Q: What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture may be difined as the insertion
of needles into specific points on the body to cause a desired
healing effect. This technique has been used in veterinary practice
in China for at least 3,000 years to treat many ailments. The
Chinese also use acupuncture as preventive medicine against such
problems as founder and colic in horses. Acupuncture is used
all over the world, either by itself or in conjuncture with Western
medicine, to treat a wide variety of maladies in every species
of domestic animals and in exotic animals. Modern veterinary
acupuncturists use solid needles, hypodermic needles, bleeding
needles, electricity, heat, massage, and low power lasers to
stimulate acupuncture points. Acupuncture is not a cure-all,
but can work we very well when indicated.
Q: For which conditions is
Acupuncture is indicated mainly for functional
problems such as those that involve paralysis, noninfectious
inflammation (such as allergies), and pain. For small animals,
the following are some of the general conditions which may be
treated with acupuncture:
- Musculoskelatal problems, such as arthritis
or vertebral disc pathology
- Skin problems, such as lick granuloma
- Respitory problems, such as feline asthma
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea
- Selected reproductive problems
For large animals, acupuncture is again
commonly used for functional problems. Some of the general conditions
where it might be applied are the following:
- Musculoskelatal problems, such as sore
backs or downer cow syndrome
- Nevous system problems, such as facial
- Skin problems, such as allergic dermatitis
- Repiratory problems, such as heaves and
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as nonsurgical
- Selected reproductive problems
In addition, regular acupuncture treatments
can treat minor sports injuries as they occur and help to keep
muscles and tendons resistant to injury. World class professional
and amatuer atheletes often use acupuncture as a routine part
of their training. If your animals are involved in any athletic
endeavor, such as racing, jumping, or showing, acupuncture can
help keep them in top physical condition.
Q: How does acupuncture work?
According to ancient Chinese medical philosophy,
disease is the result of an imbalance of energy in the body.
Acupuncture is believed to balance this energy and, thereby,
assist the body to heal disease.
In Western terms, acupuncture can assist
the body toheal itself by affecting certain physiological changes.
For example, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood
circulation. relieve muscle spasm, and causes the release of
hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body's pain control
chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid). Although many of
acupuncture's physiological effects have been studied, many more
are still unknown. Further research must be done to discover
all of acupuncture's effects and its proper uses in veterinary
Q: Is acupuncture painful?
For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture
needles is virtually painless. The larger needles neccessary
for large animals may cause some pain as the needles passes through
the skin. In all animals, once the needles are in place, there
should be no pain. Most animals become very relaxed and may even
become sleepy. Nevertheless, acupuncture treatment may cause
some sensation, presumed to be those such as tingles, cramps,
or numbness which can occur in humans and may be uncomfortable
to some animals.
Q: Is acupuncture safe for
Acupuncture is one of the safest forms
of medical treatment when it is administered by a properly trained
veterinarian. Side effects of acupuncture are rare, but they
do exist. An animal's condition may seem worse for up to 48 hours
after a treatment. Other animals may become sleepy or lithargic
for 24 hours after acupuncture. These effects are the indication
that some physiological changes are developing., and they are
most often followed by improvement in the animal's condition.
Q: How long do acupuncture
treatments last and how often are they given?
The length and frequency of acupuncture
treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the method
of stimulation that is used by the veterinary acupuncturist.
Stimulation of an individual acupuncture point may take as little
as 10 seconds or as much as 30 minutes. A simple acute problem,
such as a sprain, may require only one treatment, whereamore
severe or chronic ailments may need several or several dozen
When multiple treatments are neccessary,
they usually beginintensively and are tapered to maximum efficiency.
Patients often start with 1 - 4 treatments per week for 4 - 6
weeks. A positive response is usually seen after the first to
third treatment. Once a maximum positive response is achieved
(usually after 4 - 8 treatments), treatments are tapered off
so that the greatest amount of symptom-free time lapses between
them. Many animals with chronic conditions can taper off to 2
- 4 treatments per year.
Animals undergoing athletic training can
benefit from acupuncture as often as twice a week to once a month.
The frequency depends on the intensity of the training and the
condition of the athlete.
Q: How should I choose an
acupuncturist for my animals?
There are two important criteria you should
look for in a veterinary acupuncturist:
1. Your veterinary acupuncturist must be
a licensed veterinarian.
2. Your veterinary acupuncturist should
have formal training in the practice of acupuncture for animals.
(For example, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society
is the only accredited certification program for veterinary acupuncturist.)
In most countries, states, and provinces,
veterinary acupuncture is considered a surgical procedure that
only licensed veterinarians may legally administer to animals.
A veterinarian is in the best position to diagnose an animal's
health problem and then to determin whether an animal is likely
to benefit from an acupuncture treatment, or whether its problem
requires chemical, surgical, or no intervetion.
In the USA, the 1988 American Veterinary
Medical Association's (AVMA) "Guidelines on Alternative
Therapies" states that "acupuncture (is) considered
a valid modality, but the potetial for abuse exists" and
that "extensive educational programs (should) be undertaken
before a veterinarian is considered competent to practice acupuncture".
The abuse the AVMA mentions involves improper treatment. Ask
your veterinarian about her or his training. The more your veterinarian
knows about the traditional Chinese philosophies and Western
scientific bases for acupuncture, the more sure you can be that
your animals will be treated properly.
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