What is the Chinese philosophy?
Acupuncture points are located on energy flow pathways called meridians. There are 104 meridians in the body, but 14 of these are located at skin level and are used therapeutically. In healthy animals energy or Qi (pronounced ‘chee’) flows smoothly. In disease the Qi does not flow smoothly and causes pain and malfunction in the body systems. Acupuncture is used to stimulate specific points to correct the movement of Qi , thereby allowing the body to heal itself and relieve pain.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body, which have the ability to alter various body functions. It is a means of allowing the body to heal itself. In addition to needles other methods may be used to stimulate the acupuncture points such as laser, electro stimulation, acupressure (applying finger pressure), moxibustion (applying heat), aquapuncture (injecting liquids) and gold bead implants.
Esther performing Laser Acupuncture on a cat:
How does it work?
Acupuncture is known to affect all major physiological systems. Acupuncture increases blood circulation, causes the release of many neuro-transmitters and neuro-hormones, some of which are endorphins (the bodies “natural pain killing hormones”). It relieves muscle spasms, stimulates nerves and stimulates the body’s defence systems. Scientifically it has been proven that white blood cell counts and the body’s own cortisone levels are increased following acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture points are different from the surrounding skin as they have a higher concentration of nerve bundles, blood vessels and lymphatics.
What conditions respond to acupuncture?
In the Western world acupuncture is used primarily when medications are not effective, are contraindicated due to possible side effects, or when surgery is not feasible. However in many conditions acupuncture should be offered as the initial therapy.
Around 80% of veterinary acupuncture treatments are for musculoskeletal conditions such as hip dysplasia, arthritis, intervertebral disc disease and chronic injuries. Many other conditions respond very well to acupuncture and these include diseases of the skin, urinary tract, gastro-intestinal tract, respiratory tract, cardiovascular system, nervous system, eyes, ears, immune system and many others organs.
How will my animal react?
Acupuncture is performed with sterilised single-use thin stainless steel needles. The needles are rounded at the end and do not have a cutting edge unlike the needles used for injections. Therefore they separate the skin and muscles rather than cutting them. There is occasionally a brief moment of sensitivity as the needle penetrates the skin in certain sensitive areas. Once the needles are in place, most animals relax, often falling asleep during the treatment. For certain points, such as those around the eye, sedation may be recommended. In some animals and on some points the use of laser acupuncture may be indicated.
Photos of cats and dogs, none of which have been sedated:
Note the open cat cage on the table, while the cat is lying there with acupuncture needles in place.
Is it safe?
Acupuncture is one of the safest therapies utilized if practiced by a competent veterinary acupuncturist. Occasionally an animal’s condition may temporarily deteriorate before improving. Acupuncture balances the body’s own system of healing and no chemicals are administered. Hence complications and side effects rarely, if ever, develop.
When is it not recommended?
Certain acupuncture points should not be used during pregnancy as they can induce labour.
Acupuncture increases blood flow in the body and is therefore contraindicated in malignant cancer as it could facilitate the spread of the cancer to other organs.
The benefits of acupuncture are diminished when cortisone medication has been administered. For certain conditions it is still beneficial to start the acupuncture treatments despite this.
A full conventional veterinary consultation, along with any necessary tests or procedures, needs to completed, to provide a definitive diagnosis of the problem. This ensures that all treatment options are offered, including acupuncture if indicated.
A detailed questionnaire is completed at the first consultation. An accurate medical and surgical history of the animal is obtained. The animal then has a conventional veterinary and a Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) examination. At times further conventional veterinary tests and diagnostics are suggested before treatment can commence. After considering all of this information acupuncture points are chosen and the first treatment is performed. Revisits require short questionnaires on progress and the treatment is altered if indicated.
Treatments may last from 10 seconds per point for laser acupuncture to 20-30 minutes when using needles. A positive response can occur from the first treatment but improvement and recovery is often a gradual process requiring multiple treatments. Usually patients are treated once weekly for 4 to 6 weeks. Follow-up treatments may be necessary.