Using Acupuncture to Treat Your Animal’s Chronic Pain

Cindy SmithDog Health, Senior Dogs

Acupuncture originated in Chinese medicine and has been used for thousands of years to treat chronic pain in humans. Acupuncture restores the natural flow of Chi, or energy, stimulating neural-hormonal pathways to release hormones that reduce pain and inflammation. Additionally, the needles are said to improve circulation at the points they are placed.

Acupuncture was first introduced for dogs and cats in the United States in 1971. Just like in humans, acupuncture is used in animals to create a healing response.

What does acupuncture treat?
According to the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture, acupuncture can treat the following conditions:

  • Arthritis and joint disease: Chronic pain and loss of mobility from joint disease is one of the main reasons per owners seek acupuncture.
  • Intervertebral disc disease and nerve pain: Dogs who have a bulging disc, spinal arthritis or a pinched nerve may experience relief from acupuncture.
  • Surgery: Acupuncture may help pain and anxiety following surgery.
  • Cancer: Acupuncture can be used to increase energy, and reduce pain, nausea and loss of appetite resulting from cancer treatments for either dogs or cats.
  • Hormonal or metabolic conditions: Dogs or cats with Cushing’s, diabetes, hypothyroidism, Addison’s and liver or kidney disease have successfully been treated with acupuncture.
  • Skin conditions: Acupuncture has been used in conjunction with other treatments for allergic dermatitis or lick granulomas (a skin lesion that develops from a dog consistently licking or biting in one area — commonly on the front legs)
  • Gastrointestinal Problems: Acupuncture may help in the treatment of diarrhea.

What will happen during acupuncture treatments?
Acupuncture treatments should be performed by a certified veterinary acupuncturist (CVA). A CVA has comprehensive training in acupuncture as well as Western veterinary training.  The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society has an online database of veterinary acupuncturists that is searchable by city and state.

Treatments should be minimally painful to your dog or cat. Very thin, solid, sterile needles will be placed – some animals even fall asleep (cat have been known to take catnaps). It helps if the animal is relaxed and if you are relaxed. The time of the treatment (generally 20 to 45 minutes) will vary depending on the condition being treated.

Sessions are often scheduled more closely together in the beginning, and as your animal feels better, will be spaced farther apart. It may take a few sessions for you to see benefits in your dog, or you may see improvement right away. There are very few, if any, side effects. Your pet’s condition may seem to worsen for up to 48 hours after a treatment. Other animals may become sleepy or lethargic for 24 hours after acupuncture. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in your pet’s condition.

While acupuncture is not a cure-all, it is safe and has a relatively low incidence of side effects. Together with Western therapy, it may benefit your senior dog or cat. Anything to help your aging pet feel less pain!