I am often asked whether acupuncture can be utilized in the medical care of animals. The answer is that, yes, acupuncture can be, and often is, incorporated into veterinary care. Veterinary acupuncturists are well trained both in the medical care of animals and in the practice of acupuncture. Practitioners of veterinary acupuncture must be licensed veterinarians and have received formal training in acupuncture. They will employ various methods of achieving acupuncture benefit in animals. When possible they will achieve the therapeutic effect through the use of acupuncture needles inserted into strategic points in the body, but when necessary, due to the inability or unwillingness of the animal to remain still during the treatment, acupuncture will be performed by employing the use of lasers to trigger the desired response in the acupuncture points.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that was developed in China at least 3,000 years ago, and may date back as many as 5,000 years. A word made up of the roots “acus” meaning needle, and “puncture” meaning the piercing of the skin, acupuncture literally translates to “puncture with needles.” By placing hair-fine needles into the skin at strategic points in the body known as “acupuncture points,” acupuncture can help to promote healing, alleviate pain, calm spasms and ticking, bolster the immune system, and generally encourage good health in myriad ways.
The focus of acupuncture treatment is the “qi” (pronounced “chee”) or the life energy of the body. It is the belief of practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine that the qi is flowing though every living thing, and that it is what allows life to occur. It is believed that when the qi is out of balance, blocked, or stagnated, illness and pain result. The process of acupuncture, of the placing of needles into the acupuncture points corresponding with the location of the disharmony of the qi will restore the qi to balance and allow it to flow freely again, thereby alleviating the symptomatic problems.
How do animals tolerate acupuncture?
As with all veterinary care, the response of your pet to the visit to the acupuncturist will depend on the nature and temperament of the animal. However, regardless of the level of anxiety experienced by the animal by the trip to the office, once the treatment begins, most animals become extremely relaxed, and many often fall asleep. It is not uncommon for cats to purr during the acupuncture treatment. The needles utilized by acupuncture are very small in diameter, and most animals will not feel anything as they are inserted. In acupuncture treatments utilized by laser, the animal will feel nothing.
If the visit to the veterinary acupuncture practitioner is problematic, either due to the physical, medical, or emotional concerns of your animal, or due to transportation or scheduling issues you may be experiencing, veterinarian acupuncturists who make house calls may be an option. Check your local yellow pages, or do an online search of veterinarian acupuncturists to see if there are any practitioners who make in-home visits serving your area.
Is acupuncture safe for my animal?
There are few negative side effects to the use of acupuncture. In some animals, the sleepiness brought on by the treatment may continue for several hours after the appointment. Occasionally there may be some slight bleeding or swelling around the needle site, but these side effects are generally mild and resolve quickly. Less frequently, due to the movement of energy and concentration on a particular problem, there may be some exacerbation of the problem. If this occurs, consult your veterinary acupuncturist.
What conditions can be treated by acupuncture?
Almost any condition causing pain or distress to the animal can be addressed through the use of acupuncture. Consult the veterinary acupuncturist about your animal’s specific condition before booking an appointment to see if acupuncture treatment is an appropriate option for your pet.