What is acupuncture? Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) has been practiced on animals for thousands of years. In Chinese Medicine theory, disease is understood as an imbalance in the body, and identifying the underlying “pattern” of disharmony is the key to treatment. This approach stems from the belief that the body is as an interconnected system of forces and functions so that disease and disharmony must be examined with respect to the whole patient. For this reason, Chinese Medicine is often regarded as more holistic than conventional Western Medicine. In a more Western Medicine way of thinking, acupuncture has proven to improve tissue blood flow, oxygenation, and removal of metabolic wastes and toxins. Studies have shown that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system, and the release of antiinflammatory and pain relieving hormones, thus proving acupuncture an effective pain treatment.1 In 2015, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) issued joint guidelines for the management of pain in cats and dogs. The guidelines stated, “There is a solid and still growing body of evidence for the use of acupuncture for the treatment of pain in veterinary medicine to the extent that it is now an accepted treatment modality for painful animals.”2
How can acupuncture help my pet? Acupuncture is used mainly for functional problems such as those involving noninfectious inflammation, paralysis, or pain. For dogs and cats, acupuncture has been used for treating: • Arthritis and other joint problems (eg, hip or elbow dysplasia) • Back pain and associated leg weakness • Lick granuloma and non-healing wounds • Asthma • Chronic diarrhea or constipation • Skin allergies • Palliative care when serious disease is present (eg, inappetence and malaise associated with cancer) Any current medications or supplements will not adversely interact with veterinary acupuncture treatment; therefore it can safely be used to treat a variety of illnesses. Unlike prescription and over the counter medications, acupuncture does not have potential adverse side effects.1
What does treatment entail? Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into body tissue where nerve bundles and blood vessels come together. These collections of nervous and vascular tissue are termed acupuncture points, which course over all aspects of the body’s surface on meridians (energy channels).1 The various techniques performed here are Dry-needling, Aquapuncture (injection of vitamin B12 or other liquids) and Electrostimulation. Treatment sessions are performed in our office on an appointment-only basis by Dr. Sparks, who is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist (CVA). The first session includes a comprehensive history and “eastern medicine” exam, requiring approximately 45- minutes; subsequent treatments are shorter in duration. Acute problems may be treated and “cured” with only a few sessions; more chronic problems typically require maintenance treatments with the goal to achieve the longest interval of time where a pet’s condition appears improved or resolved.
1. Mahaney, P. (2016, February 15). Acupuncture for Pets. Retrieved from http://www.petmd.com/dog/wellness/evr_multi_veterinary-acupuncture-for-dogscats 2. AAHA/AAFP (2015). “2015 AAHA/AAFP pain management guidelines for dogs and cats” (PDF). Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 17: 251–272. doi:10.1177/1098612×15572062
-Tonya Sparks, DVM