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Veterinary Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the treatment of conditions or symptoms by the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body in order to produce a response. These points have been charted for both humans and animals, and were conceptualized by ancient Chinese scholars to be connected with each other and various internal organs via meridians or channels. Combinations of points are often stimulated to take advantage of synergistic reactions between them.

Acupuncture is believed to have originated in India at least 7000 years ago. The development of acupuncture into the extraordinarily effective tool it is today probably began in the earliest dynasties of China. The use of acupuncture in North America has been on the rise since the 1970's. Clinical research continues to show positive results in the treatment of both animals and humans. The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society 

(IVAS), founded in 1975, conducts regular courses, seminars, and conferences. The IVAS accreditation program has established high standards for assessing the competency of practitioners. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association consider the practice of acupuncture to be the practice of veterinary medicine, and as such, should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian.

Veterinary acupuncture successfully treats disorders of the reproductive, musculoskeletal, neurologic, pulmonary, gastrointestinal and dermatologic systems. The most common conditions include traumatic nerve injuries, intervertebral disk disease, degenerative myelopathy, epilepsy and other central nervous system disorders; asthma, allergic dermatitis, lick granulomas; and chronic pain such as that caused by degenerative joint disease. Acupuncture can be used in conjunction with general anesthesia, allowing decreased doses of drugs such as analgesics. Any condition may potentially benefit from acupuncture.

Acupuncture is a complete and well-developed system of medicine, therefore effective as the sole form of treatment for most conditions. In addition, it may also be combined with most conventional and alternative therapies, for example as an adjunct therapy to control vomiting associated with chemotherapy, manage post-operative pain and speed healing after injuries.
Certified veterinary acupuncturists have the knowledge and skill to understand the interactions between different forms of treatment and to interpret the patient's response to therapy. If your pet is receiving acupuncture treatment from a practitioner other than your regular veterinarian, it is imperative that both individuals are kept updated about the ongoing treatment in order to provide coordinated care of your pet, to allow proper evaluation of treatment and to minimize any avoidable interactions or interferences.

Acupuncture stimulates healing of some conditions, and provides effective pain relief in others. If properly applied, it may eliminate the need for surgery in certain conditions. Following surgery, it can improve the patients' comfort level and speed up the post- operative recovery period. In some cases, it may reduce or eliminate the need for chronic medication.

The success of the treatment of chronic conditions will vary according to the skill of the practitioner, the disorder being treated, and the number and frequency of acupuncture treatments. The earlier in the course of disease that acupuncture is started and the more numerous and frequent the treatments, the better the response tends to be. As a very rough guide, about one quarter of patients show major improvement, half show significant improvement but still have some symptoms, and another quarter show little or no benefit.

In the hands of a knowledgeable veterinary acupuncturist, adverse reactions are rare, but may occur. Such reactions may include mild transient bruising or swelling at the needle insertion site; a mild worsening of the condition for a short time (usually 24 to 48 hours); difficulty removing needles because of muscle spasm; injury to an underlying tissue or organ; and infection at the needle site. Certain acupuncture points are contraindicated in pregnant animals. Caution is exercised if certain drugs such as narcotics or corticosteroids are being used, or if the animal has a clotting disorder.

Comprehensive acupuncture treatment involves a thorough history taking and physical examination, followed by a patient assessment and formulation of a treatment plan. It rarely involves a single visit, and costs will vary according to the specific condition being treated, the equipment required and the response of the patient.

For more information Visit the Alternative Veterinary Medicine website at www.altvetmed.org. This client information sheet is based on material written by Steve Marsden, DVM ND MSOM LAc DiplCH AHG; Shawn Messonnier, DVM; and Cheryl Yuill, DVM, MSc, CVH (http://www.petcarenaturally.com/). © Copyright 2004 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. April 3, 2007