Acupuncture, along with other physical medical modalities like physical therapy, conditioning, laser and chiropractic care is becoming more common for canine (and feline) patients!

Conditions commonly treated with acupuncture:

musculoskeletal conditions, including myofascial trigger points (firm, painful, taut bands in the muscles)

inflammation in or around joints due to orthopedic conditions,

postoperative amputation and pain management

neurologic deficiencies such as intervertebral disk disease or other nerve damage

feline cystitis

spay incontinence in female dogs

chronic pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, or chronic vomiting or diarrhea

chronic or acute rhinitis, nasal discharge, or upper respiratory infection

chronic otitis

reproductive issues

chronic kidney failure

pain associated with cancer

Acupuncture should always be combined with the best medical or surgical therapies for each individual case. It is not necessarily an alternative therapy, but an adjunct to other treatments, both physical and medical. In cases where surgery is not an option, acupuncture can aid in pain management alongside medications tailored to the patient.

Conditions that have less likelihood of responding well to acupuncture therapy would include degenerative myelopathy, behavioral problems, cardiac disease, dermatologic disease or allergies, aggression, and seizures.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture mainly works by neuromodulation or changing the way pain is interpreted by the brain. This happens in three ways:

1) Reducing inflammation locally in the area of the needle insertion

2) Reducing stress and promoting a release of the body’s own pain relievers (endorphins)

3) Interrupting the pain signaling that happens in the spinal cord

Is acupuncture painful for my dog or cat?

The goal of an acupuncture therapy session is to create as relaxing an experience as possible for all pets! Acupuncture needles are very tiny and solid, and the minor “prick” sensation felt at the time of needle insertion is very short-lived. Most pets do not notice. It is less painful than a blood draw or injection. Occasionally, a needle can be inserted close to a nerve and is sore, but this is not often and the needle can be removed if it seems uncomfortable.

Is there a risk with acupuncture treatments?

Acupuncture is one of the least risky physical treatment modalities that exist. The main risks to acupuncture are only with patients with an underlying bleeding disorder. We work very hard to be sure the patient does not ingest any needles, which is the other main risk with animals!

Who should consider acupuncture for his or her pet?

Acupuncture is not successful in aggressive or extremely fearful patients. It is not acceptable for patients with a bleeding problem or coagulopathy. Most dogs do well and enjoy treatment. Cats generally do best when they have friendly, outgoing personalities (i.e. those who are more like dogs).

What is the course of therapy?

Our first appointment is 1 hour so that we can be sure we completely discuss the patient history and address all issues and questions. Then 15 to 30 minute appointments are generally scheduled as follow ups. We recommend you commit to one treatment weekly for six weeks, then reassessment at that time to determine whether biweekly or monthly treatments can be as effective.

Contact us to learn more!

Written by Dr. Abigail Albright

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