What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a healing art that has been used in China for thousands of years to treat a variety of medical conditions. It is defined as the insertion of needles into specific points in the body to cause a desired healing effect. Acupuncture is used all over the world, either by itself or in conjunction with Western medicine, to treat a wide variety of conditions in every species of domestic and exotic animals.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture is performed by inserting thin sterile stainless steel needles into specific points on the body.  These points produce a physiologic response that can provide pain relief, stimulate the immune and nervous systems, increase microcirculation and decrease inflammation.  Acupuncture can also help restore balance between organ systems for optimal health and overall well-being.

What conditions can be treated with acupuncture?

Acupuncture can be used to treat an endless array of conditions in both humans and animals. Some common veterinary applications include:

  • Degenerative joint disease (arthritis)
  • Neurologic disease (seizures, disc disease)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Renal disease
  • Skin disease (allergies, lick granulomas)
  • Urogenital disease (incontinence)
  • Immune mediated disease
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Neoplasia
  • Postoperative healing
  • Behavioral issues
  • Respiratory problems (feline asthma)
  • Gastrointestinal problems (inflammatory bowel disease and diarrhea)
  • Minor sports injuries

What is a typical visit for acupuncture like?

On your first visit the doctor will take a full health history of your animal. They will perform a detailed physical examination. You and the doctor will then discuss your primary concerns and determine the best course of treatment for your pet. Recommended treatments may include acupuncture or a combination of Eastern and Western therapies.

How long are acupuncture appointments?

A typical initial visit will last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. Subsequent visits are usually somewhat shorter in length.

How quickly can I expect to see results?

It depends on the condition being treated. Some animals show marked improvement immediately following the first treatment, but most animals typically improve after three or more treatments. Chronic or tenacious conditions may take longer.

How often are acupuncture treatments required?

The time period between acupuncture treatments varies. Typically, the doctor recommends beginning with three to five treatments, which may be semiweekly, once a week, or biweekly. As your animal shows improvements treatments can be spaced further apart or even discontinued.

Does acupuncture hurt?

In almost all cases, no. Some animals may experience minor discomfort when needles are being inserted, but the needles are so thin that most patients tolerate them very well. Acupuncture is known to have a relaxing effect to the point that some animals become very quiet and may even fall asleep during treatment.

Is acupuncture safe for animals?

Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals 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 treatment. Other animals may become sleepy or lethargic for 24 hours after acupuncture. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal’s condition.

How should I choose an acupuncturist for my animals?

There are two important criteria you should look for in a veterinary acupuncturist. Your veterinary acupuncturist must be a licensed veterinarian. Your veterinary acupuncturist should have formal training in the practice of acupuncture for animals.


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