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 that may be treated with acupuncture:
- Musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis or vertebral disc pathology
- Skin problems, such as lick granuloma
- Respiratory problems, such as feline asthma
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea
- Selected reproductive problems
For large animals, acupuncture is commonly used for functional problems. Some of the general conditions where it might be applied are the following:
- Musculoskeletal problems, such as sore backs, hips or
degenerative joint disease (DJD) of the hocks, stifle, fetlocks, coffin, carpus or pastern
- Nervous system problems, such as facial nerve paralysis or wobblers
- Skin problems, such as allergic dermatitis
- Respiratory problems, such as heaves and “Bleeders”
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as non surgical colic or diarrhea
- Selected reproductive disorders
In addition, regular acupuncture treatment can treat minor sports injuries as they occur and help to keep muscles and tendons resistant to injury. World-class professional and amateur athletes often use acupuncture as a routine part of their training. If your animals are involved in any athletic endeavor, such as racing, jumping, or showing, acupuncture can help keep them in top physical condition.
For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. The larger needles necessary for large animals may cause some pain as the needle passes through the skin. In all animals, once the needles are in place, there should be no pain. Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy. Nevertheless, acupuncture treatment may cause some sensation, such as tingles, cramps, or numbness which can occur in humans and which may be uncomfortable to some animals.
The length and frequency of acupuncture treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the method of stimulation that is used by the veterinary acupuncturist. 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 require several or several dozen treatments.
When multiple treatments are necessary, they usually begin intensively and are tapered to maximum efficiency. Patients often start with 1-3 treatments per week for 4-6 weeks. A positive response is usually seen after the first to third treatments. Once a maximum positive response is achieved (usually after 4-8 treatments), treatments are tapered off so that the greatest amount of symptom free time elapses between them. Many animals with chronic conditions can taper off to 2-4 treatments per year.
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.
Your veterinary acupuncturist must be a licensed veterinarian and should have formal training in the practice of acupuncture for animals.
In most countries, states, and provinces, veterinary acupuncture is considered a surgical procedure that only licensed veterinarians may legally administer to animals. A veterinarian is in the best position to diagnose an animal’s health problem and then to determine whether an animal is likely to benefit from acupuncture treatment, or whether its problem requires chemical, surgical, or no intervention. In the USA, the American Veterinary Medical Association considers veterinary acupuncture a valid modality within the practice of veterinary medicine and surgery, but extensive educational programs should be undertaken before a veterinarian is considered competent to practice acupuncture