Veterinary Acupuncture at Care Animal Hospital
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the placement of thin needles at specific points. Historically, it has been used for over 3000 years to treat a variety of conditions. More recent research points to the neurophysiological basis of acupuncture. Acupuncture can involve dry-needling initially (insertion of plain needles) and then may progress to electro-stimulation (e-stim) in which a small current is delivered through the needles which can improve and intensify the response and benefit.
How does it work?
Acupuncture points are areas on the body where nerve bundles exit the connective tissue and are often associated with major blood vessels. Additional treatment points are myofascial trigger points (areas of painful muscle restriction that impinge on surrounding nerves and blood vessels).
A needle inserted in the tissue causes a physical change in the microscopic tissue and stimulates receptors, which lead to a neurochemical cascade that has affects locally and systemically on the central nervous system. This produces increased levels of hormones and neurochemicals that reduce pain, balance the nervous system (neuromodulation), improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, activate the immune system, and improve tissue repair.
How does it feel?
Most animals are not aware of the needle insertion and are easily distracted with treats during the treatment. There is a small pin prick sensation at the needles insertion and there can be dull ache or cramping of the muscle depending on the condition/site being treated.
Is it safe?
The needles are sterile, single-use needles. Side effects are very rare but can include bruising at the needle insertion site, ingestion of the needles (close supervision is needed during treatment) and injury to underlying tissues. What conditions can benefit from acupuncture?
- Musculoskeletal and neurological conditions: arthritis, disc disease, nerve injury/paralysis, back pain, lameness, and tendon injuries
- Skin problems: wounds, allergies, lick granulomas
- Urinary tract disorders: urinary incontinence, feline lower urinary tract disease
- Gastrointestinal: diarrhea, vomiting, regurgitation, inflammatory bowel disease
- Respiratory disorders: asthma, chronic bronchitis
- Ocular disorders: dry eye (KCS)
What should I expect from acupuncture?
Before acupuncture treatment is considered, a proper diagnosis is needed. Based on the initial physical exam and history, additional tests or treatments may be indicated to arrive at a diagnosis (x-rays, lab work, medications, etc.). Only then can it be determined if acupuncture is a treatment option for your pet.
Approximately 90% of patients will respond to acupuncture treatment. Sometimes improvements can be seen after the first treatment, but in general, three to four treatments, held once to twice weekly, are needed to determine how that pet will benefit and respond. Once the pet has improved, then the frequency of the treatments will be reduced. The treatment number and response will vary based on the condition being treated, the severity of the disease, and the length of time that it has been occurring.
Initially after a treatment, there may be a temporary worsening of the condition (decreased movement, increased pain, lethargy/sleepiness, etc.). This is to be expected and is related to the changes that are occurring in the body (similar to how a person may feel sore, tired, and lethargic the day after a massage or hard workout).
During each acupuncture appointment, a light massage along with a complete myofascial exam (muscle/connective tissue assessment) is performed to guide treatment. Additional exam assessments such as a neurological exam may also be done. The treatment will generally last 20-30 minutes. You may choose whether or not to be present with your pet during treatment. Most people and animals find it to be a very relaxing experience.