Updated: May 26
Acupuncture is a therapy with a long history in human traditional and Chinese medicine, and is used to treat a variety of conditions. In veterinary medicine one of the most effective ways to use acupuncture is as adjunct to the treatment of pain, particularly musculoskeletal. In animals, acupuncture can only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon who has also undergone an approved training course in veterinary acupuncture techniques.
How does it work?
Theories vary between practitioners about how acupuncture works, but it certainly brings relief to many, humans and animals alike. In the Western approach, the insertion of needles is thought to affect nerve fibres to reduce pain 'wind-up', and directly interrupt muscle spasm allowing muscles to relax. The Chinese theory tends to be more complex involving interaction with the body's natural energy flow and vital force.
Our acupuncturist James is trained to practice Western acupuncture mainly for pain, and this works really well for chronic spinal pain, arthritis, and sometimes acute injuries. We find that senior pets, and those experiencing chronic pain really enjoy the relaxation and calm that a session of acupuncture can bring.
Will my pet tolerate needles in them?
While we all know some dogs and cats struggle to sit still for a long time, but we find that most pets (especially dogs) tolerate acupuncture very well and many really seem to enjoy it (even falling asleep and remaining relaxed for hours afterwards!). Responses vary, just like with people. Some animals stay alert during the session and simply experience a reduction of pain levels, others are considered 'good responders' and become extremely relaxed and calm.
All new patients have a trial session with us initially to check they are comfortable with the process before embarking on a course of treatment - acupuncture doesn't suite everyone but sometimes the provision of a relaxed environment and trust between pet and vet can make all the difference.
Each session lasts 30-60 minutes (depending on the patient and their condition) and is carried out wherever the patient is most comfortable. The needles are extremely small and flexible, sterile single use medical acupuncture needles.
What about other medications?
As with herbal medicine, acupuncture should be seen as complimentary to conventional medicines. If your pet is in pain, and requires conventional pain relief, they should receive that. For the vast majority of cases acupuncture is safe to use in conjunction with other medicines and can be used to help to carefully lower doses or modify treatment regimes, and also to give your pet a lovely rest if they are a good responder. Unless your pet's condition is responding wholly to acupuncture or is relatively mild (doesn't significantly impact day to day life), then acupuncture should be used as a complementary rather than an alternative therapy.
For further information about acupuncture treatments please contact Natalie on the email address above.
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