Acupuncture and Pets: How Could Acupuncture Help Your Pet?
You’ve probably heard of people getting treated for various ailments with acupuncture, but did you know that it can be beneficial for pets as well? Initially developed for humans more than 4000 years ago in China, this treatment has also been used on dogs, cattle, horses, cats, birds, and other species.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a therapy used to encourage healing in the body using fine, sterile needles that are inserted into specific spots of the body called points. The needles are inserted into the skin and underlying tissues to send a signal to the nervous system that tells the body to heal and return to its regular functioning.
Acupuncture works best when used in conjunction with other forms of treatment. Your veterinarian might use acupuncture with medication, surgery, or physical rehabilitation to treat a variety of ailments.
Acupuncture and Pets
Acupuncture can be used for chronic, acute, and atypical conditions. While it can be a stand-alone treatment, acupuncture tends to be more effective when used in conjunction with other treatments. Many veterinarians use acupuncture to help with:
- Neurological diseases: Disc disease can be incredibly painful for pets. Acupuncture can benefit cases of disc disease whether they require surgery or not.
- Musculoskeletal conditions: Pets with osteoarthritis can benefit greatly from acupuncture. Additionally, acupuncture can be helpful after major surgeries such as TPLO or TTA knee surgeries.
- Behavioral issues: Anxiety and hyperactivity can also be treated with acupuncture, which can promote relaxation.
- Gastrointestinal diseases: Irritable bowel disease (IBD) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) have both seen improvements when treated with acupuncture.
- Chemotherapy side effects: Chemotherapy is known to cause side effects such as vomiting, nausea, and anorexia, but it is a very affect cancer treatment. Acupuncture can help reduce these side effects in chemotherapy patients.
- General wellness: Acupuncture can be used as preventative medicine.
Is Acupuncture Safe for Pets?
Not only is acupuncture safe, but it also doesn’t have any negative side effects when done by a trained professional. There are times that special care needs to be taken, however. Pregnant animals can have acupuncture done, but certain points need to be avoided for safety reasons. Animals with open fractures may need special considerations. Needles should also never be placed close to tumors.
Many owners worry about how their pets will react to the treatment. In most cases, the animals don’t seem to mind the needles. These needles are small and pretty painless. Some animals may react when acupuncture points are sensitive, however. In most cases, dogs and cats are allowed to walk around the room during the session, or they can lie down and relax. The needles only stay in place for about 15 minutes. Owners are also invited to take part in the treatment, which can help ease the pet’s nerves during the treatment.
Different Types of Acupuncture
There are a few different types of acupuncture that are used as treatments for pets, including:
- Dry Needling: This is the type of acupuncture that requires the use of small needles as described above.
- Acupressure: Acupressure is a form of acupuncture that doesn’t use any needles at all. Instead, your veterinarian will gently apply pressure to the points where a needle would be inserted in a dry needling treatment. Often, this type of acupuncture is used on animals that are extremely anxious or sensitive to dry needling.
- Aqua-acupuncture: With aqua-acupuncture, a water-based solution often containing vitamins is injected into the points where the needles are inserted in dry needling. Aqua-acupuncture can give longer-lasting results.
- Electro-acupuncture: As the most commonly used acupuncture technique, electro-acupuncture has helped a lot of animals. This technique starts with dry needling. Then, the needles are connected to an electro-acupuncture stimulation unit, which is operated by the veterinarian to deliver a gentle electrical current into the needles. While owners often express concern, most pets seem to love this type of treatment—some even fall asleep during it!
A veterinarian should determine the type of acupuncture that is the most appropriate for your pet. If you have questions about the treatment, it is important that you address them with your veterinarian.