What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture treatment evolved over 3,000 years ago in China and is now being used in Veterinary and Medical practices throughout the world.
Acupuncture involves inserting fine, sterile, stainless steel needles into specific points on the body to prevent and treat disease. In Veterinary Medicine it is being increasingly recognised as a useful treatment tool for a wide range of conditions.
Acupuncture should always follow an accurate diagnosis of the problem and a full appraisal of all the treatment options. In many cases, acupuncture is best used in conjunction with conventional medicine, however, in some situations it can be used as the sole treatment. Adding acupuncture as a supportive treatment can often decrease a patient’s requirement for medications which may have undesirable side effects. Most importantly, it is extremely safe and very effective when practiced correctly.
Acupuncture in Dogs & Cats
Acupuncture for cats and dogs is indicated for functional problems:
Musculoskeletal: Arthritis, intervertebral disc disease or traumatised nerves.
Respiratory Issues: Feline asthma.
Skin Problems: Lick granulomas and allergic dermatitis.
Gasto Intestinal Issues: Chronic Diarrhoea
Also selective reproductive issues.
Acupuncture in Horses
Acupuncture in horses is largely used for functional issues:
Musculoskeletal: Cold backed, general stiffness, short stride, general back pain, arthritis, pain, performance issues.
Neurological: Facial paralysis, head shaking
Respiratory Issues: Heaves
Skin Problems: Allergic dermatitis.
Gasto Intestinal Issues: Non-surgical mild colic.
In addition, regular acupuncture treatments can treat minor sports injuries as they occur and help to keep muscles and tendons resistant to injury. From world class professional to amateur athletes, acupuncture is often used as a routine part of training. If your animal is involved in any athletic endeavour, this can help keep them in top physical condition.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Western Scientific Approach
By inserting needles that stimulate tiny nerve endings that are used to carry impulses to the spinal cord and the brain, the resulting response within the nervous system and the endocrine system leads to the release of neurotransmitters and hormones. These have an influence on the function of the body tissues and organ systems.
The effect of individual needles is determined by where it is placed in the body and which nerves are stimulated. This is why there is a need for an accurate knowledge of veterinary anatomy and physiology.
Acupuncture increases the release of natural painkillers such as endorphins, enkephalins and serotonin. These in turn act on the pain pathways in the brain and spinal cord, blocking the transmission of incoming pain signals.
Traditional Chinese Medical Approach
Health can be defined as a state of harmony between an animal’s internal environment and the external environment. This is a complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease.
An acupuncturist that does TCM will look at the whole animal and not just the diseased process. Consideration will be given to why the disease develops in the first place. Therefore, it is important to have the first examination in a place that the animal feels comfortable, which is often in its own home.
The purpose of acupuncture is to restore the patient to a state of balance or homeostasis, by influencing part of the brain called the hypothalymus.
Who Can Do Acupuncture?
By law acupuncture on animals can only be performed by a qualified vet who has undergone specialist training in the techniques. This is because it is an invasive procedure that requires a thorough knowledge of veterinary anatomy and physiology.
What Happens During Treatment?
Most animals tolerate acupuncture without any distress or discomfort. The needles used are very thin and the majority are inserted into areas that the animals are not painful in.
Needles can be left in for 5 to 30 minutes depending on the case.
During treatment, many animals will become more relaxed and even sleepy and this may continue during the rest of the day.
Occasionally patients will have slightly euphoric reaction, so be careful not to let them overdo things after a treatment.
How Much & How Often?
On average 4-6 treatments are required to start with, but acupuncture can be continued long term and the mouth of treatments is under advisory and discretion of the performing Veterinarian.
The treatments are usually given weekly initially with gradual increasing intervals until the desired effect is achieved.
Frequency of treatment will depend on the individual animal needs, but often top ups are required to maintain the therapeutic effect long term.
What to Expect?
Sometimes they may be a little stiffer or seem more uncomfortable. This may indicate that they need less stimulation at the next treatment, but it does suggest that they are likely to respond well longer term.
There may be no response, some animals take longer to respond, some up to 4 treatments to show improvement, however a small percentage will not respond at all.