Acupuncture For Your Pet
A New Direction in Healing Common Ailments
By Darcy L. Forber, DVM, CVA
Acupuncture, the more than 2,000-year-old Chinese healing art, is proving to be doggone good therapy for 21st-century pets. "Most people think of acupuncture for humans, especially for pain relief, but it's much more than that, and can be very beneficial for our furry friends as well" says Dr. Darcy Forber, who works as an Associate Veterinarian at Viera East Veterinary Center and who is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist by the internationally renowned Chi Institute in Reddick, FL. "Acupuncture can boost the immune system, improve organ function, and help improve mobility and performance. Most importantly, it can complement conventional medicine and procedures without the harmful side effects."
The use of acupuncture for pets is increasing as more people recognize the value of integrated medicine for their personal health care and their beloved cats and dogs. No one form of medicine has all the answers," says Dr. Forber. "We must look at the individual needs of each animal. Sometimes the best answer is medication; sometimes it's surgery; sometimes it's acupuncture, but most often it's a combination."
How does Acupuncture work?
Special needles are inserted into specific points on an animal's body. The needles help redirect the body's energy fields called Qi (pronounced "chi") back into harmony. Like people, cats, dogs, and horses have over 300 acupuncture points in their bodies. The needles induce the release of endorphins, the body's feel-good hormone. Endorphins control pain by causing blood vessels to dilate, which increases oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to flow around joints and muscles.
Does acupuncture work effectively on animals?
Yes. Most animals tolerate the needles very well. Your pet will rest comfortably while the needles are gently placed.
Will the needles hurt my pet?
Usually no. Your pet may feel some pain if there is a knot or spasm at the insertion point. More commonly, though, your pet may experience a sensation as the needle enters the top layer of skin. Most needles slide out near the end of the session. It's not unusual for a pet to relax or even fall asleep during acupuncture.
How long are the sessions, and how many treatments will my pet need?
Each acupuncture visit usually lasts about 1 hour. The number of treatments your pet would need depends upon your pet's unique situation. In some cases, a single treatment is enough. If your pet suffers from chronic problems, he/she may need 3 or more treatments given weekly or bi-weekly. Some degenerative conditions such as arthritis may need maintenance treatments every 4-8 weeks.
When should I try acupuncture for my pet?
Acupuncture can relieve arthritis pain in an older animal who is experiencing digestive side effects or organ dysfunction from medications. Or, this therapy can be used when surgery is not an option due to the health condition or age of the pet. If your pet has had any orthopedic surgery, acupuncture works very well to help speed recovery in these cases.
Will I see immediate improvement?
Acupuncture is not a cure-all, and the results vary with each animal. It takes time to stimulate the body to heal itself. Results may be seen in as few as 2 days, or may take up to 2-3 months. The goal of acupuncture is to improve your pet's overall well-being, reduce pain symptoms, and help your pet return to old behaviors (such as playing with a favorite toy, going for walks, etc.)
Acupuncture may benefit many conditions, including:
- Arthritis, Pain/Trauma, Hip Dysplasia
- Neurological Disorders (including seizures, paralysis)
- Digestive Problems (including diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting)
- Urinary Incontinence
- Behavior/Anxiety Disorders
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Chronic Urinary Infections, Bladder Stones
- Respiratory/Cardiovascular problems
- Endocrine Disorders (i.e. Diabetes, Cushing's Disease)
Herbal medicine can provide natural solutions to pets with arthritis, cancer, diabetes, Cushing's disease, and chronic kidney/urinary problems without harmful side effects. Herbs can be used by themselves, or in combination with other herbals, supplements, or conventional medications, usually without adverse reactions.
Whether your pet is rehabilitating from trauma or injury, healing from a debilitating disease, or simply aging, your companion can benefit from these revolutionary new approaches to veterinary medicine.