Q: What is acupuncture?
• Musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis or
• 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 again commonly used for functional problems. Some of the general conditions where it might be applied are the following:
• Musculoskeletal problems, such as sore backs or
downer cow syndrome
• Nervous system problems, such as facial nerve paralysis
• Skin problems, such as allergic dermatitis
• Respiratory problems, such as heaves and "Bleeders"
• Gastrointestinal problems, such as nonsurgical colic
• 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.
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). Although many of acupuncture's physiological effects have been studied, many more are still unknown. Further research must be to discover all of acupuncture's effects and its proper uses in veterinary medicine.
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, presumed to be those such as tingles, cramps, or numbness which can occur in humans and which may be uncomfortable to some animals.
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.
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 an 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. Ask your veterinarian about their training. The more your veterinarian knows about the traditional Chinese philosophies and Western scientific bases for acupuncture, the more sure you can be that your animals will be treated properly.