What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the placement of hair-thin needles in specific anatomical points on the body to induce physiological changes to help reduce pain, improve healing and provide a sense of well being. Although acupuncture has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine, it has recently been studied intensively to discover the physiology behind its success. The needle stimulation can cause a combination of local physical effects and the release of various chemicals. These changes can affect many of the body's systems, most notably the nervous system.
The effects can be quite varied. One example is the ability of acupuncture to increase blood flow to targeted tissues. This supports the tissue by bringing extra oxygen and nutrients to the area, plus helps remove harmful waste products. By altering nerve impulses, acupuncture can reduce pain sensation. Also, some of the chemicals that are released may help improve relaxation. By reducing stress we can improve digestion, muscle tension and the function of the immune system.
In addition to regular needles, sometimes I will use electro-acupuncture or laser puncture. Electro-acupuncture uses a device that connects via wires to a couple of acupuncture needles and sends a mild, pulsating electric current to them. This current can enhance the effects of the needles and is painless. Laser puncture is performed by attaching a special blunt probe to the therapeutic laser and using the probe on the acupuncture point instead of a needle. This is helpful for points that may be sensitive to needling or for an anxious animal.
A few of the conditions that can be helped with acupuncture include:
- Pain control for musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis, hip dysplasia and intervertebral disc disease
- Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, constipation and inflammatory bowel conditions
- Urinary incontinance
- Skin conditions such as allergic dermatitis and lick granulomas
- Respiratory problems such as feline asthma
What Can I Expect With The Treatments?
Most animals find the treatment to be relaxing and painless, even to the point of falling asleep! Offering treatment in a quiet and comfortable setting is very helpful, not only for your pet, but for me, too! Sometimes, offering treats does the trick of keeping an active pet still.
After treatment, some pets are so relaxed they will sleep. It is best to let your pet relax on the day of acupuncture.
Just like most treatments such as antibiotics or physical therapy, more than one treatment is necessary to see lasting results, especially since many of these problems took months or longer to develop. We like to plan on doing weekly treatments the first 3 - 6 weeks in order to see how your pet responds to treatment. Sometimes we see a positive effect immediately, sometimes it takes 3 - 4 visits, and some animals don't show enough of a benefit to warrant further sessions.
We like to see continued improvement with each treatment until we hit a plateau. As stated above, your pet may show improvement immediately, or it may take a few days or sessions before we notice a change. On occasion, some animals seem worse the next day. This is unusual but not abnormal. Please contact me if you notice this so we can make sure there is not any other underlying problem.
After each visit, we will decide when the next treatment should be. Once we are happy with your pet's response, we will start increasing the time between treatments by 1 - 3 weeks until we find the interval where your pet stays comfortable. Depending on the animal and the problem, treatments may be needed every 4 - 6 weeks to maintain symptom or pain control, while other animals may need a tune-up every 3 - 4 months, and still others may never need it again!
Acupuncture can be a wonderful tool to use as part of an integrative approach alongside your regular veterinarian's treatment plan. It is often used in conjunction with other treatments such as nutritional supplements or massage therapy in order to enhance the desired effects.
Our goal is to help keep your pet comfortable and happy so they can stay more engaged in life, whether that means able to continue going on beloved hikes or evening walks, playing ball, using the litterbox properly, or sleeping through the night more comfortably.