Veterinary acupuncture is a type of therapy that is designed to promote healing by inserting tiny needles into certain points on an animal’s body, with each point on the body having a different reaction when stimulated. Originating in China, the practice is thousands of years old and can be used as a proactive form of medicine to prevent injuries from occurring, as well as for healing purposes. Nowadays it is used worldwide in conjunction with the more modern techniques of the western world.
How Does it Work?
There have been many studies that have helped to demonstrate how acupuncture works in terms of physiology. The theory behind it is that changes in the central nervous central system occur when certain acupuncture points are stimulated; the point selected, along with the duration and method of stimulation, all have a bearing on the response a patient has. The acupuncture points that are stimulated to provide pain relief do so by triggering certain pain-association stems in the brain. By affecting specific physiological changes acupuncture can help a dog’s body to heal itself. Such physiological changes include increasing blood circulation, releasing hormones (like cortisol and endorphins), relieving muscle spasms and stimulating nerves.
Acupuncture is mainly used for treating functional problems such as arthritis, intervertebral disc conditions, musculoskeletal problems and traumatic nerve injuries. It can also be used to help keep tendons and muscles hardier and less prone to injury.
Measuring Success of Treatment
Measuring the success of acupuncture on an animal depends entirely on the condition that is being treated along with the frequency of treatments and the skill of the veterinary acupuncturist. The length of treatment revolves around the condition of the animal as well as the technique used, i.e. whether stimulation is produced using a dry needle, aquapuncture or electropuncture. A small problem such as a sprain may only need one session of acupuncture, whilst an on-going chronic issue may need several sessions.
It is vital that acupuncture is not used on a dog without a veterinary medical diagnosis and sustained assessment of the dog’s condition by a vet. This is because the therapy can cover up clinical signs and mask pain. So if a dog was to undergo an acupuncture session before having a proper veterinary diagnosis, then the process could cover up any signs of a condition or illness, making it harder for a vet to diagnose. In addition, if the acupuncture eliminates the pain from a condition, then the dog may operate as normal which can further agitate the condition or delay healing.
The process itself is hardly painful at all for small animals, for the bigger dogs, there may be a little discomfort but once the needles are in place there should be no pain. Most dogs will become very relaxed and some even sleep. Side effects of acupuncture are uncommon but on some occasions the animal will be sleepy and lethargic for around 24 hours, other patients’ conditions can worsen for up to 48 hours. However, both of these side-effects can mean that a physiological change is occurring and they are usually followed by a huge improvement in the animal’s condition; much better than it was before it had the acupuncture therapy.
Choosing a Veterinary Acupuncturist
When choosing a veterinary acupuncturist it is imperative that they are a) licensed and b) have had formal training in the practice of veterinary acupuncture, on top of their veterinary qualifications. The more your vet knows about both the traditional Chinese methods and the Western scientific base for acupuncture, the more you know that your dog will be diagnosed and treated properly.
Even though a lot of acupuncture’s physiological changes have been analysed, there are still some effects that haven’t been discovered yet. To find out the full extent of acupuncture’s place in medicine, as well as its full range of effects, more research must be done.
Please be aware that this article is for advice purposes only and should not be treated as a medical document. If you would like to enquire about your dog having acupuncture then please speak to your vet.