Acupuncture for Dogs

Is acupuncture right for your dog? Well. I am considering acupuncture for my dog, Pinkus. Last week Pinkus was moping around with his tail between his legs. He couldn’t jump up on the couch, and he just wasn’t his usual self.
He’s 14 years old so he could have had any number of problems. We took him to his vet and found out that he has arthritis in four of his vertebrae. He got two shots and in about an hour he was back to the full Pinkus we know and love. He was sent home with a bottle of painkillers of the NSAID type.

But a friend said her vet had acupuncture available and that got me to wondering. Both the shots and the NSAIDs have side effects and acupuncture has been shown to be effective in dogs with arthritis.

Some 5,000 years ago the Chinese were practicing acupuncture on animals using fish bones. In ancient India it was used on ailing elephants. The father of acupuncture for animals is said to be Shun Yang (480 BCE). Now chapters on acupuncture are standard in many veterinary textbooks and 150,000 vets and 700,000 paravet assistants are trained in acupuncture.

As part of the philosophy of acupuncture animals and humans are viewed as tiny parts of an infinite universe and they are subject to the laws governing all living and non-living things. This is the same belief that underlies science. An animal or person who follows these laws will enjoy good health.
Acupuncture views disease as an imbalance of the two polarities of qi or chi, yin and yang and acupuncture is designed to restore this balance.

Is this an unpleasant experience for a dog? Needles around the head are about one inch long and needles for deeper penetration are one and one half to two inches long. The dog does not appear to experience any discomfort at all and in fact many seem to become very relaxed and enjoy the treatment. Treatments may take four to eight sessions but improvement may be seen earlier. The treatments can last from ten seconds to 30 minutes. The acupuncturist chooses treatment points based on diagnosis. Needles may be rotated clock or counter clockwise, lifted up and pushed down, or just left in place. The long-term goal is to get the number of treatments to a minimum. A dog with arthritis, like Pinkus, may only need follow up every six months.

Acupuncture is not right for all dogs. A very anxious dog may release so much adrenaline that it counteracts the acupuncture effects. Care needs to be taken with cancer patients because using the wrong points can speed cancer growth.

It is recommended that only someone trained in traditional veterinary medicine and acupuncture should treat or refer for treatment with acupuncture.

The next time Pinkus has a sore back I will definitely consider acupuncture.

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