Acupuncture is used worldwide, either by itself or with Western medicine, to treat a wide variety of problems in many domestic and exotic animals. Acupuncture is the insertion of tiny needles into specific points on the body to promote health and prevent or treat disease. In Eastern medicine disease is considered an imbalance of the body’s energy. Acupuncture serves to balance the body’s energy and help heal disease. In Western Medicine acupuncture can improve many physiological changes such as an increase in blood circulation, stimulation of nerves, relief of muscle spasms and release of hormones like endorphins for pain relief and cortisol for anti-inflammation.
Acupuncture can be an excellent therapy for chronic conditions that are managed rather than completely cured with western medicine. This can include many musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis, disc disease, seizures, gastrointestinal disorders such as vomiting, diarrhea and constipation, chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, and skin problems, kidney disease and some urinary tract disorders.
A pet may feel a slight sensation like a tingle with the needle but most relax during a session. Side effects of acupuncture are rare, but they do exist. A pet’s condition may seem worse for up to 48 hours after a treatment. Other animals may become sleepy or lethargic for 24 hours after acupuncture. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are occurring, and they are generally followed by an improvement in the pet’s condition. Pets that are pregnant, have a fracture, open wound or infectious disease are not considered good candidates for acupuncture.
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. Treatment generally last from 20 to 60 minutes. A simple acute problem, such as a sprain, may require only one treatment, whereas more severe or chronic ailments may need several treatments. Some degenerative conditions may require long-term monthly care.
When multiple treatments are necessary, they usually begin intensively and are tapered to maximum efficiency. Patients often start with 1-3 treatments per week for 4–6 weeks. Some improvement is usually seen within the first three treatments. 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 elapses between them. Many animals with chronic conditions can taper off to 2-4 treatments per year.