Lydia Sullivan, DVM, CCRP, CVMA
What is Veterinary Acupuncture?
In simplest terms, veterinary acupuncture is a treatment used by a specially trained veterinarian who inserts very fine needles into specific points on an animal’s body. The needle insertion produces a desired therapeutic effect on targeted disease symptoms. While acupuncture points were originally identified centuries ago by practitioners in Asia according to energy (chi) meridians and channels in the body, more recent research has revealed these points correspond to areas of high vascularity, lymphatic drainage, or nerve bundles. Other insertion points commonly utilized are “trigger points”, often associated with tenderness or pain, which are areas of connective tissue (fascia) bundles that can impinge on nerves and impair blood and lymphatic flow. Trigger points are also common targets of myofascial and massage therapy.
How can Acupuncture help My pet?
Acupuncture has therapeutic effects for a variety of diseases, particularly those involving inflammation and pain. Because of its general lack of adverse side effects, it is especially ideal for treatment of geriatric patients or those having multiple diseases which limits the use of medications. Ultimately, acupuncture treatment can reduce pain and aid in restoring normal function, increasing your pet’s comfort and quality of life. For optimal benefits, an initial 3 sessions are recommended. Should further treatment be warranted, the number and frequency of sessions will be adjusted according to the needs of the individual patient.
Conditions Commonly Treated with Acupuncture
- Inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, irritable bowel disease, and asthma
- Neuropathies such as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), degenerative myelopathy, and hind end weakness
- Chronic pain and acute post-surgical pain
- Soft tissue and exercise related injuries
- Liver and kidney disease
- Skin diseases such as lick granulomas and allergic dermatitis
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Returning to the concept of acupuncture points corresponding to anatomic areas of high vascularity, lymphatic drainage, or nerve bundles, as well as targeting “trigger points” specific to the patient, there are 3 primary effects of acupuncture point stimulation: neuromodulation, changes in blood and lymphatic flow, and release of fascial (connective tissue) constriction.
Neuromodulation is the ability to influence nerve action which can lead to a reduction in inflammation and relief of tingling or painful sensations from overactive nerves. Neuromodulation can also cause the release of beneficial hormones such as endorphins, and even affect the brain and spinal cord. Recent studies have demonstrated acupuncture can increase µ-opioid receptor activation providing pain relief; these same receptors are activated by opioid pain medications such as morphine. This is one reason why acupuncture is so often used in managing painful conditions.
Improving blood and lymphatic circulation allows for more efficient delivery of nutrients and oxygen, as well as removal of metabolic waste products from tissues. These effects can in turn aid surrounding tissues in returning to normal function.
Throughout the body, there are thin layers of connective tissue called fascia. When these fibers and layers become disorganized and/or overly thickened (adhesions), they can constrict vessels and nerves leading to pain and dysfunction. When these “trigger points” are released by acupuncture, fascial fibers can reorganize thus restoring normal blood and lymphatic flow as well as nerve function.
Is Acupuncture Painful?
The needles typically used for acupuncture in humans and small companion animals, such as dogs and cats, are extremely thin, and usually do not cause painful sensations. Occasionally, tingling sensations or a tiny pinch are felt when the needle is inserted. These sensations—while not actually painful—can sometimes be uncomfortable because they are novel to the patient. Fortunately, such sensations typically last less than one second, and so patients are seldom distressed by them. Most often, animals become calm and relaxed, with some even falling asleep during the session.
Is Acupuncture Safe for Animals?
When administered by a properly trained veterinarian, acupuncture is one of the safest forms of treatments in veterinary medicine. Occasionally an animal may be sleepy or lethargic, and rarely a patient’s symptoms may seem to worsen for a few days following treatment. Typically, these symptoms resolve quickly with no intervention. They are merely an indicator that the body is producing a physiologic response.
It is important to be aware that anatomic differences and certain contraindications limit the use of acupuncture in some conditions, and so veterinary acupuncture should only be administered by a trained and licensed veterinarian. Just as a veterinary acupuncturist cannot legally practice on humans, non-veterinarians are not legally allowed to practice on animals. In this, the law very much supports the ethical care of veterinary patients and protects your beloved pet.
Initial In-Home Consult
Appointments usually last up to 45 minutes and include myofascial exam and first acupuncture session
- In Mobile, AL and surrounding area … $195
- In Spanish Fort / Daphne / Fairhope, AL … $205
Appointments usually last between 15 and 30 minutes
- In Mobile, AL and surrounding area … $80
- Or a package of 5 visits … $375
- In Spanish Fort / Daphne / Fairhope, AL … $95
- Or a package of 5 visits … $475
Cash, checks payable to EverLoved Veterinary, and major credit cards accepted.