Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice dating back several thousand years. It is based on the principle that the body has a life force (Qi) that travels along specific pathways (meridians). Good health occurs when the body maintains a balance of two opposing forces, called yin (negative) and yang (positive). When there is an imbalance of yin and yang, the flow of Qi is blocked, leading to health problems. Acupuncture uses very thin needles inserted at specific points in the meridians to unblock Qi and restore balance (and health).
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, more than 3 million Americans have used acupuncture, most commonly for easing pain. Scientists are uncertain about how the treatment may help. However, from a scientific viewpoint, it is believed the acupuncture needles may stimulate nerves, release tight muscles (muscle spasms), improve circulation of blood and trigger the release of hormones associated with control of inflammation and pain.
Using Acupuncture for Pets
In ancient China, acupuncture was often used on horses and other farm animals. Gradually, use spread to other animals and pets. Today, modern humans looking for alternative medical treatments for pets have also turned to acupuncture. The website, acupuncture.com (http://www.acupuncture.com) estimates more than 150,000 veterinarians and 700,000 veterinary assistants are trained in the use of acupuncture.
As with people, the most common use of acupuncture in pets is for pain relief. The therapy is also used for gastrointestinal disorders, chronic respiratory problems, reproductive problems, anxiety, behavioral problems, skin problems and urinary problems. According to the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture, a needle may be left in an acupuncture point for 10 seconds to 20 minutes, depending on the nature and duration of the symptoms. Many animals respond within one to three treatments.
Frank Bousaid, D.V.M., Veterinarian at Harmony Animal Wellness Center in Monroe, WA, cautions that some animals are very reluctant and nervous to have acupuncture at first. However, there are specific acupuncture points that can be used to ease nervousness and anxiety. In fact, some animals will fall asleep during their treatment. While animals can’t verbalize their responses, many owners say their pets appear to “feel better” after treatment.
Experts caution that acupuncture is not a cure for disease or illness and veterinarians should be made aware that the animal is receiving an alternative treatment. Acupuncture.com reports medications, like corticosteroids, can decrease the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment. In addition, the site warns that for an animal with cancer, insertion of needles at certain points can cause the cancer growth to accelerate.
AUDIENCE INQUIRYFor information on acupuncture: The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction.htm
For information on acupuncture for animals:
The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture, http://www.aava.org
For general information on the use of complementary medicine in animals:
American Veterinary Medical Association, http://www.avma.org/issues/policy/comp_alt_medicine.asp
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Hayashi, Ayne, et al., “Electro-acupuncture and Chinese herbs for Treatment of Cervical Intervertebral Disk Disease in a Dog,” Journal of Veterinary Science, March 2007, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 95-98.
Scott, Samantha, “Developments in Veterinary Acupuncture,” Acupuncture Medicine, June 2991, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 27-31.
Um, Se-Wook, et al., “Thermographic Evaluation for the Efficacy of Acupuncture on Induced Chronic Arthritis in the Dog,” Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, December 2995, Vol. 67, No. 12, pp. 1283-1284.