Acupuncture is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) which has been practiced for over 5000 years.

Traditional Chinese Medicine theory holds that Qi (vital energy) flows throughout the body along energetic channels called meridians. Each meridian is also associated with a specific internal organ which reflects the physiological and pathological conditions of that organ. The meridians connect the exterior of the body with the interior.

Acupuncture points are located along these meridians, and when stimulated can relieve pain and restore normal body functions. Acupuncture points have specific locations and effects and have been documented over millenia. From a Western perspective, acupuncture has been shown to stimulate a variety of sensory nerves in the body that transmit the signal through the nervous system to the brain, which then releases various chemicals that produce multiple physiologic effects that activate the body’s homeostatic regulatory mechanisms.

Acupuncture Techniques

1. Acupressure (manual): The stimulation of acupoints using finger pressure to maintain or improve the acupuncture treatment an animal receives. It is often taught to pet owners to use at home.

2. Acupuncture (needles): Sterile disposable filiform stainless steel needles are typically used. The length and gauge used is determined by the size of the animal, needling technique, and location of the acupoints being treated.

3. Moxibustion (heat): Artemesia vulgaris, or moxa, is a Chinese herb that has been used for centuries to heat acupuncture points. It is used either directly over the acupuncture point without touching it or indirectly attached to the top of a needle. The heat travels down the needle and into the acupoint to stimulate it.

4. Aquapuncture (injection): Stimulation of acupoints by injection using various solutions. Solutions injected include vitamins (especially B12 and C), sterile water, physiologic saline, electrolyte solutions, antibiotics, herbal and homeopathic extracts, analgesics, steroidal and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents.

5. Electroacupuncture (electrical current): Electronic alternating current devices provide very strong stimulation to acupuncture points. Acupuncture needles are placed and then electrical leads that fit around the needles are attached. The strength of the stimulus is adjustable. EAP is typically used for acute and chronic pain, and is the technique of choice for intervertebral disc disease with paralysis and other cases where nervous tissue damage is present.

6. Laser Acupuncture (LAP): The use of Class IV lasers to stimulate acupuncture points. LAP can be done rapidly and is especially useful for acupoints that are in sensitive or dangerous areas of the body.

7. Gold Beads (implantation): Long-term stimulation of acupuncture points can be achieved by implanting gold beads or wire. In general, it is reserved for severe conditions in which other acupuncture techniques have failed and/or Western medicine is not effective. It is also recommended for use in animals that won’t tolerate regular acupuncture treatments, or those that have advanced osteoarthritis. Gold beads are also used to control seizures, gingivitis-stomatitis in the cat and chronic sinusitis-conjunctivitis.

8. Cupping (vacuum): A cupping jar is a small glass bottle with a smooth and rounded mouth used to create a partial vacuum over the skin. The cup is firmly placed over the acupuncture point. The Chinese use this technique to improve blood circulation and relieve pain.

9. Plum Blossom (cutaneous): This technique consists of tapping the skin lightly with a hammer shaped instrument that has a group of needles on the end. One can tap along an entire meridian or tap at a specific acupuncture point. Plum Blossom technique is often used in China to treat chronic dermatologic conditions.

Acupuncture FAQ

Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals when it is administered by a properly trained veterinary acupuncturist. Side-effects are rare, and are usually seen in the form of lethargy and or sleepiness for 24 hours following a treatment.

Does acupuncture hurt?
No, most animals pay little attention to the needles being placed, and often get sleepy during treatment especially during electroacupuncture treatment.

How long does an acupuncture treatment last?
Stimulation of an individual acupoint can take as little as 10 seconds or can last up to 60 minutes. It depends on the technique used and the condition treated. A typical treatment lasts 15-20 minutes.

How often will my pet need acupuncture?
The length and frequency of acupuncture depends on the condition and the technique of acupuncture used. Typically, most animals need acupuncture at least once weekly for 4-6 treatments as a minimum.

How long does it take to see the beneficial effects of acupuncture?
This varies from animal to animal. In some cases a response can be seen after one to two treatments; however to achieve a maximal positive response it typically will take approximately 4-6 weekly treatments. Acupuncture treatments build on each other and a series of treatments is necessary. After a maximum response is achieved acupuncture treatments are tapered to a maintenance schedule depending on the individual animal.

Does my pet need maintenance acupuncture?
For chronic cases yes. Acupuncture is typically done weekly until a maximum therapeutic response is achieved and then tapered off to the least number of treatments neccessary to maintain the animals condition.

Why are acupuncture and herbal medicine used together?
Because clinical results can be obtained more quickly by using Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture together. The combined effects are also stronger which is especially important in the treatment of difficult cases.