Acupuncture is the insertion of small, sterile, stainless steel needles into a patient at precise locations and depths on the body. The insertion of the needles at these points alters the body’s biochemical and physiological properties primarily through the stimulation of the central nervous system. Acupuncture has been utilized in veterinary practice for over 3000 years to treat a variety of animal conditions, and may also be utilized as an adjunct to standard medical/surgical treatments of disease, or as a preventative measure. The American Veterinary Medical Association considers veterinary acupuncture a valid modality within the practice of veterinary medicine and surgery. All animals may benefit from acupuncture.
Acupuncture is indicated for functional problems that involve pain, non-infectious inflammation (such as arthritis and allergies) and neurological dysfunctions (such as paralysis). These include:
- Musculoskeletal disorders – arthritis, hip dysplasia, ligament and tendon injuries
- Gastrointestinal disorders – diarrhea, constipation, nausea, decreased appetite, inflammatory bowel disease
- Skin disorders – allergies, wound healing, granulomas
- Neurological disorders – seizures, nerve dysfunction/damage, paralysis, back pain, intervertebral disc disease,
- Respiratory disorders – inflammatory airway disease, asthma
- Ocular disorders – keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye)
- Reproductive disorders
- Urinary/renal disorders – feline lower urinary tract disease, kidney disease/failure
- Numerous other disorders have also responded well to treatment with acupuncture including some endocrine (glandular) diseases and behavioral changes like anxiety.
The length of each treatment and the frequency are often dependent on the individual animal, the disease being treated, and the response to each treatment. Most treatments take a minimum of 20 minutes and may also include electrical stimulation of the points (electroacupuncture), aquapuncture (injection of a therapeutic drug at the site of an acupuncture point) or heat treatment (moxibustion). A typical patient is treated weekly for 3-4 weeks and then placed on a less frequent maintenance program (every month to 3 months). Animals with more acute and severe disease (such as intervertebral disc disease) may be seen more frequently at the beginning of treatment.