Acupuncture has been practiced for over 3,000 years in China and is currently used as the primary medical system for about one-quarter of the world’s population. Today, many veterinarians, pet and horse owners find acupuncture a valuable option in treating chronic conditions that can limit life’s enjoyments.
How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture works on the principle that there is another system in the body, similar to the nervous system. Energy, called Qi (or chi), moves along pathways called Meridians. Acupuncture points are located along these meridians. In recent years a number of scientific studies have demonstrated some of the events that take place during acupuncture treatment. Microscopically, there are more fine small blood vessels and capillaries present at each acupuncture point than there are in the surrounding tissue. When a point is treated with an acupuncture needle, Qi that has been blocked begins to flow, relieving pain and helping to restore normal function.
Most animals tolerate acupuncture well. Needles are inserted into acupuncture points based on examination and history. Electro-acupuncture, aqua-puncture, moxa or laser point stimulation may also be used. A treatment typically lasts 10-30 minutes, depending on the animal’s size, age and condition. While acupuncture is certainly not a cure-all for all conditions, it can be an excellent therapy, alone or along with conventional medical therapies.
Treating Many Conditions
Acupuncture can be used to treat many conditions in dogs, cats, and horses, but is best known for treating musculoskeletal problems, including back, joint and limb pain. It can also be used to treat skin, respiratory, and reproductive problems, and help stimulate the immune system. In horses, other conditions treated may include acute laminitis and chronic colics.
In small animals, one of the most successfully treated conditions is Canine Hip Dysplasia. Neck pain, back pain, skin allergies, neurologic conditions, kidney failure, and cruciate (knee ligament) injuries also can respond to acupuncture. Some dogs that cannot tolerate pain-relieving medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) find relief through acupuncture.
The veterinarian doing the acupuncture treatment should have advanced training in veterinary acupuncture, and be certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS). This individual uses their veterinary training in conjunction with their acupuncture knowledge to tailor the treatment to the specific animal being treated, and also learns to recognize when acupuncture treatment may be inappropriate. If the animal’s condition is amenable to acupuncture treatment, a positive response usually is seen within the first three treatments. Long-standing conditions may take longer to respond.
Acupuncture is not a cure-all for everything, but can be an excellent therapy, either by itself or used in combinations with conventional medicine.
Dr. Hoyns received her acupuncture training through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) and was certified by them in 1996. She is an IVAS member, and also a member of the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture. She most recently completed the “Equine TCVM Diagnostics, Classical Points and Advanced Acupuncture Techniques” program at the Chi Institute.