What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture may be defined as the insertion of needles into specific points on the body to cause a desired healing effect. This technique has been used in veterinary practice in China for at least 3000 years to treat many ailments. The Chinese also use acupuncture as preventive medicine against such problems as founder and colic in horses.Acupuncture is used all over the world, either by itself or in conjunction with Western medicine, to treat a wide variety of maladies in every species of domestic animal and in exotic animals. Modern veterinary acupuncturists use solid needles, hypodermic needles, bleeding needles, electricity, heat, massage, and low power lasers to stimulate acupuncture points. Acupuncture is not a cure-all, but can work very well when it is indicated.
For which conditions is Acupuncture indicated?
Acupuncture is indicated mainly for functional problems such as those that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain. For small animals, the following are some of the general conditions which may be treated with acupuncture:
- Musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis or spinal disc pathology
- Skin problems, such as lick granuloma
- Respiratory problems, such as feline asthma
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Selected reproductive problems
How does Acupuncture work?
According to ancient Chinese medical philosophy, disease is the result of an imbalance of energy in the body. Acupuncture is believed to balance this energy and, thereby, assist the body to heal disease.
In Western terms, acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain physiological changes. For example, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm, and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid).
Is Acupuncture painful?
For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy. Nevertheless, acupuncture treatment may cause some sensation, presumed to be those such as tingles, cramps, or numbness which can occur in humans and which may be uncomfortable to some animals.
Is Acupuncture safe for animals?
Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals when it is administered by a properly trained veterinarian. Side effects of acupuncture are rare, but they do exist. An animal’s condition may seem worse for up to 48 hours after a treatment. Other animals may become sleepy or lethargic for 24 hours after acupuncture. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal’s condition.
How long do Acupuncture treatments last and how often are they given?
The length and frequency of acupuncture treatments depend on the condition of the patient and the method of stimulation that is used by the veterinarian. Stimulation of an individual acupuncture point may take as little as 10 seconds or as much as 30 minutes. A simple acute problem, such as a sprain, may require only one treatment, whereas more severe or chronic ailments may need a dozen treatments.
When multiple treatments are necessary, they usually begin intensively and are tapered to maximum efficiency. Patients often start with 1 treatment every 1-2 weeks, for 6-8 treatments. A positive response is usually seen after the first to third treatment. Once a maximum positive response is achieved treatments are usually tapered off. Many animals with chronic conditions can be maintained with 2-4 treatments per year.
Very old or painful animals may benefit from monthly to every 6 weeks maintenance treatments.
Animals undergoing athletic training can benefit from acupuncture as often as twice a week to once a month. The frequency depends on the intensity of the training and the condition of the athlete.
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