What happens during a treatment?

Your veterinarian will take a detailed history from you about your pet, including the regular questions such as diet, bathroom habits, chronic issues, current medications, etc. They may also do a quick physical exam on your pet.

Based on their experience, the pet’s condition/disease, and the physical exam findings and history, they will begin to place needles in various locations all over the animal. Even though these locations may be far away from the location of the injury/illness (for example, a needle is often placed on the top of the head to help with hip pain), according to Chinese Medicine, Chi (natural healing body energy) is connected through channels.

Certain channels help with certain conditions, and these channels may not seem connected to the body part that is injured or diseased. Nevertheless, when these acupuncture points are stimulated, you can see effects in the targeted body part.

Depending on the condition your pet is diagnosed with, the veterinarian may stimulate the acupuncture points in a variety of ways. One way is manually gently moving the needle in a twisting motion, back and forth. Another way of stimulating points is through the use of an electronic device that sends a very small electric current through the needles.

Sometimes the veterinarian may opt to stimulate a point with an injection of sterile water. The treatment will usually last from 10-20 minutes, during which time most pets fall asleep!

How long will the effects of a treatment last?

That depends on the condition your pet has been diagnosed with and how long it has been going on. Usually, acupuncture treatments are weekly to start, with effects seen after a few treatments (again, this varies between pets and disease conditions). Once an effect is seen, it can last for as short a time as a week up to many months. If the condition is permanent like arthritis, maintenance treatments are recommended every couple of weeks.

In summary, acupuncture is a non-invasive, gentle treatment that many animals enjoy. It is useful for a variety of conditions and can really make a difference in your pet’s quality of life.

If you think acupuncture will benefit your pet, don’t hesitate to talk to your veterinarian about it today!

Written by Dr. Teigen Bond, DVM