Acupuncture for your pet

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the practice of inserting fine, solid needles into the body for the purpose of therapy, pain relief, disease prevention or maintenance of health.

 

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture works through the nervous system, the needles are inserted into the body to block the pain messages and encourage the brain and central nervous system to produce more of the body’s natural painkillers. Acupuncture needles stimulate nerves that do not cause the unpleasant feelings of pain that we are trying to treat. The needles stimulate other nerves that send a more important message to the brain, which is how they block pain.

Will it hurt my pet?

Sometimes animals may react to this sensation as though they are expecting pain, but then relax because it does not occur. Most of the time they accept the fine needles very well and often become relaxed and sleepy during the treatment. Often they appear to look forward to the next treatment when they come back to the practice.

Would my pet need to be sedated for this treatment?

It is uncommon for animals to need to be sedated. This would only usually happen if they were in so much pain that any touch or stimulus caused them to be distressed.

How often would my pet be treated?

The usual course is once a week for four to six weeks. After four weeks we will know whether acupuncture is working for your pet and then, depending on the condition and how they have responded, we will work out a plan to reduce treatment so that the effect is maintained for as long as possible.

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is very safe, in the right hands. Legally it must be performed by a veterinary surgeon. There have been no official reports of problems in animals and there are a very few cases in which we would have to be cautious about using acupuncture, but your veterinary acupuncturist can advise you of these.

What kinds of conditions are treated with acupuncture?

Pain is the most common indication for acupuncture, including pain associated with arthritis, muscle strains, pain secondary to disc disease and bony changes of the spine. Functional conditions such as constipation in cats and some digestive problems in dogs may also respond, conditions in rabbits like pain management for arthritis and lumbar pain, and conditions such as bloat or colic tend to respond well. There has also been some proven success with lick dermatitis in dogs and can also promote wound healing with difficult wounds.

What can I expect during treatment?

After examination, needles will be placed into various parts of your pet’s body and stimulated a few times. There is not a set “dose” of acupuncture as there is for medication, so your vet will judge how much to do based on your pet’s response both at the time and after the treatment. They may become sleepy and relaxed during the treatment.

What can I expect after the treatment?

It is not uncommon for pets to go home and sleep very soundly for a long time. This is a good sign and shows that your pet will probably respond well to acupuncture. Do not worry, however, if they are not sleepy – this does not mean that they will not respond. Sometimes your pet may seem a little more euphoric than usual but keep them quiet for the rest of the day or they may overdo things. Treat your pet normally after acupuncture; do not change exercise, diet or medication unless it has been discussed with your vet.

What about response?

Your pet may show one of three responses to treatment:

  1. They may seem a little stiffer or more uncomfortable. This will mean that the dose was a bit too much, but it also shows that they should respond to future sessions. After a day or two they will improve again and should be better than before. You must tell your vet if your pet experiences any of these symptoms so that they can adjust the treatment next time.

  2. You may see no response. This is always disappointing but does not mean your pet will not respond; it may just be that they will take a little longer or that their improvement after the first treatment was too brief or small for you to see. We cannot say that they will not respond until after the fourth treatment. Not all animals are acupuncture “responders”, but about 80% will be.

  3. You may see an improvement. This may occur anytime in the three days after treatment. The signs that we are trying to treat may return before the next treatment is due but this is acceptable. After each subsequent treatment the effects should last for longer, so that your pet should eventually be able to go for some time between treatments.

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