An Introduction to Veterinary Acupuncture
Acupuncture is an ancient art originating in the Far East and developed mainly by the Chinese. It has been in use for over 1500 years. It is a major part of Traditional Chinese Medicine along with the use of herbs. It involves in use of needles or laser stimulation of certain points mainly just below the skin or in the muscles of the animal. The presence of the needle in the points has an effect on the body which can be used to cure disease.
Western Scientists cannot fully explain how it works but have shown that inserting needles into muscles causes the release of neuro-transmitters in the nervous system both locally and in the brain. Similar to the release of endorphins these have a suppressive affect on pain. According to the Chinese, when an animal is healthy, there is a circulation of energy, life force, "chi or Qi" along well defined channels on the skin called meridians. The meridians are connected with internal organs, muscular and joint structures, and the nervous system. Acupuncture points, which lie on the meridians are areas of the skin (which can be shown to exist with modern electronic equipment) at which the flow of "chi" can be influenced. In disease states, there is an imbalance of, or interference with, the flow of energy. The acupuncturist can manipulate the energy flows by stimulating the acupuncture points, thus rectifying the disorder. Some of the ailments which can be treated by acupuncture include. Western doctors have shown a change in neurotransmitters at the corresponding section of the spinal cord or central nervous system which affects or damps down pain and other nerve stimuli not only in that area of the spinal cord but has a much wider affect.
Some of the ailments which can be treated by acupuncture include:
MUSCULO-SKELETAL: This is perhaps the most commonly treated indication in the western world and in veterinary practice. It is the most useful treatment other than drugs for conditions involving pain in the joints such as Hip Dysplasia, arthritis and also milder muscular pains and aches in the muscles.
NEUROLOGICAL/PSYCHOLOGICAL: Anxiety, epilepsy and behavioural disorders have all responded well to acupuncture. Head aches and migraine in the human field. are often treated successfully. We have tried with little success to treat these conditions in animals unless pain has role in the behavioural changes seen. If your companions behaviour has changed it is certainly worth considering a referral to an acupuncturist but there are other causes of behavioral changes. Paralysis or milder neurological changes can respond well for example bladder problems, incontinence, some forms of chronic diarrhoea or consipation and CDRM has been treated. This is a horible gradual paralysis of the hind quarters seen in larger dogs.
HORMONAL Almost all of the hormonal control systems can be influenced, including all of the pituitary functions, thyroid and parathyroid functions, and adrenal functions. It can stimulate the production of insulin in diabetics
SKIN This organ reflects both the adequacy of the nutrition of the organism via the digestive and respiratory systems, and the adequacy of the waste disposal via the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems. Thus if we can keep our companions in good condition by the use of diet and acupuncture/herbs and homeopathy then a good skin condition will follow. Acupuncture can aid healing of skin conditions such as ulcers, lick granulomas
Other Systems Appetite, reproduction and many other system can be affected by acupuncture if you read the literature.
This involves very fine steel needles into between 1 and 20 points in the animal. It can usually be performed without sedation but some dogs and horses will require sedation. Most seem not to mind at all and indeed enjoy the experience. We try to make it a relaxing experience as it works better. Each session lasts around 15 minutes. It is repeated at intervals starting weekly and usually monthly after a few initial sessions if all is going well.
Electro acupuncture may be used if response is poor or short lived. A mild electrical stimulus is applied to the needles for a few minutes.
See photo on the left.
More information can be found on the ABVA website