What is Veterinary Acupuncture and is it Beneficial?

Acupuncture is an increasingly popular form of pain relief and pain management used in human populations around the world. Among the many applications of this treatment program in humans is to help relieve or manage pain associated with cancer treatments. Did you know that acupuncture is also available for your pets? Veterinary acupuncture is provided by many licensed veterinarians as a form of pain relief and pain management for pets in much the same way it is available to humans. Let’s explore this practice further and offer up some of the benefits your pet can reap from veterinary acupuncture.

What is Veterinary Acupuncture?

Acupuncture as a whole is a medicinal practice that has been around for more than 4,000 years. It was originally developed in Ancient Chinese cultures for the treatment of various human conditions, but societies around the globe of adopted and adjusted the practices to aid dogs and cats as well as horses and cattle. Acupuncture is a form of medicine that encourages the body to heal itself.

How does Acupuncture Work?

A veterinarian uses fine, sterile needles that are inserted into the skin and underlying tissues at very specific locations known simply as points. These points are key locations within the body that enable the nervous system to send a signal to the body telling it to heal and return to normal function. The needles are inserted at these different points with the goal of stimulating the nerves in certain areas, increasing blood circulation to that region, relieving any muscle spasms, and serving to promote the release of hormones. For example, acupuncture can help promote the release of endorphins within the body which are a natural pain control chemical. Likewise, veterinary acupuncture can promote the release of cortisol which is a natural steroid.

What are the Benefits of Acupuncture?

As mentioned above, acupuncture is a great means of stimulating the body’s natural healing processes and pain-relief hormones. Veterinary acupuncture is typically offered as a means of easing a particular condition or as part of a wider treatment program. For example, acupuncture was long used in Chinese medicine as a first option ahead of other conventional medicines and (later on) surgery. Today, many people receive acupuncture treatments as a bridge between conventional medicine and surgery.

Beyond relieving pain and muscle spasms, acupuncture can help pets suffering from common issues such as arthritis, skin conditions, nervous system disorders, reproductive issues, and respiratory problems. Acupuncture has a proven impact on all of the major physiological systems within the body: musculoskeletal, hormonal, and cardiovascular.

Answering Commonly Asked Questions

As veterinary acupuncture doesn’t have several millennia of application at its back as it does in humans, there are often questions that pet owners have about veterinary acupuncture. Below, we’ll try to address some of the common concerns and questions pet owners raise regarding the practice:

  • How quickly does it work? Acupuncture is not a one-time fix for any condition or issue, whether physical or neurological. As alluded to above, acupuncture is a gap treatment that can help relieve conditions after medications are prescribed but before surgery is deemed necessary.
  • How effective is veterinary acupuncture? The effectiveness of any acupuncture treatment is based on the training and experience of the veterinarian. Acupuncture is much more complex than simply sticking your pet with needles. The exact placement of the needles and even the depth of application all serve a particular purpose in generating a desired reaction from the body. The more experience and training the veterinarian possesses, the greater the effectiveness of the treatment.
  • Is acupuncture safe? When performed by a licensed veterinarian with training in veterinary acupuncture, the practice is very safe. Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association stipulate that only licensed veterinarians perform acupuncture as it is considered a practice within veterinary medicine.
  • Are there different types of acupuncture? While the insertion of needles is the best-known form of acupuncture, there are similar treatments that achieve mirrored results. These include acupressure, which involves the application of gentle pressure rather than the insertion of needles, and aqua-acupuncture that involves the injection of water-based vitamin formulations into the points where needles would otherwise have been injected.

Big Takeaway

If you believe that your pet could benefit from veterinary acupuncture services, it is highly recommended that you seek out the assistance of a licensed veterinarian. The human body, and now those of pets such as dogs and cats, have been well-mapped for the purposes of acupuncture. Remember that hitting the right points with the right needle depth is key to the success of acupuncture. Licensed veterinarians have the experience and knowledge to successfully, safely apply veterinary acupuncture for the betterment of your pet’s health. If the vet you visit does not practice veterinary medicine, ask them for a referral to a qualified and licensed practitioner to ensure that your dog or cat receives the best possible care.


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